Listen to the buzz about foods and dietary supplements and you’ll believe they can do everything from sharpen focus and concentration, to enhance memory, attention span and brain function.
1. Eat breakfast to fuel your brain
Tempted to miss breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast tend to perform significantly better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers’ brain fuel list include high-fibre whole grains, dairy and fruits. Just don’t overeat, as researchers also found that high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.
2. Sugar and enhanced alertness
Sugar is your brain’s preferred fuel source – not table sugar, but glucose, which your body metabolises from the sugars and carbohydrates you eat. Some studies suggest glucose levels regulate certain brain functions, including learning and memory. So, it’s possible that a glass of something sweet may boost mental ability, but more research is needed.
It’s also best to go easy on the sugar as too much can pile on the pounds, which in turn may impair memory.
3. Fish really is brain food
Research suggests that omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in oily fish, may be a great brain boost. Scientists are still studying how the fats found in sardines and salmon may help the brain, but they do know this: the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid found in the brain and is important for brain development and function. For brain and heart health, consider eating two servings of fish weekly, one of which is oily fish.
4. Add a daily dose of nuts and chocolate
Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E. While more research is needed, some studies link the vitamin to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties. It contains several natural stimulants including caffeine, which studies suggest can enhance focus and concentration in the short-term. Enjoy up to an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate to provide all the benefits you need without excess calories, fat or sugar.
5. Caffeine can make you more alert
There’s no secret recipe to boost IQ or make you smarter – but certain substances, like caffeine, can boost your energy. Some studies suggest it can also help you focus and concentrate, but more research is needed. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks and some medicines, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz – though the effects are short-term. And more is often less. If you overdo it with caffeine, it can make you jittery and uncomfortable.
The good news is, research suggests that you may be able to increase your chances of maintaining a healthy brain – if you include certain ‘smart’ foods and beverages as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
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