Image Credit: Lindsay Garbacik for The Campus Trainer
Weighing only about 3 pounds, our brain is the most complex part of our body. From controlling every thought, feeling and movement to regulating blood pressure and breathing, our brain is like a computer — it receives data, verbalizes the information and runs millions of processes every day. Performing all of these functions can lead to an overload, which may affect one’s ability to concentrate. Maintaining strong focus is imperative to productivity, especially in school. There are many ways to improve concentration, one being through the food we eat. Food is the fuel that regulates mood and energy. Eating the necessary nutrients can lead to a greater ability to focus.
Continue reading to learn more about some of these foods!
If you’re not already incorporating blueberries into your meals or as a snack, their health benefits might motivate you to do so. Blueberries are known as a “superfood,” that contain large amounts of antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C. They increase blood flow to the brain, resulting in improved focus and, in turn, concentration. In essence, they directly improve brain health due to their high concentration of antioxidants — substances that protect the body from being susceptible to diseases, like cancer.
Alyssa Hecht, a sophomore biological sciences major with a concentration in physiology and neurobiology, is aware of the health benefits of blueberries and eats them daily. “I usually try to have it as an afternoon snack while I’m doing work,” she said.
A creamy-textured fruit that is now incorporated into all types of recipes, avocados offer an abundance of benefits, including helping to improve focus. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted a study to examine the relationship between diet and cognitive health with overweight individuals. They discovered that participants who had avocados in their diet improved their performance on a test that measured their ability to focus while being distracted. In addition to improving focus, avocados are high in dietary fiber that helps reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. They also contain oleic acid, which is associated with better cognition.
Dark chocolate can improve weight loss through its source of monounsaturated fatty acids that can speed up metabolism, but it also plays a role in learning, memory, and focus. The cocoa’s flavonoids, which are antioxidants, accumulate in the brain regions responsible for memory and learning. In addition, dark chocolate contains caffeine, a brain booster that contributes to enhancing concentration, memory, and mood. This is reflected in a study examining the benefits of cocoa flavanol in elderly participants, which showed that consuming cocoa could improve mental performance within 8 weeks.
Eggs are packed with choline, a nutrient that not only boosts the brain’s ability to send signals to the rest of your body, but also helps improve the brain’s general memory center. It might be a common misconception that eggs are not all that healthy, but registered dietitian Elisa Bremner at the Pleasantville Cottage School in Westchester, New York, dispels this, saying that “They’re actually a very important source of choline, which is essential to the brain’s sending the right messages to the rest of the body, which is, in turn, essential to a feeling of well-being, and the first step in figuring out how to focus better is figuring out how to feel better in general.” So how do you eat your eggs? Sunny side up? Soft scrambled? Hard boiled? Or perhaps in an omelet? Any way you make eggs provides you with the same benefits!
Yogurt contains an abundance of nutrients and probiotics that help promote digestive health and bone health. Yogurt is also high in calcium, vitamins, potassium, and magnesium, which contribute to boosting the immune system. The combination of protein and calcium found in yogurt helps improve focus and concentration. A UCLA study found that women who regularly ate yogurt showed improved brain function within just four weeks. Yogurt also contains an amino acid, Tyrosine, that produces dopamine and noradrenaline, which contribute to improved alertness and memory.
Junior environmental science and policy major Nirit Rotenberg believes that yogurt is an essential for snacking. “It’s so easy and requires no effort to prepare. I usually have one cup a day, typically in the morning,” she said.
In terms of protein-rich foods that help with focus, fatty fish is often considered a top “brain food” due to its high source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for memory and learning, and studies have shown that greater consumption of fish and higher levels of omega-3s result in a lower risk of heart failure and diseases. Some fatty fish containing high levels of omega-3s are salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines. Fatty fish is a great source of protein to have for dinner while you’re studying or doing work!
Eating a brain-boosting diet not only enhances your brain’s mental tasks like focus and memory, but it also provides a multitude of additional benefits for your entire body. It may be difficult to stay focused in school work or other activities right now, but try incorporating some of these foods into your diet to see positive changes that may alter the way you both eat and work!