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Do you have trouble focusing on your work? The news, worries about friends and family, so much compelling content online — they tug at our attention every day. It can feel like your brain power and cognition are draining away.
A healthy diet plays a role in increasing your concentration.
Does it feel like you’re thinking about everything else but your work or even having memory loss? You've always counted on your steel-trap mind and now you can't remember the important items that came out of your last team meeting.
What if we told you that to focus, you need to be well-nourished and hydrated? Your brain cells work better and your body isn't distracting you. As it turns out, some foods can actually help keep you focused throughout the day. The right "brain food" can support brain function and health.
When you’re at work, you want to focus on getting the job done. Whether you’re working in an office or running your own business from home, it’s easy to get distracted by everything else going on around you. As many companies return to an office after working remotely for over a year, employees may wonder how to refocus in a new work environment.
Of course, if you or the people around you are noticing significant impairment, cognitive decline, or unusual loss of short-term memory, seek medical advice in addition to reconsidering your diet.
In this article, we’ll show you ten of the best foods and drinks for concentration. We’ll also discuss some additional practices to help with concentration and maintaining a healthy brain.
Why is food for concentration important?
Let’s face it. It’s hard to stay focused when you’re hungry. Hunger leads to headaches, fatigue, and brain fog. When it’s time for a snack or meal, choosing foods that help with concentration is essential.
Food is the fuel that our body needs. Think of your body as a car. It needs fuel to operate at its highest potential. When your vehicle is out of gas (or when you’re hungry), you have to refuel to keep going. The better the fuel, the better the performance.
When you eat food for concentration, you’re also eating foods that support your mental health.
Dr. Uma Naidoo, psychiatrist and author, explained that food helps with concentration and mental health. In her book, This is Your Brain on Food, she talks about the direct relationship between the food we eat and how it helps address depression, anxiety, and trauma.
As you think about food as a critical factor for physical health, think about how it can help your mental fitness too.
10 foods (and drinks) to improve concentration and memory
Eating the right food can make a big difference in how you perform at work and at home. Eating the wrong foods can result in the opposite — restlessness, inflammation, and lower energy levels.
This list covers foods in different food groups that improve concentration and memory.
While you may not notice a change after one meal, incorporating these foods into your daily routine will help you focus.
Often called nature’s superfood, blueberries have several health benefits. Blueberries are full of antioxidants, which protect your body from free radicals. Blueberries are also high in nutrition and low in calories, making this fruit a favorite among many.
Studies have shown that eating blueberries can slow the rate of cognitive decline and fight Alzheimer's Disease in adults too.
Blueberries pair well with strawberries, greek yogurt, or as an ingredient in your favorite fruit smoothie.
2. Fatty fish
Fatty fish, including salmon, tuna, cod, and pollock, are among the most commonly known foods for concentration. Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, which are great for improving concentration and memory.
Nutritionists recommend at least two servings of fatty fish each week. Focus on fish that are low in mercury, such as the four mentioned above.
3. Green tea
Green tea contains caffeine and L-theanine, which aid in alertness and overall focus. L-theanine helps you feel more relaxed but alert at the time time, so it makes sense as a natural beverage for improving concentration and memory.
Green tea may promote increased production in your brain’s cortex when you need mental clarity for more extended periods. You can drink 3-5 cups of green tea every day for the most optimal benefits.
According to the National Coffee Association, 7 in 10 Americans drink coffee every week, and 62% drink coffee every day. There’s a reason why coffee is so popular among adults. Drinking coffee in the morning helps with alertness and concentration.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that caffeine consumption increases memory and retention as well.
Eggs contain choline, which is a nutrient that reduces inflammation and cognitive decline. Additionally, eating eggs gives you a boost of tryptophan, which helps the body produce serotonin. Serotonin has been known to improve your mood and normalize your sleep schedule.
Nuts have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for the brain's cognitive functions. They contain copper, manganese, zinc, and selenium. These nutrients are essential nutrients for healthy neurological function. Eating nuts has been linked with improved moods in some studies too!
A handful of nuts makes a great afternoon snack, or you can add them as a salad topping.
7. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds include zinc, a nutrient that helps your metabolism and immune system. Snacking on pumpkin seeds when you need an afternoon pick-me-up can help with your memory and thinking skills.
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten raw, but many people enjoy roasted pumpkin seeds. To roast them, coat the seeds with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You can also add pumpkin seeds to a salad, smoothie, oatmeal, or homemade granola.
8. Leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens, including lettuce, kale, collards, broccoli, and spinach, are a great energy source. A salad with leafy greens and grilled chicken, pumpkin seeds, and avocado is an excellent lunch option. This meal can keep you focused for the rest of your workday.
Studies have shown that these plant-based foods are connected to reduced cognitive decline because they are rich in vitamin K, lutein, phylloquinone, and nitrate.
Similar to berries, leafy green vegetables also help fight dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Tomatoes contain an antioxidant called Lycopene that helps prevent free radical damage. Packed with vitamin A and vitamin C, tomatoes are another great addition to a fresh salad, or they can be eaten raw as a snack.
Just remember to leave the skin on tomatoes when you eat them because that’s where the primary nutrients live.
10. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate improves focus because it contains caffeine. As we know, caffeine is an ingredient known for its stimulant effects. While dark chocolate is an excellent food for improving concentration and memory, only consume it in moderation.
Too much of anything is bad for you, and this is especially true with chocolate.
In addition to these food choices, you can opt for foods rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, and folic acids. These vitamins and nutrients help with brain focus and improve memory.
The role of exercise in the equation
We all know how exercise can help us lose weight and muscle tone, but did you know that it helps focus and concentration? Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. When you exercise, your body removes toxins and delivers oxygen throughout your system.
This means that there are more nutrients available for your cells which in turn means better cognitive function. This is exceptionally beneficial for focusing on tasks at work or studying for school.
Exercising before a long day of work has been proven to help make you more productive because it releases stress hormones like cortisol. Exercise is also essential for the release of endorphins, which help you feel happy and relaxed.
Taking care of your physical well-being includes eating the right foods in addition to exercise. The two go hand-in-hand when it comes to improving your concentration and energy levels.
Additional tips for concentration
Getting a good night’s rest helps your focus tremendously. Research suggests that sleep impacts how your brain retains information. In the short term, getting enough rest can help you stay focused the next day. Healthy sleeping habits over a long period of time can result in stronger memory.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Take breaks throughout the day
Taking frequent breaks puts less stress on your body. Whether you’re on your feet or sitting down at work, giving yourself multiple breaks throughout the day can make you more productive.
If you find yourself swamped with work, try following the 50/10 rule during your workday. Work in 50-minute sprints, and then take a 10-minute break to stretch, take a short walk, drink water, or just move around. Repeat this work-and-break cycle for a few hours to help your concentration.
When your body is in a calm state, you’re most likely to stay focused throughout the day. Meditation techniques, such as mindful breathing, help with mental clarity and awareness. You can look for mobile apps, podcasts, and music screaming playlists that offer guided meditations.
Adding meditation to your daily routine will help with attentiveness too.
Reduce your screen time
As much as we love technology, it can be one of our biggest distractions. Mobile apps like Forest help you stay off your phone while you’re working. This award-winning productivity app lets you set a timer to get work done and manage your time. You can earn credits by not using your phone until the timer finishes its countdown.
Living in a digital world makes us check our notifications, emails, and social media so frequently. Sometimes, even the most minor distractions can cause you to lose focus. If you find yourself constantly shifting your attention to other things, see what you can do to remove those distractions.
You might need to set your devices to Do Not Disturb so that you aren’t inundated with phone calls. Maybe you need to play music instead of watching TV while you work. Learning how to focus better will help you identify and eliminate those distractions.
Refrain from multitasking
Contrary to popular belief, working on multiple things at one time actually leads to you getting less work completed. Multitasking may also result in mistakes or errors because you aren’t focusing on one task at a time.
Brain food for concentration — let’s sum it up
If you're looking for even more ways to increase your attention span without changing what you eat or drink, exercise might be just the answer. Exercise helps with concentration by stimulating brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is responsible for moods, and dopamine is involved with reward-motivated behavior.
However, there's no escaping that the foods we eat have a profound impact on our cognitive performance. Healthy food choices are important for focusing, and the types of food we eat can affect our ability to concentrate. With these helpful food choices in hand, it's easier than ever before to improve your focus — whether you’re at work, working from home, or studying.