Have you ever tried to focus on something so hard that it hurt? You may have tried a series of different strategies such as deactivating your Facebook account, turning off the computer, or even ear-plugs, to no avail. The truth is that even though it may seem that many of the factors hindering our focus and memory are external, many of them are actually more internal than we may think… literally! The next time you’re feeling sluggish, hazy and lethargic, think about the last meal you had, because believe it or not, what you put into your body has a direct affect in what you’re mentally able to achieve! The foods we eat have a direct impact on the blood (and oxygen) to our brains, as well as our energy levels and how quickly that energy is depleted. Because of this, our diet choices affect not only our energy levels but also how long we’re able to stay focused, as well as how our memory works. It’s important to understand that even though it may seem like it, you’re not helpless in your battle with your mind to concentrate and focus. You control your body by what you put into it! Even though many of us don’t usually associate delicious meals with healthy foods, the following list of the top 10 brain-boosting foods will show you that this does not have to be the case. Each food is accompanied by mouthwatering recipes that are as healthy as they are delicious!
Blueberries are one of the healthiest berries. They are not only an absolute joy to eat but are also antioxidant-packed foods with high levels of vitamins C and K, as well as essential minerals such as potassium. The high gallic acid levels in blueberries also means that they are particularly helpful at protecting our brain cells from the negative effects of stress and anxiety, aiding the communication between neurons and improving our cognitive functions. Suggested Dishes: Blueberries can be used in a variety of both sweet and savoury dishes, from blueberry tarts with walnut crusts to chicken blueberry pasta salad
Don’t be put of by the high fat content in avocados – they contain monosaturated fats, which are actually good for you! High levels of vitamins C, K and B, as well as folate, mean that avocados can help you prevent blood clots in your brain by improving the flow of oxygen to it – thereby increasing your concentration span! Suggested Dishes: While most of us associate avocados with guacamole and various salads, avocados are actually incredibly diverse fruits! Broaden your taste bud horizons and give these healthy avocado fries a try. Or, if you’re feeling less experimental, this recipe for fried egg and avocado toast can be a great way to start the morning!
3. Fatty Fish
Trout, mackerel, tuna, and especially salmon, are the most popular fatty fish out there. Filled with DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acids) and omega-3 fatty acids, it is no wonder that these fish are recommended to anyone wishing to improve their memory, brain power, and concentration. Suggested Dishes: Try out this trout-in-a-pouch with fresh herbs and garlic recipe. If you’re more of a salmon kind of person, this salmon and arugula salad is absolutely fantastic!
4. Flax Seeds
These seeds are the best source of ALA (Alpha-Linolenic Acid), which is a healthy fat that works wonders for your cerebral cortex, keeping it healthy and fully functional. The function of the cerebral cortex is to process sensory information (sight, taste, touch, etc.), so it is an integral part of your being able to properly focus on, and understand, information. Flax seeds also contain zinc, which is a mineral that is great for sharpening your memory. Suggested Dishes: Flax seeds have a relatively subtle taste and can be added to almost any dish, such as these healthy breakfast bars, or these cranberry-nut mini loaves.
Almonds and walnuts in particular are especially great for helping you sharpen your memory and focus. They are high in ALA, antioxidants, as well as vitamins B6 and E, which keep the nervous system fully functional and shield brain cells from potential damage that could lead to poor focus, memory and concentration. Suggested Dishes: Whether you’re more into desserts or savoury snacks, nuts are versatile enough to be used in a variety of dishes to suit different preferences. Try out this almond orange crusted chicken and this walnut and sultana bread.
Beets contain natural nitrates that open up the blood vessels in your body, and in doing so they improve the flow of blood (and oxygen) to your brain – needless to say, this will significantly improve your mental performance and memory. They are also full of antioxidants that help reduce the toxins in your blood! Suggested Dishes: While many of us may have childhood memories involving unpleasant meals with beetroot, when cooked the right way, they can add an incredibly unique taste to many different meals. Beetroot brownies and this amazing raw beetroot salad can be great ways to introduce beetroot into your diet!
7. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is rich in MCTs (medium chain triglycerides) which have been associated with improved memory and concentration, and have been shown in clinical trials to improve memory in older, memory-impaired adults. This oil is also full of anti-inflammatory agents that also work to improve your cognitive functionality. Suggested Dishes: These seeded coconut oil crackers are incredibly quick and easy to make, and so is this delicious coconut-maple granola!
Curcumin is the special agent found in turmeric that makes this spice surprisingly healthy! Turmeric is full of anti-inflammatory agents that help to boost antioxidant activity in our bodies, and improve the oxygen flow to our brains, leaving us alert and focused, and our memory capacity significantly improved! Suggested Dishes: This healthy turmeric tea will help prepare you for productive hours of work, as will this scrumptious turmeric omelette.
Rosemary is full of carnosic acid; this helps to protect the brain from various negative factors that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Rosemary also helps to slow down the natural processes through which our brains age, helping us stay focused on even the most complicated of tasks! Suggested Dishes: These rosemary chicken sandwiches and rosemary roasted almonds are quick to make and are great packed-lunch options!
10. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is full of nutrients and minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium. As well as being a great source of antioxidants, it also improves the blood flow to your brain, boosting your concentration and keeping you alert! Remember, this applies to dark chocolate, and not to most of the highly processed milk chocolate bars we are oh-so-familiar with! Suggested Dishes: If you’re not a fan of eating plain dark chocolate, you can use it as the main ingredient to several mouthwatering, yet guilt-free dishes, such as these dark chocolate pistachio apricots and this chocolate-salted caramel tart! We often make calculated life decisions about many aspects of our lives, so why not about our diets that are so crucial to our everyday productivity and mental functions? Make your diet choices a part of the strategic path to achieving your goals in life and marvel at the instant results!
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com