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Published on January 12, 2021

12 Healthy Brain Foods To Improve Your Concentration

12 Healthy Brain Foods To Improve Your Concentration

There are several ways food can impact your brain functions, such as memory, concentration, and alertness. This makes eating healthy brain foods essential to improving your concentration and maintaining mental well-being.

The human body is composed of trillions of cells. To keep cells alive as well as generate and maintain their biological order, they require a constant supply of energy. This required energy is derived from the chemical bond energy in food molecules (based on what you consume), which thereby serve as fuel for the body’s cells. During this process, the body break downs the proteins, lipids, and polysaccharides that make up most of the food we eat and reduces them to smaller molecules before our cells can utilize them—either as a source of energy or as building blocks for other molecules. This energy-generating process allows the cells of the human body and brain to remain healthy.

The average human brain contains 100 billion cells, and those cells operate congruently to the aforementioned trillions of cells in the total human body. The cells of the brain thrive on nourishing foods and more so on those that are conducive to further developing the brain and its functions.

Here are 12 healthy brain foods you should eat if you want to improve your concentration.

1. Water

I’ve proposed drinking more water as a solution to many conditions, and improving cognitive function is a no-brainer (pun intended). According to H.H. Mitchell in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water.[1] Not only should you consider how much water you drink but also the quality of what you’re drinking! I suggest exploring alkalized water or natural spring water for the best results.

2. Salmon or Fatty Fish

Fish is one of the most essential healthy brain foods. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around the cells of the body, including brain cells. Therefore, they can improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. In a 2017 study, people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. Researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, mental processing, or thinking abilities.[2]

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3. Coffee

There are two main components in coffee that help your brain: caffeine and antioxidants. Caffeine can increase alertness, elevate mood, and sharpen concentration. Partially due to the antioxidants contained in Coffee, over the long term, it is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

4. Blueberries

Firstly, I suggest freezing your Blueberries before consuming them. Why? Studies conducted at the South Dakota State University proved that freezing blueberries makes their powerful antioxidants more available to the human body. This is because anthocyanins—the antioxidant compounds that make blueberries blue—are found in the skin of the berry.[3]

Blueberries and other deeply colored berries deliver anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. The antioxidant benefits of Blueberries may delay brain aging and improve memory.

5. Turmeric

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit brain cells. Research has shown that Turmeric and Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease.[4]

Additionally, turmeric boosts serotonin and dopamine to improve mood. Moreover, you can help develop new brain cells because Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow.[5]

6. Green Tea

Very much akin to coffee, Green Tea boosts brain function in terms of alertness, performance, memory, and focus. Contained in Green Tea is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps to reduce anxiety and encourages relaxation.

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Another benefit of L-theanine is that it also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which further helps you relax without making you feel drowsy. Green Tea is also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that may protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of mental diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.[6]

7. Eggs

Eggs are probably the most common and well-known example of healthy brain foods. Eggs are great for the brain as they are rich in Vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 and folic acid. Recent research suggests that these vitamins may prevent brain shrinkage and delay cognitive decline.[7]

8. Oranges

Oranges are a great source of vitamin C, which is a key factor in preventing age-related mental decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells.

9. Broccoli

Brocolli is loaded with plant compounds, including antioxidants, and is extremely high in vitamin K—delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (91-gram) serving. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that is densely packed into brain cells.

Broccoli is also rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates may reduce oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person’s overall brain health.[8]

10. Dark Chocolate

Thinking of healthy brain foods, chocolates will probably not come to mind. However, dark chocolates are actually healthy for your brain. Dark chocolates are rich in cocoa, also known as cacao, and cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

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As I’m sure you have noticed in many of these foods, antioxidants are especially important for brain health. This is because the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and various brain diseases. Cacao flavonoids overall appear to be good for the brain. Flavonoids may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in learning and memory. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.[9]

11. Walnuts and Nuts

Many nuts are beneficial for the brain. However, walnuts are the top nut for overall brain health. They have a significantly high concentration of DHA, a type of Omega-3 fatty acid. Among other benefits, DHA has been shown to protect brain health in newborn babies. It also improves cognitive performance in adults and helps prevent or ameliorate age-related cognitive decline.[10]

12. Avocados

Not only are avocados delicious, but they are also a source of healthful unsaturated fat and as a result, they can help support the brain. Eating monounsaturated fats may help reduce blood pressure, and since high blood pressure is linked with cognitive decline, avocados can be quite beneficial.[11]

More Ways to Improve Concentration

Aside from eating healthy brain foods, there are also other ways to improve your concentration. It requires more than simply consuming the right types of healthy brain foods to improve concentration. The quality of your sleep also plays a big role in the brain’s performance (beyond just concentration), too.

The majority of brain repair is done during sleep states. During sleep, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself and removes toxic waste byproducts that have accumulated throughout the day.

Another excellent way to improve brain function is with regular exercise. Exercise has been demonstrated to improve memory and thinking ability among older adults with mild cognitive impairment or reduced cognitive function. Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase brain volume in most gray matter regions, including those that improve cognitive function and support short-term memory.[12]

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Do you like solving puzzles? That’s another excellent way to reinforce the connections between our brain cells, form new ones, and improve short-term memory. As an example, you use your memory in the process of completing a jigsaw puzzle when remembering shapes, sizes, and pieces and visualizing where they fit in to place in the puzzle.

The takeaway here is that there is a multitude of ways to improve brain function, and I suggest exploring all options.

Final Thoughts

Aim to incorporate some of these ingredients into your dietary habit. There are also supplements that you can consume to support the overall sustainability and development of your brain and its cells.

However, this particular article focused on consumable foods. While reviewing this list of healthy brain foods, I suggest considering an all-encompassing approach to improved cognitive function which included exercise, sleep, hydration, and, of course, diet. Let’s all nourish our brains together!

More Healthy Brain Foods You Should Try

Featured photo credit: andrew welch via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Adam Evans

BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

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“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

“When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

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When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

“All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

Silence relieves stress and tension.

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

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A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

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But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

Summation

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

Reference

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