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Last Updated on March 11, 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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You may also consider fish oil supplements like this one.

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]

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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.

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]

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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.

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.

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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]

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

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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 June 1, 2021

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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Reference

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