Eating for mental focus
Did you know that the type of food you put into your body can impact how sharp your brain is? If you want to tackle 2017 with more energy, more focus and to achieve more goals, here’s a list of some food groups which could give you the boost you’ve been looking for.
While there’s no on/off switch for your brain, and there’s no denying life is filled with distractions and challenges which can impact your mental focus, there are certainly some foods to include in your diet which can boost your concentration and mental strength. Here are a few:
Not only is oily fish good for the heart, the omega-3 fatty acids are also important for our brain health. Research over the years has shown that eating fish regularly is linked to a reduced risk of dementia, stroke, and mental decline as we age. Aim for two to three servings a week and choose from the oily varieties like salmon, sardines or tuna, and the fresher it is, the better!
Berries, but particularly blueberries, may help to protect free radicals (cells which can damage other cells in the body) from damaging our brain. Therefore, eating berries regularly could reduce the effects of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Some research even suggests that it could improve our learning abilities too!
And chocolate! OK I didn’t want to put chocolate in the title because we all go cray cray excited over the fact it could be good for us. And it’s not really, unless you’re aiming for at least 80 per cent cocoa based dark chocolate so that you’re getting the healthy antioxidants. Nuts and chocolate (or combo of both together) in a small portion, can help to protect the brain the same way berries do. My hot tip is to keep portions small and make good quality choices. Salted, roasted peanuts are not quite as healthy as your unsalted, unroasted almonds and walnuts!
Break the fast and wake up the brain. Even if it’s small, aim for something healthy (a piece of fruit with some yoghurt, a bowl of high-fibre wholegrain cereal or a combo of all three). Make the routine work for you and try to introduce bit by bit if you’re not that much of a morning person.
Other things which we know can stimulate the brain in the short term include caffeine and sugar, which when eaten in excess might tip us over the edge and actually hinder our focus. If you do want to enjoy that arvo coffee or include a snack when feeling a little distracted, keep the quantity in control and choose natural sources of sugar like fruit! A small portion of dried fruit might give you that concentrated dose you’re after (aim for the same amount you would eat if it was a fresh, water-filled version).
You might read all of this and think, ‘Hey… this sounds a lot like the Mediterranean-style diet!’ You’d be right. The Mediterranean diet (made up of mostly of fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, olive oil and moderate alcohol intake) has been shown to be heart healthy. And while we don’t yet have a ‘prescriptive’ type of diet to recommend for brain health… the Mediterranean diet is so far looking like the front runner too!
Also, remember that quantity always counts. If you indulge in too much food, you might feel that post-Christmas lunch snoozy feeling settling in while you’re trying to fire up your brain power. Too little, and you might not be able to think with the loud tummy grumbles and lack of energy challenging you! Aim for a well-balanced, naturally colourful diet and perhaps put a little more effort into incorporating the above foods, and you’ll be on your way to becoming the super focused worker you’ve always wanted to be!