The Best Brain Boosting Foods You Can Eat

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

Your capacity for learning and your ability to focus is not, surprisingly, determined by your brain. However, the actions people take and the foods people choose to eat can compromise those abilities. If you want to increase your concentration and focus for improved learning and studying, read this article about what foods to eat for brain boosters, and what foods to avoid that can slow down your thinking and concentration.

Foods to Eat

It's no surprise that healthy foods are the key to better brain power. While eating a balanced diet is the first step to improving your mental capabilities, there are a few foods in particular that do wonders when it comes to concentration and comprehension. Try these foods for better brain function, especially if you happen to be studying up for a big test:

  • Spinach: This dark, leafy, green vegetable is great for improving both mental and physical energy because it is rich in iron. Instead of eating a heavy, sleep-inducing meal, stick with a light spinach salad, which will give you the endurance you need for lots of brain work.
  • Fish: Perhaps one of the best brain foods available, most types of fish are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which build up gray matter in the brain. Fish can also be good for emotional balance as well, which might be especially appropriate during stressful periods like exam week. Try adding more salmon and tuna to your diet for quick brain boosters.
  • Dark chocolate: This tasty treat is packed with antioxidants, which are a natural stimulant to help you focus and stay alert during those long study sessions. The increased antioxidants in your body will increase your blood flow and enhance your mood, as well. Plus, the dark varieties of chocolate have fewer calories than milk chocolate.
  • Fresh fruit: This is another antioxidant-rich food that is great for keeping your focus and concentration. The natural sugars contained in fruits give you a burst of energy without the crash that comes after when you eat foods with refined sugar. Since mental exercise uses up glucose, eating fruit is a great way to even out your glucose levels. Blueberries are an especially good choice because they are packed with healthy antioxidants. Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit, are also great for alertness.
  • Nuts: Almonds, cashews and walnuts are all great options when it comes to some light study snacks. These nuts are known to improve memory retention and your mood, both of which can come in handy while trying to analyze some tricky study materials. Additionally, they contain blood sugar-stabilizing fats that are good for you in moderate amounts.
  • Water: When it comes to liquids, water is the best drink for good brain power. It's free from sugar and caffeine and is great for staying hydrated and healthy.
  • Green tea: If you need a little more flavor in your drink, opt for non-caffeinated green tea. It contains tons of antioxidants that will help you concentrate and stay alert while helping you to relax for better concentration.

Foods to Avoid

Unfortunately, there are plenty of foods that aren't so great for helping you learn, study and concentrate. If you really want the best brain boosters when it comes to energy, focus and concentration, these are the foods you should avoid:

  • Ice cream: The high amounts of saturated fats in ice cream can clog up your blood vessels. The result is that fewer nutrients are able to reach your brain, thereby decreasing your mental functions.
  • Refined carbohydrates: This is a broad category that applies to many foods, especially things like bagels, muffins and pancakes. The processed carbohydrates in these foods are known to provide a short burst of energy followed by a groggy or sluggish feeling.
  • Candy: The refined sugar in most candies is bad for your brain power. The sudden shifts in your glucose levels often leads to a decreased mental capacity while also causing a sugar crash later on.
  • Potato chips: These and other snacks that contain hydrogenated oils, high amounts of fat and refined carbs are terrible for keeping your focus during study sessions. Your thinking and comprehension will slow as a result of eating these types of foods.
  • Alcohol: No surprise here - drinking alcohol is very bad for good brain power. Even a small serving can slow down your brain functions and leave you feeling tired and groggy.

Caffeine: Pros and Cons

Many people rely on soft drinks or coffee to give them a caffeine boost, particularly in the morning or during long study sessions. The burst of energy you receive from those caffeine sources is very real, but very short-lived. In fact, the sugar content in these drinks actually causes your pancreas to secrete insulin. The cells in your body react to that insulin by collecting glucose from your bloodstream to be stored. This effectively drains the glucose from your brain, leaving you without focus or energy.

A sudden drop in energy usually follows the initial energy jolt from caffeinated drinks, which causes people to develop the unhealthy habit of consuming even more caffeine. This vicious cycle is best avoided entirely, especially since over-consumption of caffeine can eventually cause you to become jittery or unable to concentrate. Instead of soft drinks or coffee, drink some green tea instead for a natural energy boost. Even better, drink water and get your energy from natural sugar sources like fresh fruit.

Another drink to steer clear of is any type of energy drinks. These are loaded with very high amounts of both caffeine and sugar. That means that they do give you a sudden increase in energy and alertness. However, the crash following the initial energy boost is often worse with energy drinks than it is with coffee or soft drinks. In fact, energy drinks are more likely to leave you dehydrated and may even lead to nausea, vomiting, irritability, insomnia, nervousness and hypertension. While sugar-free energy drinks are slightly less dangerous, they are still a poor choice for sustained energy, focus and concentration.

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