Nothing beats early morning grogginess like a hot cup of coffee…or does it?
While caffeine can act as a quick boost to get that much-needed energy to start (and sustain) the day, the recommended daily intake is up to 400 milligrams (mg) only, according to the Mayo Clinic. That’s equivalent to four cups a day. Now, before you raise your mugs in protest, too much caffeine in your body can lead to headaches, insomnia, and heartburn.
Instead of chugging countless cups of your favorite caffeinated drink to keep that laser-eye focus throughout the day, consider including the following ‘brain food’ in your daily diet. What’s brain food, you ask? These are food rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins that help maintain a healthy brain, which in turn leads to better concentration and a memory boost.
Fatty fish always tops the lists of brain food since it is a great source for omega-3 fatty acids. These are a type of unsaturated fat (the ‘good’ kind of fat) that helps in lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Sardines, tuna, and salmon are among the types of fish you can try. Not so keen on fish? Consult with your health provider for a good omega-3 food supplement.
Oatmeal has been a long part of breakfast staples, and for good reason. Oats invigorate the body (and the brain) using glucose, a simple sugar that’s broken down when consumed and transported via our blood as energy. Eating oats or cereals with a low-glycemic index like the whole-grain types slowly releases the energy provided by glucose, which keeps your mind alert and ready.
Blueberries and many other dark-colored berries contain anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that combat brain aging and improve cell communication. According to a 2010 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, supplementing blueberries to the diet of older adults lead to a decreased risk of dementia.
Eggs, quite possibly the main attraction in many breakfast tables, are rich in B vitamins such as vitamin B6, B12, choline, and folic acid. A high intake of choline can lead to a much better cognitive performance, as stated in a 2011 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. B vitamins, on the other hand, can help slow the rate of brain atrophy. Leafy greens can also provide that B vitamin goodness if you’re trying to mind your cholesterol level and cut back on eggs.
Do you love to snack while working? Nuts and seeds may be your new best friends if you do. Studies show that those with long-term consumption of nuts had better cognitive function than those who do not. For example, walnuts are rich in α-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an essential fatty acid needed for growth and development, your brain included.
Now, here’s a treat: dark chocolate, or cocoa specifically, contains a good amount of flavonoids. These are compounds that help enhance memory. Have a few chocolate squares as a snack, but don’t go overboard!
As coffee was already mentioned earlier as a caffeine source, let’s go to tea—green tea to be exact. Per Bentham Science’s 2017 study, phytochemicals like caffeine found in green tea have been linked to improved performance in long-term cognitive tasks requiring alertness and attention switching.
Last, but not the very least, is water. This seemingly unobtrusive liquid can make or break your brain function. Want to know why? It’s because our brain is made up of mostly water (more or less 75%, actually), and a lack of it leads to dehydration. This, in turn, brings fatigue, brain fog, headaches, and slowed-down functions. Water also acts as a transport for the nutrients brought by the food we consume. All the food mentioned in this list will be less effective in providing all the good stuff if water is not involved.
So, where does this leave us? To keep our brain working in peak performance, consider including the food mentioned in your daily diet in moderate amounts. There is no one-trick (or one-food) wonder that will magically make you extremely focused and alert. It takes time through a regulated diet to do so.
And most of all, always stay hydrated!