If you’re struggling to stay alert, it may be time to start rethinking what you put into your body. Check out these 6 foods that will deliver results.
1. Dark Chocolate
Need to perk up in the AM? Enjoy some feel-good dark cocoa rather than coffee. “Dark chocolate boosts serotonin and endorphin levels, which are associated with greater concentration,” says Natalie Stephens, clinical dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “It’s also a source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, such as potassium, copper, and magnesium, which can work with a healthy diet to control blood pressure. It’s also lower in fat and sugar than milk or white chocolate, which is better for diabetics and really anyone interested in cutting back on sugar intake.”
A 2013 study even concluded that those who drank two cups of cocoa every day for a month had improved blood flow to the brain, performing better on memory tests. But just like with any treat, be mindful of the calorie count and always aim for the highest quality. Experts say one square of dark chocolate during the afternoon slump should be sufficient.
Filled with vitamin E and fiber, nuts make sure your cognitive skills remain unaltered as you age. Consuming an ounce of nuts every day can provide you with all the energy your brain requires, that too with less calories. You can have them along with your breakfast, or snack on them in the evening to make sure your brain stays fueled.
Studies show that blueberries boost “concentration and memory” for up to five hours because “the antioxidants in blueberries stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to [your] brain – and keep the mind fresh”.2 Blueberries also contain a “cocktail of anti-oxidants including anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, resveratrol and tannins”, and while I’m not going to even pretend I know what those are, they have been shown to boost focus, and even protect against cancer, heart disease, and dimensia.
4. Green tea
Green tea helps you focus for two reasons: one, it contains caffeine, and two, it contains l’theanine. There is no doubt that caffeine helps you focus and improves your alertness. Good. That’s covered. Well, what the hell is l’theanine? It’s an ingredient that’s been shown to “increase alpha-wave activity”, which increases tranquility and releases caffeine more slowly, instead of all at once, which can lead to you crashing. The two ingredients also combine to “produce a better ability to focus attention, with improvement of both speed and accuracy”. If you’re able to handle the caffeine content, introducing green tea into your diet is pretty much a no-brainer.
It might come as no surprise that coffee can help your mind feel sharper (goodbye, morning brain fog!), but did you know that coffee affects men and women differently? Men actually feel more alert more quickly than women do after drinking a caffeinated beverage, according to research from the University of Barcelona. In the study, men reported feeling less drowsy after only 10 minutes and sustained the mental boost for a half hour. Women got a "kick" from the espresso, too, but rated it weaker than the men did. But women, it turns out, are more influenced by the placebo effect when it comes to caffeine. Just anticipating the stimulating effects of caffeine may be enough to feel them. When the same researchers had participants drink decaf, women reported feeling significantly more alert than men, who reported just a slight boost.
The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish give our brain a huge boost. Consuming fish weekly can reduce the risk of stroke and dementia while slowing down mental decline. Research also indicates that vital fatty acids help to keep memory sharp as we age.