Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Brain Foods That Can Help You Focus!

If you are like many people, you are inundated with information about foods and supplements that can do everything under the sun, from sharpening focus to enhancing memory and improving brain function.  But when many hear these claims, they ask themselves, does this really work?  The good news is that some of these foods have been found to help maintain brain health.

1.       Caffeine can make you more alert

There is not currently a magic pill on the market that can raise your IQ or make your smarter, but there are substances, such as caffeine that can help get you energized and keep you focused.  Caffeine can be found in coffee, chocolate, some medications and in energy drinks.  Caffeine, in the right amounts, can give you that extra boost you need.  Take too much and you can risk some unpleasant side effects, including an uncomfortable sensation and jittery feelings.

2.       Increase alertness with sugar

    Sugar is your brain’s preferred source of fuel, not regular table sugar but glucose, which your body metabolizes from the carbohydrates and sugars you consume.  This is why a glass of something sweet, such as orange juice, can offer a quick short-term boost in memory, thinking processes and brain functions.  Proceed with caution; consuming too much can impair not only memory but also the rest of you.  Consumer in moderation to limit the intake of extra calories that can cause weight gain. 

3.       Fuel your brain by eating breakfast         

Thinking about leaving the house without breakfast?  Think again.  Studies have shown that eating breakfast may improve attention and short-term memory.  They have shown that students who consume breakfast were more likely to perform significantly better than those that didn’t.  Some foods at the top of the list include: high-fiber, whole grains; dairy; and fruits.  Don’t over eat; researchers also found that high-calorie breakfasts can hinder concentration.

4.       Fish really is a brain food

      One protein source that can offer a big brain boost is fish, which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids that are essential for brain function and development.  Omega 3s are a healthy fat that have extreme brain power: linked to lower dementia and stroke risk; lower rate of mental decline; and may play a role in enhancing memory, especially when aging.
Recommendations are to consume fish 2 to 3 times per week.   

5.       Give yourself a daily dose of chocolate and nuts

Nuts and seeds are good sources of Vitamin E, an antioxidant associated with less cognitive decline as you age.   Dark chocolate also has powerful antioxidant properties.  In addition, it contains natural stimulants such as caffeine that can enhance focus and concentration.  Consume up to one ounce per day of nuts and dark chocolate to maximize their benefits without increasing your intake of fat, sugar and calories.

6.       Add in more whole grains and avocado

      Your organs depend on blood flow, especially the heart and brain.  Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains and fruits, such as avocados, can help to lower the risk of heart disease and bad cholesterol.  This also helps to decrease the risk of plaque buildup, which can lead to strokes, and enhance your blood flow.  Whole grains such as popcorn and whole wheat grains also contribute fiber and vitamin E.  Although avocados do contain fat, the fat is the monounsaturated type, which is good for you and promotes blood flow.

7.       Blueberries and a super food

Research has shown that blueberries may help the brain to protect itself from damage from free radicals and can help to reduce the effects of age-related conditions, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Studies have also shown that a diet rich in blueberries may help to significantly improve learning and muscle function in aging rats, improving their “brain age.”

8.       What about vitamins, minerals and supplements?

          Dietary supplements are available at almost every store, with just as many options to choose from as claims that they will boost health.  Many do not realize that these are only helpful if your diet is lacking in the specific nutrient.  Researchers are cautiously optimistic about ginseng, ginkgo, and vitamin, mineral, and herb combinations and their impact on the brain. As always, check with your doctor.

9.       Prep yourself for a big day

      Looking to power up your concentration?  Start your day with a glass of 100% fruit juice, salmon on a whole grain bagel, and a cup of coffee.  Experts also advise:

                                                               1.   Get a good night’s sleep

                                                               2.    Stay hydrated

                                                                3.     Exercise to sharpen thinking

                                                                4.      Meditate to clear your mind and relax