7 foods that help with focus
For optimal creativity, problem-solving, concentration and learning, give your brain the fuel it needs.
Foods that help with focus enable you to bring your full concentration to this present moment, experience greater productivity, enhanced problem solving, strategic thinking, and those proverbial "ah-ha!" moments that lead to personal breakthroughs.
But instead, we often focus—pun intended—on surface solutions like to-do lists, or day planners, or complex productivity philosophies without tackling this most important factor in our success. Here's how your nutrition can improve your concentration.
Foods that help with focus
When your brain needs to focus, it needs a lot of energy to power those complex neurological processes. Here's some food for thought: researchers estimate that your brain uses a whopping 20% of your daily calories just for daily thinking.
If you aren’t providing your brain with the nutritional support it needs to function, your cognitive processes and ability to concentrate will start to drop.
Short term solutions for focus
To make matters worse, many people turn to nutritional strategies that create short-term boosts in memory, focus and concentration, but end up leaving you with long-term brain health problems. For example:
Coffee and other caffeinated products can help you focus temporarily. However, it also spikes cortisol levels (especially in those already under mental pressure), and chronically high levels of cortisol correlate with long-term cognitive impairment, poor memory and poor emotional regulation.
Sugary products can momentarily boost your energy while you’re focusing and concentrating, but a study published in Diabetes Care warns that "changes in [blood sugar] rapidly affect cerebral function" and can impair your brain function and mood.
So what foods help you focus?
Instead of using short-term stimulants like sugar or caffeine, think long term. With the right diet and supplements, you can give your brain everything it needs for maximum performance and dialled-in concentration.
Here are 7 foods that help with concentration...
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7 best foods for focus
1. Fatty fish
Fatty fish like salmon, herring and sardines are some of the best dietary sources of omega 3 fats. Because your brain is primarily composed of these exact types of fats, eating more of them is foundational for brain function and nervous system health, including memory, focus and concentration.
If you follow a plant-based diet, or you don’t enjoy eating fish, try algae oil. It’s rich in the specific forms of omega 3s (EPA and DHA) that your brain needs to concentrate.
2. Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are powerhouses for brain focus and concentration. First, similar to fish, they’re high in essential fatty acids that boost brain health.
They’re also high in vitamin E. Studies have found that vitamin E has neuroprotective benefits, guarding against cognitive decline as you age (many people find it harder and harder to focus and concentrate as they age). Similarly, a diet high in vitamin E correlated with improved results when people had to focus and concentrate on taking a difficult test.
Some of the best nuts and seeds for vitamin E include:
3. Tofu and other soy products
Tryptophan and serotonin are two types of neurotransmitters that help enhance brain focus and concentration. Soy products, such as tofu, miso and soybeans, are some of the best dietary sources of tryptophan and serotonin.
Soy products aren’t the only foods containing focus-boosting neurotransmitters. Researchers report that the protein found in eggs also leads to a significant increase in blood levels of tryptophan. That same study linked egg protein consumption with improved mental energy, faster reaction times and better emotional processing.
Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other commonly eaten fruit. They are one of the best dietary sources of anthocyanins (which gives the berries their trademark color), catechins, fibre, and ellagic acid.
All those antioxidants and potent compounds have significant impacts on your brain health. For instance, blueberries may boost focus and concentration by helping your neurons communicate with each other more efficiently. Add blueberries to your weekly grocery list, because researchers found that the antioxidants in these fruits accumulate in your brain over time.
These root vegetables are high in nitrates (the healthy type, and not the unhealthy form found in processed foods). When consumed, your body converts the nitrates into nitric oxide, a molecule that lowers your blood pressure, improves blood flow and dilates your blood vessels.
Increased blood flow means your brain gets more oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood. Studies have found that eating beets may enhance cognitive function, specifically to the brain’s frontal lobe. This frontal cortex is where many of your focus- and concentration-based tasks are processed, including your working memory and decision-making.
While it’s technically not a “food,” per se, water is a critical component of any brain health diet.
When your brain cells aren't adequately hydrated, they aren't able to communicate appropriately. One meta-analysis of more than 30 different studies even found that a moderate amount of dehydration (as little as 2%) led to significant drops in focus, attention, motor coordination, and other measures of brain health.
One of the best ways to tell if you’re hydrated is when you head to the bathroom. Clear or very pale urine indicates you’re drinking enough.