concentration

When that post-lunch sluggishness sets in, a simple task can turn into a near Herculean job. And it’s not always just an afternoon slow down. Sometimes even a cup of coffee—with its instant jolt of caffeine—can’t get your focus in the right place in the morning (… or the afternoon… or the evening).

A variety of factors from diet to lack of exercise, to stress, to disrupted sleep can affect how your brain functions. Our neuro control centers need a constant stream of oxygen and nutrients to function properly. And a well-balanced diet, or lack of one, plays a huge role in your ability to focus. Hey! Over here. Don’t get distracted. You haven’t gotten to the tips yet.

These five foods will give you a little pick-me-up when your brain decides to take a siesta. (And keep you feeling sharp over time.)

1. Blueberries

The antioxidants in these tasty little blue jewels help protect the brain from free radical-damage. Free radicals have been linked to diseases throughout the body including cancer, and to cognitive impairment. Studies in mice have shown that blueberries helped boost brain performance over time, and essentially reduced the effects of age-related conditions, such as Alzhemier’s and dementia. Pop a few into your oatmeal for a brain-food filled breakfast or munch on them for an afternoon pick-me-up.

2. Salmon

Avoid the drain on your brain by eating your recommended two servings of fatty fish a week. Salmon and other fatty fish, like mackerel, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which not only help fight disease-causing free radicals in the body, but are also one of the building blocks of brain tissue. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon, helps the brain by fighting off depression, staving age-related diseases and boosting IQ. Plus, your brain doesn’t just reap the benefits; salmon is also good for your heart! But make sure to seek out sustainable seafood choices. 

3. Nuts

Having trouble studying? Munch on a mixture of these nutrient-dense babies for a quick concentration boost. While all nuts are packed with nutrition (so long as you opt for raw, not chocolate-covered or roasted varieties), almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pecans all contain high levels of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids—both of which help improve cognitive function.

4. Flax seeds

High in those all-important omega-3 fatty acids that are essential for brain development and function, flax seeds are a perfect way for vegetarians and vegans to add healthy, concentration-boosting fats to their diet. Flax contains alpha-linolenic (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid that boosts the cerebral cortex, an area of the brain that processes sensory information. Sprinkle flax seeds on a salad or hot or cold cereal to get your daily quota.

5. Dark chocolate

Feeling down in the slumps? Grab a piece of dark chocolate. Yes, you have permission to eat chocolate, so long as it’s dark. Besides the rush of attention-boosting endorphins that come with savoring a piece of this tasty stuff, the antioxidants (particularly flavonoids) in dark chocolate are associated with amping up cognitive function. Dark chocolate also contains that great natural stimulant, caffeine, which will boost your focus without any added sugar or calories. Choose a dark chocolate variety that’s at least 60 percent cocoa (or more!) for the best health benefits.

image: thekevinchang

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