What are the best foods to eat for concentration?
Need help focusing? These foods may help
We’ve all encountered brain fog: you know, those days when you can’t seem to focus and everything feels a little fuzzy. The good news is that the right nutrition can help beat the brain drain and boost concentration when you need it most.
We spoke to accredited practising dietitian and nutritionist Jamie Rose Chambers about the best foods to put on your plate for improved brainpower.
Top foods for brain health
Oily fish: Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel, herring and other oily fish, as well as some nuts and seeds, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. “These integrate in the membranes of the cells in our brain, helping with communication between those cells, and have been shown to improve cognition,” says Jaime. Put simply, they make your brain work harder and – bonus – they can also have a beneficial effect on mental health. Jaime recommends three to five serves per week.
Related: Springtime salmon risoni
Water: Your brain is 73% water, so it’s perhaps no surprise that being well-hydrated can help prevent fatigue and improve concentration, Jaime explains. “Aim for a minimum of two litres of fluids per day, although if you’re active, live in a hot climate or perspire a lot, you will need more.”
Dark berries: “Blueberries and cherries are rich in antioxidants, which can support healthy brain function and may delay or prevent some of the effects of ageing on the brain,” Jaime says. Berries also contain flavonoids, which research suggests may prevent memory decline. Try incorporating one serve into your diet on most days, advises Jaime.
Nuts and seeds: Walnuts, almonds and sunflower seeds, in particular, are rich in vitamin E, explains Jamie, which may help improve cognition and therefore concentration. Go for one 40g serve a day, Jaime recommends.
Avocado The humble avo is bursting with monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which can help boost memory and get your brain functioning at its best. You’ll also find MUFAs in nuts and olive, canola and peanut oils.
Complex carbohydrates: “These provide a regular source of energy to the brain to help with concentration,” says Jaime, who lists whole grains such as rolled oats, dairy foods like yoghurt, fruit such as banana and starchy vegetables like sweet potato among the top choices. Complex carbohydrates are absorbed slowly by the body, delivering longer-lasting energy, which can increase alertness and help us concentrate for longer – get the lowdown here. “The amount of carbs a person eats is very personal and is based on your age, activity level and many other factors,” Jaime adds, “but at the very least, aim for your main meals to include a source of complex carbohydrates.”
Coffee and tea: Caffeine gives us a burst of energy that keeps the brain active and makes it easier to concentrate, however, do keep your dosage in check. “Some people are more sensitive than others to caffeine,” advises Jaime. “As a general rule, aim for no more than 400mg of caffeine per day (a shot of coffee = 100mg and a cup of tea = 50mg of caffeine) and stop drinking caffeinated tea and coffee after lunch.” Caffeine can interfere with sleep – Find out more here.
The worst foods for your brain
Just as the right mix of nutrients can help improve your mental performance, a diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals can lead to poorer memory and troubles with problem-solving.
“Low-carbohydrate diets and very low-calorie diets can hinder concentration by starving the brain of its energy,” explains Jaime, “and while high sugar and highly refined carbohydrate drinks and snacks – such as soft drinks, biscuits, cakes, chocolate and lollies – might give you a boost of energy to begin with, a big crash in energy comes shortly after, which impacts brain function and concentration.”
Excessive alcohol intake can also disrupt the communication between neurotransmitters in the brain, Jaime adds.
“This impacts sleep patterns, which causes sleepiness and difficulty concentrating.”
Find out more about safe alcohol limits here.
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
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Jamie Rose Chambers
Jamie Rose Chambers is an accredited practising dietitian, nutritionist and aspiring cook, who is passionate about how food affects our bodies and our health. With two small children in tow, she has published several best-selling books and has special expertise in intermittent fasting. Jaime likes her coffees BIG, as to delay the sadness she feels when they're empty.