We all want to concentrate and focus more, feel energized, and perform our best everyday. But how? Some foods have been researched to increase blood flow to the brain or play a vital role in cellular functions to help our brain function in tip top shape. Here’s a comprehensive list of brain foods that will keep you focused all day long.
Blueberries are full of an important flavanol called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins give blueberries their vibrant blue color. Research suggests that anthocyanins increase blood flow in the brain and can cross that blood-brain barrier. This means that those compounds can directly impact our brain function. Aim to get three or more servings a week. Pro tip: You can add blueberries to smoothies, eat them whole on your way home from work, or toss some in your morning waffles like we have here.
Spinach promotes brain function because it’s rich in folate. Folate plays major a role in mental and emotional health. Making sure you’re getting enough folate in your diet, through foods such as spinach, can help to ensure that our brains are working as efficiently as possible. One cup of raw spinach has about 15% of your daily value of folate. Pro tip: Throw spinach in a smoothie, make a salad, or add to a sandwich to increase folate throughout the day.
We love beans for so many reasons. Not only are they a great source of protein and fiber, but they also contain a healthy amount of iron. One cup of cooked white beans has a quarter of your daily value of iron, which is a vital component to red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the brain. You may experience less fatigue, increased alertness, and better memory when your brain is getting enough oxygen. Pro tip: Try our DIY Black Bean Burgers to sneak in some of that iron.
Flaxseeds are a source of fatty acids called omega-3s, which we love because they are considered the healthy fats. Research has shown that they can help to rebuild brain cells, slow cognitive decline, and also strengthen the communication within your brain related to memory. Pro tip: We love adding 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseeds into oatmeal and smoothies to give our meals an extra boost.
How many of you are obsessing over beets these days (like we are)? Beets contain nitrates that research has found to increase blood flow throughout the entire body, including the brain, which aids in concentration and focus. Pro tip: Top your favorite salads with some roasted beets or whip up our Roasted Beet Hummus!
Well hello there whole grains! Another one of our BFFs, brown rice is a whole grain that eventually breaks down into glucose. Our brain uses glucose as a preferred form of energy to fuel those important brain cells. Pro tip: Adding a side of brown rice — like our Brown Rice Salsa Salad — to your lunch or dinner will help keep you focused all day long.
Not mad about this one. Dark chocolate contains phytonutrients that research suggests increases blood flow to the brain. This increased blood flow helps decrease mental fatigue. Feel free to grab one small square of dark chocolate with a glass of water to cozy up after a long day. Pro tip: Our Cocoa Date Balls are a great way to get that dark chocolate fix. Now you can defend that dark chocolate addiction with some scientific evidence!
Food alone will not guarantee focus and concentration. Rather, you have to include lifestyle practices that facilitate mental focus.
- Exercise– Physical activity is not just good for our outward appearance, but it does wonders for the mind. Exercise gets the blood pumping throughout the body, carrying that oxygen to the brain. Research has found that those who exercise also have increased focus throughout the day. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. This can include walking, running, weight lifting, biking…you name it! If it gets your heart rate up, you’re in the clear.
- Stay Hydrated– Making sure you’re getting plenty of water throughout the day will help all of your cell’s basic functions, including in the brain. You should aim to drink about 8, 8oz. glasses of water per day. Stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle with you and sipping on during the day.
- Meditation– Meditation helps us to slow down in our fast-paced world. Try taking a moment to breathe deeply and clear the mind by meditating regularly. This Five Minute Guided Meditation will help you to get started. If you are looking for something with more options, Headspace is an app that you can download on your phone for guided meditations that I love to listen to on walks, on my morning commute, or when relaxed at home.
- Yoga– Yoga helps to increase focus by relieving stress and decluttering the mind. It also helps to keep you grounded and living in the present moment. I do yoga first thing almost every morning. I love lighting candles, pulling out my mat, and getting started before the sun comes up in the chill of the morning. Yoga with Adriene is one of my favorite sites for free yoga, but you can find free videos all over the internet.
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness can be applied to also help slow down in a busy environment. Be present and aware of all your senses and the things around you. This article on Mindful Eating can help you incorporate mindfulness into your life to help increase focus.
Notice anything about these foods and tips? They all create focus and concentration with basic vitamins, minerals, and healthy behaviors that can be found in a general healthy diet and lifestyle. No one food has a magical solution to increase focus. Instead, eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins will help us focus every day in combination with regular exercise, plenty of water, and a activities that keep our brains alert, focused, and acing the day!