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Can Eating Certain Foods Improve Your Ability to Focus?

Do you sometimes struggle to get through the working day? Do you find that your mind wanders when you should be studying? If so, you may benefit from looking at your lifestyle. Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet can make it a lot easier to get through the workday. There are a lot of foods that have neuroprotective and brain-enhancing properties, and getting the right nutrients on a consistent basis can be a huge help to your cognitive performance.

ability to focus Eat to Fuel Your Body and Your Mind

The first thing you need to be aware of is making sure you’re eating enough, and the food you’re eating is nutritious. If you are trying to get through the working day hungry and tired, then you're going to struggle to concentrate and may struggle to focus properly. One study conducted by the University of Wolverhampton found that people who had slightly elevated blood glucose levels showed better listening comprehension than those who were in a fasted state. 1 That's not an excuse to eat junk food, since having blood sugar levels spike and crash again in a short period of time would not be conducive to learning either. Keeping consistent energy levels throughout the day by consuming a diet rich in healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates is a good choice for steady energy levels and improved mental and physical performance.

Brain-Boosting Foods

In addition to general energy levels, it is important that you get enough micronutrients too. Vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids are all used to keep our brains and bodies healthy, and eating a varied diet is important for ensuring that we get enough of each of those things. While our bodies can store some nutrients in our fat cells, there are other nutrients that are not fat-soluble, and that we must take in on a daily basis in order to remain healthy. Let's take a look at some of the most important nutrients for improving brain function.

Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain function and repair. Salmon is a rich source of docosahexaenoic acid, which is one such brain building block. Taking in a sufficient amount of DHA could help to prevent age-related cognitive decline. 2

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is another valuable nutrient that helps to boost brain function and memory. In theory, our bodies can make enough vitamin D through exposure to sunlight. However, those who live in parts of the world where daylight hours are short during the winter may not get enough vitamin D at that time of year. Shift workers may also struggle to get enough exposure to sunlight. For this reason, it's a good idea to eat foods that are fortified with Vitamin D. Many kinds of cereal, bread products, and dairy products have added vitamin D now.

Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba ability to focus

There are many herbs that can have a beneficial impact on our brains. Ginseng and Ginkgo biloba can help to boost blood flow and oxygen, and this can boost our memory and brain function. One recent study found that gingko biloba improved the brain function of healthy middle-aged men, as tested while they were performing working memory-related tasks. 3


If you're the sort of person who simply cannot think until after a morning coffee, know that you are not alone. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it has been found to have some impact on cognition as well. Caffeine has been extensively researched, and it has been found to help prevent cognitive decline in people who are generally healthy. Literature reviews indicate that caffeine is not a pure cognitive enhancer, but it has numerous minor effects which, together, offer an improvement in someone's ability to focus if they take caffeine at moderate levels. 4


Antioxidants are substances which remove potentially damaging free radicals from the bodies. Antioxidants can help to delay or even prevent certain kinds of cellular damage, and this means that they are good for staving off the effects of aging. You can find antioxidants in a number of different foods. Blueberries are one particularly rich source of antioxidants. Other fruits and berries can also offer similar benefits. Studies show that dietary antioxidants can improve overall focus and memory, and combat dementia. 5

Treat Yourself to Tryptophan

There is one particular antioxidant, tryptophan, which is useful for helping with anxiety, attention issues, OCD and memory loss. 6 Tryptophan can help to improve your ability to focus by making you feel more level-headed and improving your mood. Sources of tryptophan include peanuts, cheese, chicken, and chocolate. So treat yourself!

Vitamin B12

Another useful nootropic that improves alertness, energy, and cognition, is Vitamin B12. 7 This is found in shellfish, meat, fish, poultry and most dairy products. Vegans are often at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency, especially if they don't make an effort to eat fortified vegan products. Since many people are cutting down on meat and dairy even if they aren't aiming to go completely vegan, the B12 deficiency could be on the increase.

ability to focus Is it Worth Taking Supplements?

There is a huge supplement industry surrounding nootropics and 'smart drugs', but are they worth spending your money on? That question is actually difficult to answer. If you're a generally healthy person who is not in a high-pressure job, and who just wants a little bit more mental clarity, then the answer is "probably not". Yes, it's true that pilots and military officers, and others in high-pressure jobs who are forced to work long hours are turning to nootropics to help themselves get through the day. Even students are resorting to using energy drinks just to study. However, this is not necessarily a good long-term decision. The effects of those 'smart drugs' are not yet thoroughly researched, and while they seem safe to use in the short term, they could be doing long-term harm to our bodies.

In general, you can get most of the benefits of supplements by eating a diet that consists primarily of whole foods, and it would cost you less money and be more fun too.

Don't fall into the trap of assuming that eating healthily has to be expensive. If you eat in-season, local produce, and try to get lots of variety into your diet, you won't have to spend a lot of money. Frozen vegetables are still nutritious, and beans, nuts, wholemeal bread, and lean meats don't have to break the bank. The current obsession with 'superfoods' has been harmful to the public image of what a healthy lifestyle really is. Kale and acai are nutritious, yes. However, if you live somewhere that considers those foods exotic, you don't have to eat them. You could do just as well out of eating broccoli and strawberries, or lettuce and grapes. There was a time that spinach was considered a superfood. The term itself is not a scientific one, it's a meaningless marketing term that helps to make certain fruits and vegetables trendy for a short time.

Take Care of Yourself ability to focus

Eating certain foods can improve your ability to focus, for a while. Everyone gets tired eventually, though, and that's where other lifestyle choices come in. Exercise can help to improve your focus and mental clarity too. 8 It improves blood flow to the brain, and it releases endorphins that can boost your mood. This is a particularly important effect and one that sedentary people often miss out on.

Another area that often gets neglected is sleep. If you are metaphorically burning the candle at both ends, then you may be able to offset some of that with caffeine or 'smart drugs' in the short term, but eventually, you are going to find that your concentration gets worse, your mood deteriorates, and you start to feel run down and make more mistakes. Getting enough sleep is essential for learning, recall, and focus. The national sleep foundation notes that when people do not get enough sleep, or if the sleep they are getting is of low quality, then it impairs their executive function. 9 This can manifest itself in several ways - including making bad food decisions, which will then compound the impact on focus and cognitive performance. Being tired, hungry, and subsisting on junk food that you crave but that does not provide your body with the nutrients that it needs to perform well is not conducive to being productive, learning, or focusing on important tasks!

Today we are under pressure to constantly perform, and it's easy to find ourselves fighting against our bodies, resenting the fact that we need to slow down, rest and relax. The people who take time to take care of themselves, however, tend to perform better in the long run, because they are less likely to burn out or fall ill. If you're really struggling with your work or studies, sometimes the answer is to step away from the keyboard.

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