Healthy Foods to Eat for Brain Power
These natural brain foods can boost concentration and performance.
You have a big presentation to give in 15 minutes. But suddenly, you're so
tired and unfocused you have a hard time remembering your name, much less your
entire speech. Barring illegal substances, there's got to be something to give
you a jolt of brain power, but what? Coffee? Sugar? Salmon? (Don't laugh, we'll
get to that.) In fact, there are a number of healthy foods to eat for brain
power. Some may help in the short term; others, you should include in your diet
for long-term aid in boosting alertness, concentration, and performance.
Of course, the best approach is to maintain a healthy diet overall.
"If you're eating poorly and think you'll have a snack and go in and
take a test and do well, you're fooling yourself," says Elizabeth Somer,
author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman's Diet. "But if you've been
feeding your brain [the natural brain foods] it needs for weeks and months,
then that light snack and a cup of coffee before you go in to take an exam will
3 Natural Brain Foods for Short-Term Boosts
1. Caffeine, with a Caveat
"Coffee is good in the short term," says Somer. "One or two cups
can improve alertness and brain power temporarily.
"But if you keep going back for cup and after cup, you'll be too rattled
to think clearly. If you're fueling your day with caffeine, it exacerbates the
problems and adds to fatigue. You can go through caffeine withdrawal.
It's definitely a double-edged sword."
Try one or two cups of green tea instead of coffee, suggests Ann Kulze, MD,
author of Dr. Ann's 10-Step Diet, A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss
& Lifelong Vitality.
"It can boost concentration, help you focus, and also provide
antioxidants," she says.
2. Quality Carbs for Concentration
"Eating a small carb snack before a test - a whole-wheat English muffin
with a little peanut butter and a glass of orange juice, will help boost
concentration and brainpower, and is better than going in on an empty
stomach," Somer says.
"Quality (complex) carbs, not jelly beans or a Snickers bar, can supply
the brain with the fuel it needs to operate optimally."
But she warns against too much of a good thing: "If you have a big plate
of pasta and some bread at lunch before a meeting, you're going to want to take
3. Glucose for Memory
Everyone has heard of the "sugar high." But is it real, and is it a
A small study of older adults examined this issue: they were given a sweet
drink or other carbs - and those participants fared better on memory tests than
others who were given a placebo.
Somer says you'll get more bang for your buck with whole grains (that is,
healthy complex carbs) rather than a quick hit of sugar.
"You'll get the glucose level you need without the spikes," she