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  • Whole-grain toast: To feed your inner Einstein, go for whole grains. They're digested slowly, boosting your blood sugar and giving your brain a steady supply of its favorite fuel, glucose. Processed and refined foods — like packaged cookies or white bread — also provide glucose, but because these foods break down much more rapidly in your body, they cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, leading to impaired brain functions such as poorer judgment, memory, and analytical abilities, says Ewan McNay, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroendocrinology at the Yale School of Medicine. On the other hand, researchers from Lund University in Sweden have found that eating whole grains at breakfast can keep blood sugar stable for up to 10 hours — improving alertness, concentration, and memory. For best results, top your whole-grain toast with a bit of protein, such as almond butter or a slice of low-fat cheese, to further slow digestion and, in turn, extend your energy.
  • Turkey: Protein makes you a lean, mean thinking machine. Turkey, for example, contains tyrosine, an amino acid that helps your brain produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine. "If you activate those chemicals, your brain will work faster and be more effective at handling complex mental problems," says Wurtman. Animal proteins — such as milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry, and lean meats — pack the smartest punch because in addition to tyrosine, they contain the other seven essential amino acids in the amounts the body needs for good health (unlike vegetable proteins like beans and tofu). Just make sure to choose lean animal protein, because fat can muck up the works. "Fat takes longer to digest, so blood is diverted to the digestive tract to process it," Wurtman explains. "That can make you feel like you're in a mental coma." Turkey is one of the best choices, with 21 grams of protein and .4 grams of fat in one serving of a boneless, skinless breast (3 oz). Or try chicken, which has 17.5 grams of protein and 1.1 grams of fat per 3-oz serving of a boneless, skinless breast.
  • Coffee: It's not bad for you — especially if you stick to just the mug or two a morning you need to bring the world into focus (and skip those full-fat mocha lattes). Researchers from Innsbruck Medical University in Austria found that 100 mg of caffeine (about two cups of coffee) improved subjects' reaction times and working memory (what you'd use to recall a number you'd just found in the phone book, for example). "Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and acts on brain chemicals in a way that improves memory, attention, and concentration," says Bennett Weinberg, coauthor of The World of Caffeine. "It can actually raise your score on an IQ test." Caffeine may give your workout a boost too. In one study, caffeine intake increased performance in cyclists; in another, it delayed exercise fatigue. Of course, moderation is key, and personal limits vary. If you feel jittery, step away from the java.
  • Eggs: No more egg-white-only omelets — or anything else! Egg yolk is rich in choline, a fat-like B-complex vitamin, and in chemical compounds called phospholipids — both of which are linked to recall. "Choline and phospholipids have been shown to enhance memory in college-age men," says Kleiner. (And that's saying a lot given all the drinking those guys can do.) If you tend to stick to the whites because the yolks are high in cholesterol, know that if you don't already have high cholesterol (or eat a diet full of other high-cholesterol foods, like cheeseburgers and milk shakes), there's no health downside to eating a full egg a day.

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