You don’t need a scientific study to understand that as we age, so too does our body and brain. But where we do benefit greatly from conducted scientific studies is differentiating between the hype and the facts, helping us to know what “smart” food, drinks and dietary supplements really do assist us in improving the odds of maintaining a healthy body and brain. Below you will find foods and beverages that scientific studies have shown to have antioxidant properties, as well as enhancing brain functions; concentration, focus, memory, and attention span.
Which Foods and Drinks Improve Brain Function
Caffeine – Caffeine is found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and certain medications. Recent studies have shown that caffeine not only gives you that morning wake up call, but may also offer long lasting effects on your cognitive thinking skills.
The caffeine in coffee is not just a brain stimulant; it actually tricks your brain into blocking receptors for the chemical produced by the brain called adenosine which is responsible for the release of excitatory brain chemicals. When the excitatory brain chemical adenosine is blocked the chemicals that can actually boost brain function is enhanced and are able to flow more freely giving you increased energy and possibly boosting mental performance capabilities while reducing age related declines in brain function. Some previous studies indicated improvement in the areas of long-term memory and cognitive (thinking) abilities in people who were regular caffeine consumers.
Natural Sugars (Glucose) – The natural sugars in the food and beverages you consume are your body’s best fuel source for your body, cognitive and mental abilities as well as enhancing memory. Glucose is produced naturally by the breakdown of the complex carbohydrates and natural sugars contained in the food you consume and liquids such as milk, fruit juices and dairy products. Natural sugars can also improve alertness.
However, be careful not to consume too much sugar though as it can have a negative effect on both your body and mind. Too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases which can impair your memory and cognitive abilities.
Don’t Skip Breakfast – Research studies have indicated that students who skipped breakfast had lower performance skills than students who ate a healthy breakfast, but kids aren’t the only ones that benefit from eating breakfast. While children who ate a healthy breakfast showed higher scores of special reasoning, short term memory recall, auditory attention span and overall higher cognitive function; the same can be seen in adults relating to work performance.
For adults essentially eating a balanced, healthy, protein based breakfast will kick start your metabolism, enhance your energy level, aid in your digestion and is linked in study after study to a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and improved weight maintenance and performance.
But again, don’t over eat, and be sure to eat the right brain fueling foods such as; lean proteins i.e. Canadian bacon, dairy products, whole grain cereals with fresh berries or fruit, eggs or protein drinks. Skip the sugary cereals, donuts, bagels or large high calorie breakfasts, studies show it may hinder your levels of concentration.
Proteins – Eating two servings of fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids each week will lower your risk of stroke, dementia, and mental decline as you age and may be a key component in enhancing your memory particularly as you are aging. Lean cuts of red meat, pork and chicken all can be part of a healthy diet balanced diet.
Antioxidant Foods and Beverages – Seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, black or green tea and coffee all contain properties that are considered antioxidants. Antioxidants not only have been linked to reducing your risks for certain cancers, but also act as a natural stimulant which can enhance focus and reduce cognitive decline as you grow older. You can eat an ounce a day of chocolate and typically about 42 nuts per serving to reap the benefits without exceeding the recommended daily amounts. Numerous fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, water melon, and bananas just to name a few and have been linked to eradicating free radicals and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Multiple studies indicate avocados and whole grains are excellent brain boosters, both of these super foods aid to improve blood flow to the heart and brain. Whole grains contain vitamin E an antioxidant and avocados contain healthy monosaturated fatty-acids both of these foods can lower your bad cholesterol improving your heart health and blood flow to the brain, firing up your brain cells which may promote healthy aging.
Eat a Well Balanced Diet – Nutrition is very important for maintaining a healthy body and brain. Important nutrients are found in a wide variety of foods and well balanced meals will help you achieve optimum health which will benefit your brain and body enhancing your ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
Vitamins and Supplements – While vitamin supplements can be very useful for people who are not getting proper nutrition from their daily diet, or have a medical condition that may cause them to be deficient in one nutrient or another, studies indicate that in people who are healthy and have a well balanced diet supplements aren’t useful and the extra vitamin and mineral supplements are excreted in your urine.
However some clinical researchers have had optimistic findings regarding ginseng, ginkgo and multiple combinations of herbs, vitamins and supplements to have positive impact on the brain, but researchers admit more studies are needed.