Ten foods that make you brainier and improve concentration .
Downing endless cups of coffee to stay alert, even guzzling Red Bull is commonplace for many men-on-the-go. And then there are those magic pills that promise to improve brain power, guaranteeing the long over-due promotion. Whether you’re having trouble concentrating at work or you just need an extra mental jumpstart to propel you ahead there are plenty of foods, herbs and supplements that can actually help.
Did you know that the solid part of your brain consists primarily of fat? Did you also know that you have to consume ‘good fats’ through food because your body can’t manufacture them? Here’s a fuss-free, inexpensive way of consuming Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs that help maintain and develop synapses—that create memories—in the brain. Aim to eat at least one egg daily.
It’s something Bengali mothers have always known, insisting their children eat fish before exams! Get your fill of different fish including sardines, mackerel and pomfret, all rich in EFA. Sardines in fact also contain choline, a brain chemical crucial for memory. If you’re squeamish or vegetarian, take a fish oil or flax oil supplement. Nykaa recommends GNC Triple Strength Fish Oil (60 Softgel) or GNC Flax Seed Oil 1000 (90 Caps).
Nuts and seeds
Here’s another protein-packed food that triggers neurotransmitters associated with verbal and non-verbal memory. Soy protein isolates, a common ingredient in protein supplements such as Prolab N Large 2 Wild Strawberry contain a concentrated form of protein extracted from soybeans. Choose a flavor you like best and aim to have one serving daily, especially after a workout. Or you could just eat 30 gram of tofu three-four times per week.
Eating vitamin E-rich foods such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds and peanuts or vegetable oil based dressings can boost brain power. A study at the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush University, in Chicago, discovered that vitamin E protects neurons or nerve cells. The benefit is evident with vitamin-E rich foods, but not supplements.
Green and black tea
Gingko biloba is one of the most well-known ‘memory herbs’. It works by increasing blood flow to the brain by dilating the blood vessels and increasing oxygen supply. Nykaa recommends Nature’s Bounty Ginkgo Biloba 60mg. However, it can take a few weeks for the effects to show. Please note that it’s advisable to check with your physician before starting the supplement because it can affect the efficacy of some prescription medications.
Countless studies have concluded that both green and black teas can push back the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a neurodegenerative illness that causes a loss of mental function and memory. Tea contains ingredients that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a key chemical involved in memory lacking in people affected by Alzheimer’s. Green tea is believed to be more beneficial than black tea. Aim to have three cups daily. It also helps weight loss because it speeds up the metabolism. Nykaa recommends Jay Green Tea and Jay Darjeeling Tea.
Herbs for mental agility
Get your dose of vitamin B12
One study showed that people who ate fresh sage and rosemary leaves performed better than those who didn’t on a word recall test. It’s believed that these herbs cause an increase in chemicals that help transmit messages in the brain. Studies on the efficacy of rosemary have demonstrated an improvement in mental clarity and memory, and reduction in mental fatigue.
Eating your daily five is important but a vitamin B complex supplement especially when you’re under stress or burning the candle at both ends can tide you through tough times. Stress and fatigue can deplete your body of B vitamins and this deficiency prevents acetylcholine, the key chemical involved in memory, from functioning in the brain. If you’re a vegetarian get your daily dose from daal and soya beans. Eggs, liver and meat are good non-vegetarian sources. You could also take a supplement daily. Nykaa likes Nature’s Bounty B-100 Ultra B-Complex.
Iron to the rescue
An iron deficiency—far commoner than you’d think—has been linked to many adverse effects including poor attention span, reduced intelligence and difficulty concentrating. The higher the iron in your blood the more oxygen is carried to the brain. Low levels can cause brain activity to slow down. Get your daily requirement from bananas, apples, beetroot, ragi, beans and organ meats. Squeezing lemon juice on food also increases the body’s uptake of iron from food. You could also take a folic acid supplement like Nature’s Bounty Folic Acid 400mcg to boost iron levels.
The brain consists of seventy percent water. Therefore, drinking water can improve the functioning of the brain. Too little water and too much caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration, making the brain work slower. Dehydration also causes the brain to release the stress hormone cortisol that negatively impacts the brain’s ability to store information and create memories.