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Foods That Improve Memory & Concentration
The past year has pushed our concentration and memory capabilities to the absolute limit. With working from home, often home schooling too, whilst also dealing with a whole lot of uncertainty and everything that comes with keeping a house afloat, concentrating on our work has been more difficult than ever. In fact, there have even been studies into how this period of time has impacted our memory, (or moreover, our lack of memory). The good news is that as our lives get busier again, and we start heading out and about of the house, old cues and memories will start to come back – but is there anything else we can do to improve our concentration and memory?
Every food we eat plays a role in how our body works – and that includes our brains. Our brain health is, for obvious reasons, kind of a big deal, and we can boost our concentration and memory by adding a few key ingredients, packed with specific nutrients. Find out below which foods can improve concentration (and more importantly, the best ways to include it in your diet!)
This creamy fruit is an absolute powerhouse of nutrition. The good fats in avocados are the monounsaturated fats, which have been proven to protect brain cells. Monounsaturated fat is also good for us as they reduce high blood pressure, and therefore in turn, may lower the risk of cognitive decline. Furthermore, they are high in vitamin K and folate (folic acid) – which both work to prevent blood clots in the brain.
There are so many ways to get more avocados into your diet. Chop them into salads, smooth over toast, whizz up in smoothies or throw together some guacamole. Our personal favourite is spread onto a brown slice of toast, with a few chilli flakes, pumpkin seeds and a soft-boiled egg on top (the egg adding an additional burst of folic acid and B vitamins).
So blue, so versatile and one of the highest antioxidant packed fruits out there. These high levels of antioxidants can protect your brain cells and reduce inflammation, limiting damage from stress and degeneration. Berries in general have been proven to improve connection between brain cells, so if blueberries aren’t your thing, give blackberries, strawberries or blackcurrants a go. Enjoy blueberries or berries in smoothies (smoothie bowls are fab), with granola, on toast with peanut butter or on their own as a delicious and nutritious snack.
We might usually associate dark chocolate with desserts and ‘treats’, but in fact dark chocolate boasts some health benefits. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants, all which lend a helping hand in boosting memory and concentration. When we say dark chocolate, we mean chocolate which has 70% or high cocoa content (so, unfortunately, your favourite milk chocolate does not count here!) There have also been studies that state chocolate is in fact a real mood booster – one study found participants who ate chocolate over crackers experienced more positive feelings. Try eating a square or two of good quality dark chocolate, and see how you feel!
Broccoli is another plant full of antioxidants, as well as being high in vitamin K which is a fat-soluble vitamin which plays an essential role in supporting brain cells. Along with vitamin C, broccoli is a brilliant all-rounder that should be incorporated into your diet wherever possible. Try broccoli simply steamed with salmon or chicken, serve it with rice or noodles in a stir fry or as a side to any other of your favourite proteins.
Soybean products are rich in polyphenols, which have been linked with research on improving cognitive function. Soy products include tofu, soymilk, tempeh and miso. All of these are amazing ingredients to be used in a variety of ways – try including tofu or tempeh with miso for a really delicious weekday dinner. Swapping out your regular milk for soya milk is also an easy way to incorporate more soy products into your diet.
Dark leafy greens
Kale, spinach, swiss chard and romaine lettuce are all bursting with goodness to keep your brain ticking. Full of vitamin E and folate, filling up on green goodness is the real deal. Not only do these foods help fight inflammation and keep your bones strong, the folate and extra vitamin K protect those brain cells too. Crisp up some kale with extra virgin olive oil to make some yummy crisps or blitz some spinach into your next smoothie. Make a deliciously simple stir fry with greens, garlic, tamari and ginger – you could even add some tofu or broccoli for good measure!
Oily fish are a great source of omega-3, which help build membranes around every cell in the body, including the brain. Studies have also found that omega-3s improve blood flow to the brain, as well as better cognitive function and ability. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, herrings and sardines are all examples of oily fish, and all can be used to make a really easy weekday meal. We love salmon baked in foil with a little pesto or simply poached until it’s soft and flaky. Tuna is also super versatile, brilliant in salads, pastas and even rice dishes. Try serving mackerel and sardines with a side of dark leafy greens drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and you’re onto a winning brain fuelling dinner!
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are another great source of omega-3 and as outlined above, we know these have numerous benefits. Nuts and seeds are also high in vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress. As a person naturally ages, they may be exposed to more oxidative stress and vitamin E helps to protect against that, although there is more research to be done in this area. Try adding sunflower or pumpkin seeds to your morning porridge or yogurt and replace your afternoon tea and biscuits with a handful of nuts.
So, whilst it may feel like more often than not we can’t remember what we did last week (or even yesterday?), but there are ways we can easily tweak our diet to give our brains a helping hand.
We have lots of quick and easy recipes which incorporate many of these ingredients – take a look at these:
Which memory boosting food are you going to try first?
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