September 22, 2020
School is in session once again. You’re working and going to class and doing homework and trying to have a responsible social life. Time and energy are in short supply and you have to study for quizzes, tests and exams—and, you know, actually retain what you’re studying! You need your brain to be in top condition and tuned to work at maximum capacity.
You may be asking questions like, “How do I improve my memory?” and “How can I increase my brain power?” The bottom line is that your brain needs fuel and nutrients to maintain healthy cognitive function. You can do a few relatively simple things to keep your brain ready to perform.
First, practice some self-care and get enough sleep. Those are essential. Most people need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night (or whenever you sleep). Going on too little sleep impacts mental sharpness, memory, mood and other faculties, essentially adding up to a kind of cognitive impairment. Sleep helps your brain process and store information and heal itself and your body.
Next, it’s important to fuel your body with healthy foods. Fortunately, a lot of quick and convenient options are available to help keep you going through your study session. Just a few examples include foods like:
- Wonderful Shelled Roasted & Salted Pistachios
- Planters Trail Mix, Nuts & Chocolate
- Peeled Snacks Gently Dried Mango
- Barnana Peanut Butter Chewy Banana Bites
- Honey Nut Cheerios Milk ‘n Cereal Bar
Healthy eating can help improve your brain health and function. The best brain foods may help boost your brain power, from improving your memory and sharpening your focus to benefits later in life including possibly preventing cognitive decline and reducing the risks of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. A healthy brain begins with taking care of it.
Let’s take a look at some of the superfoods and best foods for boosting your brain power and helping you stay focused during your study sessions.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and many other kinds of berries are filled with flavonoids, the pigments giving berries vibrant colors. Research has shown flavonoids may help improve memory. The benefits of eating berries are both short- and long-term. According to Harvard Medical School, “women who consume two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week delay memory decline by up to two and a half years.”
Berries are a tasty treat any time and a powerhouse contributor to smoothies and yogurt blends. They taste great on their own, of course. Berries are a good source of fiber, powerful antioxidants and vitamin C.
Check out these recipes for 50 ways to prepare your berries.
Dark chocolate varies in cocoa content. The higher the cocoa content, the darker and healthier the chocolate. Most dark chocolate ranges from 70% to 85% to 90% cocoa. The nutritional profile of dark chocolate is rather impressive, containing fiber, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. It also has a strong showing of fatty acids like saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. But that’s not all!
Cocoa and dark chocolate contain massive amounts of antioxidants including polyphenols, flavanols, catechins and more. In fact, it contains even more antioxidant power (absorbing and neutralizing free radicals) than both blueberries and acai berries, which are already good sources of antioxidants. But dark chocolate is the champion of disarming free radicals.
And the health benefits keep coming. The flavanols in dark chocolate may help lower blood pressure as well as improve blood flow, research shows, including to the brain.
Researchers found that eating “dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning.”
It’s best to get a higher percentage of cocoa (70% or more) and savor it in moderate amounts because of the high-calorie content. Try complementing it with coffee, berries and/or dark chocolate-covered almonds for a brain-boost study snack.
Omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats
Studies have shown that higher levels of omega-3 can increase blood flow to and in the brain, as well as improved cognition.
Great sources of these are fatty fish like:
Seeds, nuts and other foods rich in omega-3s include:
Green leafy vegetables
Here you’ll find wonderfully healthy leaves like:
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Swiss chard
These make great salads, of course. Try a cranberry walnut salad. Here are some other great recipe ideas for dressing up your greens. Because they definitely have somewhere to go—in your belly to fuel your brain!
NOTE: If you take blood thinners or other medications, please consult your physician before adding or increasing the amount of leafy greens into your diet, as vitamin K can inhibit the effectiveness of blood thinners.
Seeds, beans, nuts and legumes
Studies continue to show the strong links between digestive health and brain function. This is partly why many great fermented foods are gaining popularity like kimchi, sauerkraut, fermented pickles and, of course, kombucha.
The high amounts of fiber in these are great for your digestive health as well. The fiber and protein are good for your guts and your brains, your blood sugar and your heart health, and they help keep you satisfied longer so you’re less tempted to snack on less healthy options.
Yes, the elixir of the gods. Although no amount of coffee can make up for not getting enough sleep, the health benefits are copious. One of coffee’s superpowers is its incredibly high antioxidant content, possibly reducing the risk of several health problems and diseases such as:
And, the reason we’re here: Coffee has been shown to improve brain function. The caffeine content offers short-term benefits by increasing alertness and mental clarity. Ultimately, research has shown that caffeine, combined with a healthy diet, may boost memory and thinking skills long-term.
One caveat here is that we’re talking about black coffee. No added sugars, sweeteners, creamers, flavorings, syrups or anything that will turn it into a $9 coffee drink. (Not that there’s anything wrong with $9 coffee drinks. That’s just not the kind of coffee we’re talking about here.)
When it comes to antioxidants, which is healthier: cold-brew coffee or hot-brew coffee? Research has shown that cold-brewing coffee (as opposed to brewing with hot water and then cooling down) reduces acidity, but also reduces antioxidant levels in your coffee by about half.
Either way, coffee has the right stuff to help you power through your study session, especially when combined with a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.
So, get some good coffee and brew a cup before you hit the books and dig into that study session. Quantum mechanics isn’t going to learn itself!