What foods are the best for improving focus?
Each of us has our own unique relationship with food. Whether that’s thinking of food as fuel to enhance your gym routine, seeing the dinner table as a space to connect with your family, or feeling a swell of inner happiness when your colleague leaves their snack draw open when she leaves early on a Friday. Our food intake can affect energy levels, our physical health, but also our mood.
Research has found that 90% of serotonin receptors are in the gut. Serotonin has a range of purposes affecting the whole body, but importantly, it acts as a natural mood stabilizer, regulating happiness, anxiety and mood.
Can what we’re eating affect how focused we are in the workplace? The answer is yes! There are several foods that are known to increase focus and concentration, which we have explored by mind mapping.
Improve focus and concentration
Studies have shown that a bowl of blueberries can boost concentration and focus for up to 5 hours because the antioxidants in the fruit stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
Green tea can aid focus for two reasons; firstly, it has caffeine in (one of the most common ingredients we rely on to give us a boost at work). The second important ingredient is L-Theanine, an ingredient proven to increase alpha-wave activity which releases caffeine more slowly, instead of all at once, avoiding a caffeine crash.
Avocados reduce the risk of plaque buildup and enhance blood flow which means more blood and oxygen reach the brain, making us feel more alert and focused.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy greens have three great ingredients that help protect our brains and keep us feeling focused:
- Antioxidants and carotenoids for boosting brain power
- B-vitamins for helping memory and focus
- Folic acid for improving mental clarity
Examples of great leafy green are broccoli, spinach and pak choi. In general, the greener and leafier, the better!
Fatty and oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acids that aid mental performance and behavioural function. If you’re low in omega-3s, you’re more likely to have poor memory, mood swings, depression and fatigue.
This may seem obvious, but water is so important for keeping us focused! Good old H2O gives the brain electrical energy for all brain functions, including memory and thought processes.
Dark chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine, which keeps us feeling alert. It also contains magnesium, which helps reduce stress and stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin, causing a lift in mood.
Before you get your hopes up, this does only apply to dark chocolate. No, milky ways and giant chocolate buttons do not have the same effect (unfortunately).
A small amount of nuts, approximately an ounce a day, can keep us feeling focused because they are a great source of the antioxidant Vitamin E, which is associated with less cognitive decline as you age.
It’s all well and good knowing the kind of food that can keep you focused but, all these ingredients need to make a meal, right?
We’ve whipped up a great recipe using three of the main foods that aid focus. It’s a salmon stir fry recipe that makes enough for lunch the next day!
Crispy Asian salmon with stir-fried noodles, broccoli, pak choi and mixed nuts
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 15 mins
2 x 100g salmon fillets
2 tsp soy sauce
2cm piece of ginger, grated
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 spring onion
1 garlic clove
50g tender stem broccoli
½ red chilli, sliced and deseeded if preferred
2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
75g sugar snap peas
75g pak choi
½ large red pepper
1sp soy sauce
Juice of ½ lime
- Mix marinade ingredients together.
- Coat the fish in the marinade and then cover for at least 10 minutes.
- Cook the noodles according to packet instructions, then drain and set aside.
- Heat a frying pan with a splash of oil then cook the salmon skin-side down first for 3 minutes on each side.
- Just before you remove the salmon from the pan, add any remaining marinade and sizzle for 10 seconds, then take it out and set aside.
- Add spring onion, chilli, garlic and ginger to the pan with another drizzle of olive oil.
- After 1 minute, add the sugar snaps, pak choi, pepper and broccoli for 2 minutes.
- Add the noodles back into the pan.
- Toss with the soy sauce and lime juice.
- Plate up and top with coriander.
Enjoy this delicious meal and the great focus that you’ll experience when you’re back in the workplace afterwards.