While it only weighs approximately three pounds, the human brain comprises many parts with various functions. Together, these interconnected networks of cells and brain parts give rise to every aspect of shared humanity.
For instance, this spongy mass of fat and protein is responsible for helping you think rationally, interpret sensation, coordinate body movement, manage behaviour, store memory, and more—all of which makes you human. Because of researchers and scientists’ dedication to studying the brain, people are now able to determine the various areas of the brain and how to bolster brain performance as you age.
The Link Between Mental Performance And Focus
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s amazing ability to form new neural pathways and change existing connections, helping you build new habits or coping mechanisms and compensate for injuries, among others. For instance, because of its reshaping ability, your brain helps you adapt to transitions, adjustments, and certain external threats, protecting you from sudden changes.
Apart from this, neuroplasticity serves a crucial role in maintaining mental performance. As an example, this ability helps you increase attention, learn quickly, recall knowledge, process sensory information, and store it into your memory bank.
While you’re young and healthy, you may not think of these abilities as these are automatically done by your brain. However, as you age, it’s crucial to take hold of this gift and continuously hone your brain’s ability to alter and harness cognitive functions. When you’re able to keep your brain sharp, it’ll help you enhance concentration, leading to an increase in the capacity to retain memory. Conversely, you can’t recall experiences, facts, and similar information if you weren’t able to focus on them.
Mental Disability and Disorders
There are times when you may have trouble concentrating. While ageing, stress, and fatigue can be common culprits for this, there are other reasons behind this cognitive problem. Brain trauma caused by accidents and injury can affect your ability to focus. Also, mental disorders such as ADHD, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and the like can cloud your decision-making capacity and impair concentration.
Not being able to recall information occasionally is normal as your brain regularly removes unnecessary and redundant data. However, if you’re having behavioural problems as a result of cognitive decline, it might be best to seek medical help and make an appointment with the nearest mental health professionals. Mental health clinics like Pocatello counseling services have experienced psychologists and therapists that can help you uncover the root cause of this cognitive problem.
By taking deliberate steps to address this cognitive concern, you can help stop it from getting worse, especially if you start treatment immediately.
Best Foods To Keep Your Brain Sharp
Cognitive decline can be caused by genetics, environment, or both. Despite this, there are lifestyle adjustments you can make to decrease the risk for these illnesses. Among all these activities, eating a healthy diet is one of the most effective and easiest ways to boost brain power and focus.
Whether you’re a student studying for major exams or a senior attempting to preserve as much grey matter, keep your brain healthy by filling up your plate with these foods:
1. Dark Chocolate
What’s the scoop between dark chocolate and brainpower? Aside from being tasty, dark chocolate has dietary flavonoids, which are believed to be responsible for shielding the brain against injury induced by neurotoxins, decrease the potential of neuroinflammation, and boost cognitive abilities such as learning and recalling information.
Moreover, a study reveals how consuming flavanol-concentrated cocoa could potentially help facilitate blood flow to the brain. This research published by the National Library of Medicine indicates that cocoa improves cognitive fitness and verbal fluency of aged people experiencing a mental decline. Furthermore, cocoa harbours stimulants such as caffeine and theobromine, which is said to provide quick bursts of energy to your brain.
With all these, make sure to include quality dark chocolates the next time you shop. However, make sure to check the labels as some are high in sugar and added artificial flavours. The best ones are dark chocolates with higher cocoa content.
2. Green Tea
Aside from being rich in antioxidants and good for the heart, green tea can keep you awake and alert. This is because of its caffeine content. As it’s commonly known, caffeine is a stimulant that’s thought to be responsible for increasing reaction time, mood, and even memory. Likewise, caffeine supports both dopamine and norepinephrine, the neuromodulators that help you pay attention, learn, and process information.
Unlike coffee, green tea contains just enough caffeine that allows you to focus without the jitters, headaches, and insomnia associated with consuming high amounts of caffeine. It’s the perfect alternative to coffee, especially if you’re trying to limit your daily caffeine intake.
Apart from caffeine, green tea also has an amino acid called L-theanine. According to a study from the US National Library of Medicine, both caffeine and L-theanine could help in enhancing brain function. Additionally, a 2017 longitudinal study initiated by Assistant Professor Feng Lei showed that daily consumption of tea is believed to minimise the potential for cognitive decline in older persons by 50%.
With that said, make it a habit to drink green tea. However, make sure that it’s freshly brewed to make the most of its benefits. Refrain from bottled or powdered teas as they often contain high amounts of added sugars. If you’re not a fan of the earthy taste, you can put a bit of honey to add some sweetness.
3. Nuts And Seeds
If you’re craving something crunchy, the healthiest you can grab is a small bowl of nuts and seeds. They’re rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E. They’re also packed with amino acids and essential oils, which are substances thought to support brainpower.
According to another study from the US National Library of Medicine, as you age, your brain becomes more vulnerable to oxidative stress, which causes ageing and cognitive decline. Nonetheless, by incorporating adequate amounts of vitamin E into your diet, you could potentially help protect brain cells against damage and other external threats while improving cognitive function.
Moreover, a 2015 study from UCLA associated higher walnut consumption with better cognitive test results. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acid, which is known to be helpful in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Consequently, this helps well-functioning arteries facilitate healthy blood flow to and from the brain. In turn, this is said to improve brainpower.
The bottom line is that the best food for supporting healthy cognitive function and sharpness are ones that aid in blood flow to the brain, similar to what you’d consume to keep your heart in good condition.
While it can be easy to increase your vitamin E intake through supplements, it’d be best to get them naturally from foods like nuts and seeds. They’re much healthier and affordable compared to supplements. Mixed nuts and seeds, including almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, and the like are also readily available in nearby farmers’ markets and supermarkets.
You can enjoy these to satiate your midday hunger, top them on your breakfast granola, or even mix them into your stir-fry kale salad for added protein and crunch.
Berries are abundant in kind and in colour. They’re also easily available from supermarkets. Besides their sweet taste that has a bit of tang, berries are said to improve brain power and concentration. This is mainly due to their flavonoid content.
Inflammation contributes to brain ageing and neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and the like. Fortunately, by consuming food rich in flavonoids, you could help minimise the risk of inflammation and combat oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Antioxidants commonly found in berries are catechins, caffeic acid, anthocyanins, and many others.
Apart from this, antioxidants could potentially increase brain plasticity. As mentioned, this amazing ability can help create new neural pathways and enhance communication between brain cells—all of which are thought to boost the brain’s capacity for learning and recalling information.
Some of the best antioxidant-rich berries you can stock in your fridge are blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and mulberries. While you’re studying for upcoming tests or just reading, you can enjoy these as a snack or blend them into a wholesome and refreshing smoothie. On mentally demanding workdays, use them as toppings on your breakfast oatmeal, pancakes, cereals, waffles, and more. Alternatively, you can look into online recipes and turn these treats into fruit jam or smoothies. Berries are truly versatile ingredients you can enjoy in a lot of ways.
5. Fatty Fish
As previously mentioned, your brain is partly made of fats. Hence, to support its complex functions, it’s recommended to consume foods that are rich in healthy fats.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines, just to name a few, contain omega-3 fatty acids and healthy unsaturated fats. Your brain uses omega-3 to build membranes around nerve cells, which enhances brain structure and, in turn, aids in a sharper memory.
You can bake or grill your favourite fatty fish and add broccoli, tomatoes, and avocado on the side for extra brain boosters. Squeeze in some lemon zest and voila! Dinner is ready.
Among all the other organs in your body, the brain is the most important, complex, and fascinating part. To keep it healthy and sharp, be mindful of what you eat. By incorporating these healthier dietary changes, you can help protect your brain against diseases that lead to early cognitive decline.
Frances Meyer is a behavioural therapist. She has been in the health industry for over 10 years. She shares her knowledge in mental health concepts and therapies through online guest posting. During her free time, Frances loves baking, gardening, and playing badminton. She is married with two daughters.