It’s normal to notice occasional lags in concentration, trouble focusing or just plain boredom. You might think you have to down an energy drink that’s packed with chemical stimulants and artificial sweeteners to wake yourself up, but actually, there are many healthy foods that can help give your energy level and concentration a natural boost.
According to registered dietitian Holley Johnson Grainger, eating a combination of high-fiber carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat for breakfast every day has the power to boost your energy level and focus. In 2009, Missouri Western State University researcher Lisa Staub discovered that “eating breakfast before class seems to improve students’ memory,” as evidenced by test results from both breakfast eaters and non-breakfast eaters. Try having a vegetable omelet, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and apple slices or a bowl of oatmeal with low-fat milk and berries.
Foods that contain caffeine and natural sugars can act as stimulants, temporarily boosting concentration and focus levels. “This may be a welcome lift when the brain needs to be turned on, such as to study or to keep awake,” states Dr. William Sears of AskDrSears.com. Try caffeinated tea, coffee or chocolate. If you prefer sugar to caffeine, take a bite out of fresh or frozen fruits, which may have dozens of grams of natural sugar per serving. You can also try adding natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup or agave nectar, to yogurt, cereal or other sweet treats.
You can also help your brain stay alert and focused by naturally increasing dopamine levels. Dopamine is a pleasure-producing chemical found in the brain, and when levels dip low, you may find yourself feeling stressed or struggling to concentrate. According to IntegrativePsychology.com, you can get dopamine from avocados, almonds, bananas, lima beans and some seeds. In addition to those foods, Dr. Sears recommends eating regular servings of lean beef, broccoli, brown rice, flaxseed oil, milk, peas, soybeans, spinach, tuna and wheat germ.
If you don’t notice improved alertness after making minor adjustments to your diet or if you consistently feel fatigued and have trouble concentrating, it’s best to see your doctor to discuss the issue, which may go beyond your diet. According to MayoClinic.com, severe fatigue can be a symptom of anxiety, depression, anemia, cancer, heart disease, obesity, pregnancy, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome or other conditions.
- Missouri Western State University; The Correlation Between Eating Breakfast and School Performance; Lisa M. Staub; 2009
- CookingLight.com; Eat Breakfast Daily; Holley Johnson Grainger, R.D.; 2009
- AskDrSears.com; Mood Foods; William Sears, M.D.
- IntegrativePsychology.com; Dopamine - Natural Ways to Increase Dopamine Levels; 2011