Swap coffee and energy drinks for these alertness-boosting eats.
Maggie Young 1 / 11
10 Foods to Boost Your Focus
When it comes time to hone in and focus on a project at work, most guys reach for another shot of black coffee to stay sharp throughout the day. As effective as this can be, a better long-term approach is reaching for whole foods to keep you on your A-game, says Robyn Coale, R.D. “Caffeine stimulates us, but actually ends up taking more than what we get through that process by stressing the adrenal glands," Coale says. "We want to be getting stimulation from nutrient-dense, plant-based foods instead."
A combination of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates consumed together is what replenishes energy levels. If you aim for a mix of carbs, fat, and protein at each meal and snack, you won’t have to worry about crashing and losing focus during the day. The other key to staying alert without caffeine is to eat every two to three hours. By doing this, you maintain your blood sugar levels.
These general guidelines, along with incorporating some brain-boosting foods into your diet, will help you stay alert sans caffeine.
If you’re experiencing a case of foggy brain, try incorporating avocado into your meals and snacks. The monounsaturated fats in avocado help support information-carrying nerves in the brain, suggests research from the Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology. Top burgers with it, add it to salads, use it as a dip, or even substitute it for oil and butter in recipes.
Fill up on fresh salmon to improve not only your focus, but also your problem-solving abilities. With a full load of omega-3 fatty acids, salmon provides the fuel to sustain concentration during long periods of work. The omega-3 fatty acids are the building blocks for increasing brain networking and sharpening cognitive function.
It always comes back to the leafy green salads, doesn’t it? Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens are not only high in antioxidants, but also full of the B vitamin folate. Folate may keep your brain sharp as you age, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. By simply increasing your veggie intake, you can improve not just your present focus, but your ability to think clearly as you get older.
It might be better to trade in your coffee mug for a water bottle when you feel like your focus is slipping. One of the most common contributors to poor focus is dehydration—even if it’s mild, says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N. “Divide your weight in pounds by two,” she says. “That's how many fluid ounces of water you should be drinking each day to stay adequately hydrated.”
Along with salmon, mackerel is another solid seafood option to keep you alert. It's high in vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin involved in energy production. In fact, a 3-ounce piece of mackerel contains up to 123% of the daily value of B12. This vitamin is your friend when it comes to focus because a deficiency can lead to fatigue, which negatively affects concentration.
Peanuts offer a one-two punch to fuel focus by providing both fiber and more than 30 essential vitamins and minerals. “Among these is vitamin E, considered an antioxidant-containing nutrient to prevent diseases of the brain and central nervous system,” says Leah Kaufman, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. One ounce of peanuts contains up to 3 grams of fiber, so it satiates you in addition to providing vitamin E.
Blueberries are a smart addition to your morning smoothie or pancakes. One cup delivers 14% of your daily fiber, and fiber satiates you. Keeping your hunger level steady is key to maintaining focus. “One cup of blueberries, at only 100 calories, is a great addition to any meal, snack, or even dessert,” says Kaufman.
Combining your favorite nuts and fruit creates an ideal combination of nutrients to stabilize energy levels that support quality focus. The fat provides long-term sustainable energy while the fruit offers quick energy. Together, they keep you in the zone.
Homemade granola bars provide on-the-go fuel without the caffeine crash. Bonus: You can use your favorite ingredients to pack in the right combination of healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates. To start, try Coale’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Banana Bars.
● 1/2 cup peanut flour ● 1 1/2 cups rolled oats ● 2 mashed bananas ● 2 tablespoons of chia seeds ● 1 cup almond milk and 1 cup water (heated until boiling) ● 1/4 tsp sea salt ● 1/4 tsp vanilla
● Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. ● Mix the first four ingredients and add to heated milk and water mixture. ● Add vanilla and sea salt. ● Pour into greased pan. ● Bake for 45 minutes or until firm.
Staying focused with caffeine-free foods is just as, if not more, satisfying with varied snacks and meals. Coale recommends getting the appropriate mix of energy sources to help boost concentration, so this snack offering fits the bill. Popcorn, which provides fiber and carbohydrates, boosts energy levels, while coconut oil gives you the necessary fats for satiety.