The Top 4 Nutrients for Brain Health, Focus, and Memory
When it comes to optimizing your personal and professional success and achieving massive productivity in your life, your brain is kind of a big deal. I find it funny how so many business coaches completely ignore nutrition advice in their mentorship processes, even though nutrition can literally make or break your energy for the day—and therefore, make or break your success for the day.
Successful people need brain nutrients. Sure, some people “get away with eating bad,” but they’re certainly still sub-optimal versions of themselves. You can only imagine what they would be capable of if they took their nutrition seriously!
There’s no way around it: Bad diet = sub-optimal focus, concentration, and memory. Period.
Your brain is the control center of your body. It’s in charge of keeping your heart beating and lungs breathing, and it’s what allows you to move, feel, create, and think. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep your brain in peak working condition. Your progress in life will only ever as good as the brain power behind it.
The foods you eat play a massive role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks, such as memory and concentration. Why wouldn’t we take advantage of this? Use these four foods for memory and focus to get a leg-up on the competition!
1. Fatty Fish
If you’ve spent any time in the nutritional research game, I’m sure you’re not surprised to see that fatty fish made the list. Although, if we’re being specific, I would like to narrow it down a tad further to salmon, trout, and sardines—all excellent sources of Omega-3’s. (1)
When you ask yourself, “why are fish so good for my brain?” you don’t need to look much further than a combination of anatomy and common-sense. The brain is a structure that is 60% fat, and half of that fat content is Omega-3’s. (2) It’s a game of supply and demand. Your brain and central nervous system use these specific fatty acids to literally build the brain cells and nerve cells that are essential for your learning, memory, and ability to focus. (3)
It’s not just productivity either. Omega-3’s have a massive effect on the health of your brain through fighting age-related mental decline, helping prevent Alzheimer’s disease, fighting the symptoms of depression, and protecting your brain from inflammatory damage. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
Beyond this, improving the DHA status of our body (a fatty acid found in Omega-3’s) has been shown to improve cognitive skills, reaction time, and memory. (9)
Need more? Eating fatty fish is literally associated with having a bigger brain. Specifically of the gray matter, which is connected to decision making, memory, and emotional control. (10)
If you think I couldn’t keep going… you would be wrong! Eating fatty fish is one of the best things you could do for both your productivity and the health of your brain long term. Everyone should be consuming more fish to get this king among nutrients for brain health… not that I had to give you another excuse to go eat sushi anyways.
Your Mom was right, you need to eat your fruit. Specifically, blueberries top the list of go-to nutrients for brain function. Blueberries actually provide the body a number of amazing benefits, but what makes them unique is the impact they have on your brain.
A part of this uniqueness is the fact that they’re an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory beast in the nutrition world. Pound for pound, very little food in existence even comes close. This stuff is important to care about because antioxidants help fight the damage that both stress and inflammation can cause on our bodies and our brains, which down the line contributes to neurodegenerative disorders. (11)
Beyond the health aspect of their antioxidant content, blueberries contain certain compounds that have been demonstrated within the literature to improve the communication from one brain cell to the next. (12) And when you look at the animal research on this manner, studies have shown that blueberries improve memory capacity and help fight short-term memory loss. (13, 14, 15)
So, if you aren’t already, it’s wise from a brain health and memory perspective to start incorporating some blueberries on a daily basis. This can be something as easy as throwing them in your oatmeal, having them plain, or adding them to your favorite yogurt.
Yup, you read that right. The supplement all the meatheads are taking is one of the best things that you can do for your brain. So much for their meathead status!
The thing is, a lot of people think creatine is some unnatural compound—yet we make our own creatine every single day. It’s very natural, and it plays a very important role in our energy metabolism both in our muscles and in our brains.
Although most people know it as a pure supplement, you can actually get decent amounts of it in red meat and seafood. Since it’s found primarily in meat products, vegetarians tend to not get as great of a benefit since it’s not in their diet. This is probably why we have seen in the research that when you feed vegetarians creatine supplementation they experience a 25-50% improvement in performance on memory and intelligence tests. (16)
Creatine supplementation in those who are at risk of having a low status is, in my opinion, a critical factor to change as we have seen so much data on how creatine can protect the brain from many different mind-related diseases. (17, 18, 19, 20)
Keeping the unique benefits coming, creatine was shown in a six-month trial on children who suffered from traumatic brain injury to reduce their dizziness by 50% and reduce their fatigue by 70%. (21) If that’s not impactful and intriguing, I don’t know what is.
Supplementation of 3-5g per day has been shown to be safe and effective long-term and is worth considering in this area of brain nutrition—especially if you’re an athlete or person who could also benefit from the muscle building, strength increasing, and power development creatine also brings to the table.
4. Green Tea
We’re going to finish this article off with a bang—not just in the caffeine-sense of the word, but with a whole lot of more science-based reasons to start drinking green tea. Among brain food nutrients, this is one that can turbocharge that big old ball of wrinkly fat you have sitting in your skull!
First off, we have our obvious effects of caffeine. Many of us have already discovered this mistress, and we visit her everyday—usually a hundred times or so. Caffeine stimulates both the brain and nervous system, making you feel much less tired, more focused, and more alert for whatever tasks you have in front of you. (22) Because it impacts both the brain and nervous system in such a direct way, it’s no surprise at all that we have seen excellent research demonstrating that caffeine can effectively improve your reaction time, memory, and overall brain function. (23, 24, 25)
Although a lot of people take caffeine as a supplement, it’s much more beneficial to get it in the form of green tea, as green tea naturally contains an amino acid known as L-theanine, which improves GABA levels in your brain. You get the heightened focus from the caffeine, but you don’t get the associated “jitters” many people don’t like. (26, 27)
Beyond this, green tea has been connected to fighting mental decline, reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s, and improving your overall memory ability. (28, 29, 30)
For you coffee lovers out there, you don’t need to kill your coffee and replace it with green tea. Coffee is actually very healthy for you, but we can talk about that another day. For now, I just want you to try replacing one of your daily coffees with a green tea and experiment from there.
When it comes to nutrition and brain health, the connections you can make are clear and very obvious. I provided a lot of data for you in this article, but trust me when I say that this was scratching the surface. There are still plenty of other brain and memory nutrients out there that can positively impact your focus, memory, concentration, mood, and overall cognitive functioning. These just happen to be a handful of my favorites!
I hope I was able to point out the importance of nutrition towards living an optimal life and that I provided you some new strategies that you can start using immediately to go out there and dominate.
About the Author, Dan Garner
The founder of Team Garner, Inc. which offers coaching, speaking, and educational services—as well as the very popular Ultimate Nutrition Mentorship certificate program. Dan has 12 of the top certifications in both training and nutrition, as well as a more formal education in both functional medicine and health science.