Foods That Improve Memory and Concentration

Student Life

Foods That Improve Memory and Concentration

24 May, 2024

Everyone has experienced moments during the day when it becomes difficult to focus on what they are doing. Whether it's in the run-up to a university exam or amid numerous commitments, the feeling of not remembering anything, forgetting a word that's "on the tip of your tongue", an important date, or a scheduled task can be overwhelming.

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Cognitive abilities and mental clarity depend on many factors and tend to weaken with aging. These factors can be genetic or environmental, and among the latter, a proper lifestyle plays a crucial role.

Our brain is particularly exposed to oxidative stress and the action of free radicals due to its high metabolic activity. To control the negative effects of prolonged stress (a risk factor for Alzheimer, as well as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases), it is essential to carefully and attentively choose what to put on your plate.

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Recent studies confirm that the best way to support the brain and keep it young is to engage in regular physical activity and have a healthy and balanced diet. Choosing the right foods can therefore slow down cellular aging and combat free radicals.

So, what are the foods for good memory and concentration?

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Nuts and Seeds Walnuts

Pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, and pumpkin, sesame, flax, and sunflower seeds are rich in Omega 3, fatty acids and important micronutrients like Selenium, Zinc, and Phosphorus that improve cognitive functions and keep memory sharp. They can be used as a snack or to enrich yogurt in the morning or salads.

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Whole Grains 

The brain uses glucose as a source of energy. Consuming foods like spelt, barley, and brown rice provides a constant and prolonged energy supply thanks to the presence of dietary fiber, which prevents glucose spikes that can alter cognitive functions, and B vitamins that are involved in energy metabolism supporting the brain.

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Blueberries and Polyphenols

For breakfast or as a snack, consuming blueberries or dark red and purple fruits and vegetables is a concentrated source of vitamin C and polyphenols: functional substances with high antioxidant action that combat free radicals. Regular consumption improves concentration and short-term memory.

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Oily Fish

Anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and salmon contain Omega 3 in the form of EPA and DHA, which reduce cellular inflammation, improve oxygenation and blood flow, and increase cognitive abilities and concentration.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

The key item e of the Mediterranean cusine and an excellent provider of vitamin E, one of the most powerful antioxidants that protects the cell membrane from oxidation, and polyphenols. It slows aging and improves learning. Best consumed raw.

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Green Leafy Fruits and Vegetables 

For their high content of water, antioxidants, vitamins (especially C, A, and K), and essential minerals. Kiwi, strawberries, citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and tangerines, and then spinach, arugula, lettuce, broccoli, and the entire cruciferous family.

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Cocoa and dark chocolate contain polyphenols, particularly cocoa flavanols, which are substances that improve blood and oxygen flow to the brain and tissues, enhancing cognitive performance.

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Water Drinking

Water drinking too little can cause headaches and fogginess. The brain needs to stay well hydrated to remember well and have good cognitive functions.

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  • Zinc: indications in brain disorders. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2015 Apr;29(2):131-49.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids and their Role in Central Nervous System - A Review. Curr Med Chem. 2016;23(8):816-31.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and the gut-brain axis: influence on gut microbiota, mucosal immunity, and cardiometabolic and cognitive health. Nutr Rev. 2021 Nov 10;79(12):1362-1374.
  • Intake of Products Containing Anthocyanins, Flavanols, and Flavanones, and Cognitive Function: A Narrative Review. Front Aging Neurosci. 2021 Sep 3;13:640381.

Written by

Jessica Falcone
Jessica Falcone

Nutritionist biologist, Coordinator of the Eating and Anxiety Disorders Operational Unit of the San Raffaele Turro Hospital, she graduated in 2011 in Biology applied to Nutrition Sciences at the University of Milan. After a postgraduate internship in Vancouver, she studied clinical nutrition at the San Raffaele Turro Hospital, where she still deals with the prevention and treatment of Eating Disorders. She also develops food plans for pregnant women and new mothers, children and adolescents, athletes. During her meetings with patients, she likes to represent the 'diet' in an etymological sense as a lifestyle in which food is one of the important elements in learning to take care of yourself.

Visit the author's page

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