What helps with focus?
1. Coffee + Cinnamon
Sure, it might seem obvious that coffee would perk you up and help you focus, but did you know that two to three daily cups have been linked to both long- and short-term improvements in memory? Bolster its brain-boosting effects even further by adding a few dashes of cinnamon—a 2009 study found that even just the smell of this spice can lead to increased feelings of alertness and decreased frustration. (Cook quick meals at home that taste great and fight fat! Sign up for Chef'd and get all the ingredients and recipes delivered to your doorstep.)
2. Green Tea
This ancient brew contains L-theanine, an amino acid that increases alpha brain waves (similar to what happens when you meditate), which are associated with relaxation and a focused calm—perfect for afternoon sipping when you don't want the huge caffeine jolt from coffee.
3. The Right Breakfast
It's the most important meal of the day, after all. McDaniel's top picks: fiber-packed oatmeal and protein-packed eggs. They offer up an even stream of energy, compared with more processed, refined picks like corn flakes, bagels, or nutrition bars. Don't even think about a donut—you'll be asleep at your desk by 10 a.m. (Check out these 11 egg recipes like you've never had.)
Not only has eating more darkly pigmented fruits like blueberries been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's, but some studies show that eating them can actually boost concentration and memory up to 5 hours later. Just thank all those antioxidants, which increase blood flow (and thus, oxygen) to the brain, making mental tasks easier. Try adding them to your morning oatmeal or afternoon salad.
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5. Dark Chocolate or Cocoa Powder
Dark chocolate has been shown to boost blood flow to the brain, and as little as one-third of an ounce per day may help protect against age-related memory loss. Bonus: Chocolate also stimulates the release of certain feel-good chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. So not only will you plow through those emails like a boss, but you just also might do it with a smile on your face.
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6. Water + Lemon
Some jazzed up water may be all you need—studies show that dehydration can mess with memory and overall brain functioning big-time, while other research has found that the scent of lemon improves performance on tasks that require a great deal of concentration.