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What to Eat When You Really Need to Focus

February 9, 2021
Photo Credit: Lucas Ottone

You know the feeling: Staring at your computer screen, flipping back and forth between Facebook, email, and that thing you’re supposed to be working on… but not getting much work done at all. When you really need to focus, and coffee isn’t cutting it, certain foods, herbs, and supplements may help.

Here’s what to eat and drink to improve your focus.

1. Sage

Thanksgiving isn’t the only time to whip out the sage. This herb has powerful anti-inflammatory properties that may boost your memory, and it’s also known to make people feel more alert, calm, and happy. (And couldn’t we all be more of all of those things?)

How to eat it: Add fresh sage as a garnish for salads, soups, and pastas. We’re looking at you, Fettuccine with Sausage and Fried Sage! You can also mix safe into stuffings and sauces or turn it into tea. To make sage tea, add two tablespoons of dried sage to a mug of boiling water.

2. Ginseng

An extremely popular plant in Ayurvedic medicine, ginseng has been used for centuries to boost immunity and energy. We now know that ginseng may improve overall cognitive function and duration. In other words, it may help you focus better for longer. Additionally, ginseng may improve your memory and reduce fatigue, especially in people with chronic illnesses.

How to eat it: You can eat ginseng root raw or steam it slightly to make it softer. Try grating raw ginseng on top of soups or salads. To make ginseng tea, slice ginseng root and boil it in water, letting it steep for a few minutes.

3. Green tea

A well-known fatigue fighter, green tea is a better choice than coffee to bring you out of your 3 p.m. slump. In addition to its mild caffeine content, green tea packs a serious antioxidant punch and contains an impressive amount of micronutrients. A substance called L-theanine in green tea has been shown to reduce anxiety, which can be helpful when you’re battling work deadlines and need to stay productive. L-theanine and caffeine work as a duo to improve brain function.

How to eat it: Steep green tea in hot water for several minutes. Boiling water may harm the tea’s catechins, a type of antioxidant found in green tea.

4. Ashwagandha

Another herb largely used in herbal medicine, ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it can help your body cope with stress. In fact, it’s been used for more than 3,000 years to do just that. It may also increase energy and vitality, and improve your memory, reaction time, and productivity.

How to eat it: You can find ashwagandha in capsule or powder form. If you take a capsule, follow the directions on the label. If you’re using a powdered form, try mixing it into hot tea, smoothies, oats, or soups.

5. Fish Oil

Fish oil supplements are rich in two types of fatty acids that are essential for overall brain health: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA has been linked to improved memory and reaction time and better information processing in older adults. EPA has strong anti-inflammatory effects that help protect your brain from damage and aging, as well as mood-boosting properties. Fish oil has also been linked to improved attention span in children.

How to eat it: The best way to consume healthy fatty acids is to eat fish and seafood. Two to three servings of oily fish per week should provide your body with enough DHA and EPA. If you find yourself having trouble eating that much fish, you can supplement with fish oil capsules or fish oil in liquid form.

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