We get it … studying as an adult, with all your other responsibilities can be challenging at best. If you have family to care for on top of work commitments, finding the time – or indeed the motivation and mind clarity - to study can be even harder.

Did you know that your diet can affect your concentration and even sometimes help or hinder the way your memory retains information? It’s true!

To help you out, we’ve asked leading Australian naturopath and author of the book Clean Food Clear Thinking, Karina Francois from Infinite Health Practice, to reveal the top five foods for concentration while you’re studying (and list a few that you should avoid at all costs).

Note: These tips will also come in handy when you’re in the workplace whether you’re caring for children, aged or disabled, as everyone will benefit from these nutritious foods!

  1. Blueberries
    Blueberries are super high in antioxidants, which help to improve the health and strength of little blood vessels in the brain, allowing for improved oxygen flow and a clearer, more precise line of thought. They’re available cheaply and abundantly in the summer months, so buy lots then and freeze them for when winter kicks in. Note: If they taste sour, it means they’re not ripe and you won’t be getting the maximum antioxidant benefits. So only eat the sweet ones!
  2. Green tea
    Green tea has a component that relaxes and clears the mind, calms anxiety and improves alertness and information-retaining capabilities. Swap your coffee for green tea and happily sip it throughout the day!
  3. Avocado 
    With unsaturated plant fats which are amazing for brain health, avocado is a mind and body super-food. The brains relies on fatty acids to function properly and get messages through, so try to eat half an avocado each day! It also improves blood flow to the brain, delivering more oxygen to help you think better.
  4. Leafy Green Vegetables
    The vitamins in these – vitamin K, B and folate, plus vitamin C – are all associated with great cognitive health, so be sure to eat them heartily. We’re talking broccoli, kale, bok choy, darker lettuce. The darker the green, the better the nutrients!
  5. Fatty Fish (and an alternative for vegetarians)
    Fatty fish like tuna and salmon contains components called EPA and DHA which are important for normal brain function throughout life. These elements are abundant in the brain but as we get older, our natural stores are depleted so we need to replace them with nutrients from our food. If you’re vegetarian, reach for walnuts, almonds, cashews and pumpkin and sunflower.
  6. Dark Chocolate
    it’s a myth that chocolate is bad for you! Dark chocolate can boost endorphins as well as protect the brain and improve memory and focus. It’s also rich in antioxidants and magnesium, the latter of which is really great for stress relief. Have a couple of squares per day!
  7. Water 
    Our brains are made of about 70 percent water, so hydration is important for proper brain function. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty until you drink – it you want to retain focus and memory, you need to be drinking up to eight glasses or more a day.

Foods and Drinks to Avoid
When you’re in an energy or study slump, it might seem easier for you to reach for these foods below, but Karina says to avoid them as much as possible. Here’s why.

  1. Energy Drinks
    Not only are they filled with caffeine, but they have other stimulants that deliver a false sense of attention and energy. It can in fact work the opposite way in causing a surge of adrenaline, which will negatively impact your concentration and logic. You won’t sustain the attention and will eventually end up in a deeper slump. Sip your green tea instead.
  2. High Sugar Foods
    Sugar is super-addictive and it elevates glucose to the brain. This can affect the little blood vessels, making them sticky and slow to move blood around. Eventually, learning and cognitive function will be negatively affected. It can also create anxiety, which impairs concentration.
  3. Highly Processed Packaged Foods
    There is very little nutrition in processed foods – it is empty calories and they can actually strip the body of essential minerals that are important for brain function. They are also filled with artificial colours and flavours which can affect how we process information and affect our mood. Stick to nourishing wholefoods and plenty to fresh fruits and veggies instead.
  4. Soft Drinks
    Sugary soft drinks will have the same effect as sugary foods, but the artificially sweetened ones can be just as bad for you! It’s thought they can be carcinogenic, but we do know they contain loads of artificial ingredients that are toxic to the body and the brain.
  5. Coffee
    Again, caffeine is a stimulant that can affect how you process things mentally. It blocks the transmitters in the brain that help process information. One cup is OK, but you’d gain more benefit from a nutritious smoothie made with coconut water, dark green leaves and ripe blueberries.

Karina Francois: www.infinitehealthpractice.com.au