Eat these foods to help sharpen your mental focus.

It's not just about drinking coffee to perk up your brain when you wake up in a sleepy state. What you eat can also help you give yourself a little mental boost in the morning.

-Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.

Vegetarian No-Sugar Meal Plan

1. Leafy Greens

A study in Neurology showed that people who ate two or more daily servings of vegetables, especially leafy greens, had the mental focus of people five years younger than their age. Greens are packed with fiber and vitamins A, C and K. Get a jumpstart on your veggie intake in the morning and add kale or spinach to your smoothie or an egg sandwich.

Pesto, Mozzarella & Egg Breakfast Sandwich

2. Whole Grains

Studies show that eating a breakfast of whole grains helps sustain mental focus better than a morning meal of refined carbohydrates or no breakfast at all. Try whole-grain cereal with milk, eggs with whole-wheat toast, pancakes made with whole-grain flour, or when you're on the go try a store-bought breakfast biscuit made with whole grains.


3. Coffee

It might come as no surprise that coffee can help your mind feel sharper (goodbye, morning brain fog!), but did you know that coffee affects men and women differently? Men actually feel more alert more quickly than women do after drinking a caffeinated beverage, according to research from the University of Barcelona. In the study, men reported feeling less drowsy after only 10 minutes and sustained the mental boost for a half hour. Women got a "kick" from the espresso, too, but rated it weaker than the men did. But women, it turns out, are more influenced by the placebo effect when it comes to caffeine. Just anticipating the stimulating effects of caffeine may be enough to feel them. When the same researchers had participants drink decaf, women reported feeling significantly more alert than men, who reported just a slight boost.


4. Blueberries

Blueberries get their rich color from compounds called anthocyanins, which act as potent antioxidants in the body and shield cells from damage. Anthocyanins may reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke. Another berry benefit-memory boost! When older adults-who already had signs of memory loss or forgetfulness-drank wild blueberry juice for 12 weeks, both their mood and memory (memorization and general recall) improved. Berries also contain flavonoids, which make it easier for neurons in your brain to communicate, by strengthening their connections.

Some original reporting by Kerri-Ann Jennings, M.S., R.D.