The #1 Food to Help You Focus, According to Dietitians
While you may turn to a cup of coffee to wake you up and help you focus, you may not realize that food can have the same magical powers to either energize your mind or conversely lead to a lack of concentration. For example, eating sugary foods that weigh you down aren't the best for staying alert, but you can improve your focus and cognitive thinking by eating healthy and nutritious foods, like fresh produce, protein and healthy fats.
"Eating to support brain health has both short and long term benefits. And a diet rich in whole plant foods is associated with longevity, as well as cognition and memory," says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. Still, some foods and food components can provide more timely benefits for alertness and focus.
Yet, while there are tons of foods that can boost brain power and focus (think: blueberries, dark chocolate, almonds and fatty fish, among others), pumpkin seeds happen to be a major superfood that can help you focus ASAP. (These are the best foods to eat to keep your brain young, according to science.)
And pumpkin seeds, or pepitats, are pretty underrated, as most people turn to flax or hemp seed or nuts like almonds, walnuts or pistachios instead. Here's why RDs love pumpkin seeds for increasing mental stamina.
How Can Pumpkin Seeds Help You Focus?
"Pumpkin seeds are rich in a variety of antioxidants and cognition-supportive minerals. Zinc in particular has neuroprotective benefits and may also provide anti-inflammatory benefits to the brain," says Jones. Zinc is also tied to memory and cognition, says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. Try these 7 zinch-rich foods to get your fill.
"Pumpkin seeds are a good source of plant based protein, B vitamins, fiber and healthy fats, too" says Michalczyk.
They're also high in magnesium, which has several benefits, too. "The magnesium in pumpkin seeds is at times used in supplement form to therapeutically aid in anxiety, depression and insomnia, while also improving cerebral blood flow," Jones adds. "Magnesium is the 'calming mineral,' which helps to chill us out and relax our muscles. Another reason why pumpkin seeds may have a total body effect on helping you to focus," adds Michalcyzk.
Plus they also have some good crunch and fiber, as well as healthy fats, to fill you up and keep you satiated for longer.
How to Eat Pumpkin Seeds
Recipe pictured above: Pumpkin Seeds with Everything Bagel Seasoning
Pumpkin seeds can be a great topper for yogurt or oatmeal, or even a chia seed pudding, says Jones, (double perks since chia seeds are also great for brain health, thanks to omega-3 fats!). You can wake up to a wonderful breakfast that sets your mind up to focus and be productive.
Pumpkin seeds are also a great addition to trail mix, Jones says, so pair with other foods for sweet and savory blends. (We have a great base formula for making your own trail mix here.)
You can also blend pumpkin seeds with other nuts or seeds to make a nut butter spread to put on anything, like toast, or to use to make a dressing or sauce. "They're also delicious when blended into a peanut and pumpkin seed butter," Jones says. You can even use the seeds to make other types of sauces and dressings, like a pumpkin seed pesto, says Michalczyk.
Pumpkin seeds are great as a plant protein topper for salad, soup or tacos, Michalczyk adds. That bit of crunch takes the dish to the next level and pairs nicely for sweet or savory options.