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Foods and Nutrients That Enhance Concentration & Energy Levels

By August McLaughlin

Tiredness and an inability to concentrate can be a common problem, often remedied through improved lifestyle habits such as additional sleep, stress reduction and dietary changes. Certain foods and nutrients can be significant determinants of a person's energy and cognitive (brain) function. However, severe or long-lasting energy and cognitive problems may require medical attention.

Vitamin B6-Rich Foods

Vitamin B6 is a vital water-soluble supplement that the body cannot produce. It helps the body produce brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine and may support concentration abilities and energy. Deficiency of vitamin B6 is known to cause symptoms such as irritability, depression and mental confusion. According to Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B6 is 1.3 milligrams for people ages 14 to 50, and 1.5 to 1.7 milligrams for adults older than 50. Valuable food sources of vitamin B6 include vitamin-fortified cereals, bananas, salmon, white-meat poultry, potatoes, spinach, vegetable juice and hazelnuts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, which the body cannot produce, are known to support heart health, reduce bodily inflammation and mood balance. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in rich amounts in the brain and also contribute to brain development, mental sharpness and memory skills. People who experience reduced energy due to menstrual pain or inflammation caused by arthritis or other disorders may find omega-3 fatty acids helpful in managing their symptoms. Rich amounts of omega-3 fats are found in coldwater fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and halibut. Additional sources include flaxseed (preferably ground), flaxseed oil, walnuts, walnut oil and canola oil. Regular consumption of omega-3 fat sources is recommended.

Whole Grains

Whole grains provide nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and magnesium. They also provide rich amounts of glucose--the body's primary energy source that supports physical and mental function. Because whole grains haven't been stripped of vital nutrients during food processing, they contain protein and fiber, both of which support satiation (fullness after eating) and blood sugar balance. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, at least 1/2 of a person's carbohydrate-based foods should stem from whole grains, and most Americans fail to consume proper amounts. Positive sources of whole grains include 100 percent whole-grain breads and cereals, brown rice, wild rice, old-fashioned oatmeal, sprouted grains and air-popped or low-fat popcorn.

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