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Foods that help boost mental alertness

Siski Green / 23 September 2015

There are times when you need a little extra help to focus, so find out which foods will help you.

Mint tea may help alertness
Peppermint has been shown to improve alertness in study participants.

A late night or simply a slow day can make you feel like you need help to think clearly. Luckily, there are many ways you can sharpen your mind and most of them you can use every day without problem.

Kale or Swiss chard

Leafy greens are good for you in so many ways, but perhaps surprisingly, they’ll also help you feel sharper mentally. Research published in medical journal Neurology found that people who ate two more more servings of leafy greens were able to focus on tasks as well as people five years younger, when compared with people who didn’t eat leafy greens as often.

How to cook kale


This one is fairly obvious, the caffeine in coffee and tea helps increase mental alertness. What’s interesting, though, is that when looking at the effects of coffee on alertness, researchers from the University of Barcelona found that participants reported greater focus even when they were given a placebo. So perhaps you can just enjoy a decaff instead. 

Learn more about how tea and coffee affect your health

Chewing gum

One study found that people who chewed gum were more alert after performing a task than others who didn’t chew gum. Researchers can’t say for sure whether it’s the act of chewing that helps you focus (which would explain why so many of us tend to chew the tops of pens or pencils) or the flavour of the gum itself (mint is known to increase alertness).

Peppermint or rosemary tea

Peppermint has been shown to improve alertness in study participants, and rosemary is well known as a brain-enhancing herb. However, while peppermint tea is widely available in supermarkets, few people use rosemary other than in cooking a chicken or similar. You can use it in a tea, for an immediate pick-me-up. Simply add a tablespoon to some water, let it steep for five minutes, strain the leaves and drink.

Discover the health benefits of herbs

Citrus fruits

Researchers from the Chicago Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in the US have found that citrus scents, especially, increase alertness. 

Learn more about how smells affect your health


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.