Pop quiz:If a poor diet can mess with your mind — take the infamous “Twinkie Defense” of 1979, when a man on trial for murder claimed junk food made him do it — then can eating smart actually make you, well, smarter?
Correct answer: Yes! Add these four foods to your diet to improve your game and your grades.
Mental Payoff: Spatial understanding
Since the high-fiber whole grain is digested slowly, it becomes a long-lasting energy source for your body and noggin. According to a Tufts University study, oatmeal eaters displayed significantly better spatial-memory skills (such as identifying states on a map) than those who ate cold cereal or skipped the morning meal altogether. Having trouble remembering a play? Make oatmeal, like Nature’s Path’s Maple Nut, your breakfast of champions ($4.29 for a 14-ounce box). Sweeten it with dried cherries, which have been proven to relieve post-practice muscle soreness.
2. Red Meat
Mental Payoff: Focus
A whopping 60 percent of American female athletes are believed to be iron deficient, according to a study published in the "International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism." That’s bad news for your report card. Iron allows your body to send oxygen-carrying red blood cells to the brain; even a modest deficiency can leave you blanking on tests or feeling foggy in class. Women are especially at risk, as iron is lost during menstruation. The human body absorbs more iron from meat than any other source. Hey vegetarians, you can meet your daily needs with beans, spinach and dried fruit.
Mental Payoff: Coordination and short-term memory
Chock-full of powerful antioxidants, this fruit has earned the nickname “brainberries” for good reason. Research showed that a diet rich in blueberry extract improved short-term memory loss and reversed some loss of coordination and balance in aging rats. Scientists theorize that similar effects could occur in humans. Blueberries also contain another great antioxidant called resveratrol, which may help get more oxygen to your muscles, allowing you to run more efficiently and for longer. The perfect brainberry snack? Greek yogurt and blueberries.
Mental Payoff: Memory
A 2007 study published in "Physiology & Behavior" found that a sugary afternoon snack boosted memory performance. That’s because your brain’s favorite fuel source is glucose, which your body creates from the sugars and carbohydrates you eat. But this isn’t a license to strap a bag of Swedish fish to your face: Too much sugar can leave you feeling sluggish and may actually harm your memory. Aim for no more than 16 Sour Patch Kids or 25 jelly beans.