Posts Tagged ‘concentration’

Eat right and improve your game – Part II

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Part I, Part II, Part III

Eating for memory and concentration.


In poker, memory is all. You have to remember your opponents’ betting patterns, their behaviour throughout the game, the cards dealt. Discover how some foods can improve your memory and concentration, and get the memory edge on the competition!

Your brain cells (neurons, if you prefer) age along with you, as you would expect. Through time and use they become more susceptible to inflammation and oxidation – that’s medical jargon for swelling and rusting – both of which make it more difficult for the cells to communicate and restore themselves. And as cells deteriorate and stop communicating, your brain has a harder time creating new memories and accessing existing ones, and your attention span and concentration levels decrease too. As they say, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” This is perhaps why all those Scandinavian teenagers are taking the online tourneys by storm: their brains are young and fresh, ready like sponges to remember everything and not afraid of any learning curve, steep or otherwise. But not all is lost – with age comes experience, and with a proper diet that experience can be aided by a youthful, nimble brain that will memorise and focus as well as any youngster. Are you ready to teach an old dog new tricks and to show those kids who’s the “daddy” at the tables?

A quick drink improves your game


Oxidation is a big issue, and the best way to combat it is by making sure you get enough antioxidants. No duh! Antioxidants are the chemicals that give bright colour to vegetables and fruits, and they do just what it says on the label: they prevent and combat oxidation. By eating at least 5 (but preferably 9) portions of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables a day, you will be significantly improving your brain’s condition to resist age and stay nimble and fresh. Do you absolutely loathe salads and fresh greens? Then try adding vegetables to stews and stir-fries, order a grilled vegetable antipasto or try some spinach or pumpkin ravioli. Another easy and tasty solution is to “drink” your antioxidants in the shape of fruit and vegetable smoothies or juices – sorry, while tomato juice is great for you, Bloody Marys don’t count! Don’t even bother forking out cash for supplements: most experts agree that they are nowhere near as efficient as eating the real thing. Go on, add strawberries to your breakfast, a side salad to your lunch and some pineapple to your barbecues – your brain (and bankroll) will be all the healthier for it.


Two metals that will work wonders for your brain are iron and zinc, and while we are certainly not suggesting you swallow some nails or snack on roofing, a higher intake of these nutrients will definitely improve your concentration, attention and memory. Just imagine this: scientists gave zinc supplements to a group of 7th graders – probably the people with the shortest attention span in the universe – and after a few months it was proven to increase their concentration and memory. If it works on a 7th grader imagine what it will do for you! To get more zinc into your system treat yourself to a “surf & turf” before a big tourney: meat and seafood have great quantities of zinc. If you are a vegetarian, despair not: you can get some zinc from eggs and milk, as well as miso soup, black eyed peas and pumpkin seeds.


Iron, on the other hand, is immensely important for your brain’s good functioning, because it carries the oxygen that cells use as fuel. If you remember the brain is the highest oxygen consumer in the body, you will see why iron is crucial to keep it working well… kind of like petrol to an industrialised country. Not enough oxygen, and your brain will become sluggish, with low levels of concentration, a shortened attention span and even some memory loss. Prevent this potential disaster by making sure your brain always has all the oxygen (and iron) it needs, especially before making great demands on it like that H.O.R.S.E. tourney with the big buy-in. The good news is that increasing your iron intake may be easier than you think. Don’t laugh now: cooking in an iron pot can make a difference in the iron content in your meals! Iron can be found in extra-lean red meat and pulses, as well as dark leafy greens such as spinach and chard – before you frown at the greens, try them wilted in a pan with some butter and a bit of crumbled blue cheese! Another tip for maximising your iron intake is to drink orange juice with your meals, as it increases absorption and makes sure every last bit of iron makes its way into your bloodstream.


The gourmets among you will be pleased to hear that two spices have been proven to make a significant impact in your memory. The first one is a garden herb, easy to grow and delicious to eat: sage. Add sage to your chicken and fish dishes, or to baked zucchinis and green beans, and if you’re feeling adventurous try coating the bigger, thicker sage leaves in a light batter and frying them – Italians call this “Stuzzicchini” and eat them crispy and lightly salted. Sage oil capsules will also do the trick for you: medical tests showed an improvement in subjects’ memories almost immediately after consuming sage oil. Stock up on sage – fresh, dried or as oil – and make sure you get enough on the weeks before a big tourney or a trip to Vegas.


The other condiment that can improve your memory is good old curry. Bring on the Murg masala! Studies have shown that Asian people who eat curry regularly are less prone to Alzheimer’s disease, a sure sign that their neurons are battling inflammation a lot better than those of their Western counterparts. This is apparently due to curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, the powdered spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow colour. Enjoy your curry takeaways with the knowledge that you are doing a good thing for your brain!


Read on for the last part of this series, where we will tell you about the miracle nutrients that will make you smarter, healthier, and more attractive.

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