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The lunch that combats brain fog

Microsoft IES logoMicrosoft IES 1/15/2014 Jessica Girdwain
Image courtesy of Prevention: Photo © Microsoft Photo

Feeling foggy? Grab a chicken breast. Upping your protein intake at lunch could benefit your brain, finds a new study in the journal Nutrients.

Here's how the study worked: Forty-three college-age women were divided into two groups. One group ate three ounces of beef at lunch, while the other ate a non-beef protein lunch (like chicken, pork, cheese, pasta, or rice) three times a week.

Why the focus on beef? Red meat is a good source of iron that the body can easily absorb, says study author Cynthia Blanton, PhD, RD. And because the study's goal was to determine if increasing iron intake would improve cognitive function (iron deficiency is associated with memory and attention problems), beef was a good fit. On average, the beef and non-beef groups consumed 19% and 13% of their RDA of iron, respectively, at the meal. (These 10 Slimming Chicken Dishes are packed with protein and oh-so-easy to prepare.)

After four months, something surprising happened: Both groups had increased blood levels of iron, and the women -- particularly those with low iron levels to start -- experienced improvements in working memory, speed, and attention. Iron helps produce neurotransmitters like serotonin and thyroid hormones essential in brain function, explains Dr. Blanton, who is an assistant professor of dietetics at Idaho State University.

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