In this blog, I will discuss why it’s important to eat foods that help improve your memory and keep our minds sharp. Many people, young and old, are struggling with memory loss as they get older. Memory problems can greatly impact your daily life, making it difficult to do simple tasks like remember where you left your keys or what you need from the grocery store on your way home from work.
12 foods to boost brain function
The foods we eat can have a big impact on the structure and health of our brains. Eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term brain function.
The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body’s calories, so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.
The brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
This article explores the scientific evidence behind 12 of the best brain foods.
1. Oily fish
Oily fish are a good sourceTrusted Source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities.
These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.
Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include:
2. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.
Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.
Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 reviewTrusted Source, they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.
Some research also suggests that the flavonoid component of chocolate may reverse memory problems in snails. Scientists have yet to test this in humans.
However, a 2018 study in humans also supports the brain-boosting effects of dark chocolate. The researchers used imaging methods to look at activity in the brain after participants ate chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.
The researchers concluded that eating this type of dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning, and may also provide other brain-related benefits.
Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. Research suggests that these may make the berries good food for the brain.
Antioxidants help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in berries include anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, and quercetin.
A 2014 reviewTrusted Source notes that the antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including:
- improving communication between brain cells
- reducing inflammation throughout the body
- increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory
- reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline
Antioxidant-rich berries that can boot brain health include:
4. Nuts and seeds
Eating more nuts and seeds may be good for the brain, as these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source found that a higher overall nut intake was linked to better brain function in older age.
Nuts and seeds are also rich sourcesTrusted Source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
As a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health in older age.
A 2014 reviewTrusted Source found that vitamin E may also contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The nuts and seeds with the highest amounts of vitamin E include:
- sunflower seeds
Fully exploring vitamin E’s effects on the brain will require further research.
5. Whole grains
Eating whole grains is another way to benefit from the effects of vitamin E, with these grains being a good sourceTrusted Source of the vitamin.
Whole-grain foods include:
- brown rice
- bulgur wheat
- whole-grain bread
- whole-grain pasta
Coffee is a well-known concentration aid — many drink it to stay awake and encourage focus.
The caffeine in coffee blocksTrusted Source a substance in the brain called adenosine, which makes a person feel sleepy.
The researchers found that caffeine causes an increase in brain entropy, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When entropy is high, the brain can process more information.
Coffee is also a source of antioxidants, which may support brain health as a person gets older. One studyTrusted Source has linked lifelong coffee consumption with reduced risk of:
- cognitive decline
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
Caffeine can, however, affect a person’s sleep and doctors do not recommend caffeine consumption for everyone.
A source of healthful unsaturated fat, avocados may support the brain.
Thus, by reducing high blood pressure, the unsaturated fats in avocados may lower the risk of cognitive decline.
Other sources of healthful unsaturated fats include:
- almonds, cashews, and peanuts
- flaxseed and chia seeds
- soybean, sunflower, and canola oils
- walnuts and Brazil nuts
Peanuts are a legume with an excellent nutritional profile. They contain plenty of unsaturated fats and protein to keep a person’s energy levels up throughout the day.
Peanuts also provide key vitamins and minerals to keep the brain healthy, including high levels of vitamin E and resveratrol.
Resveratrol is a natural non-flavonoid antioxidant found in peanuts, mulberries, and rhubarb. Evidence from a review article suggests that resveratrol can have protective effects, such as helping to prevent cancers, inflammation, and neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Enjoyed by many for breakfast, eggs can be an effective brain food.
They are a good sourceTrusted Source of the following B vitamins:
- vitamin B-6
- vitamin B-12
- folic acid
As well as being a low-calorie source of dietary fiber, broccoli may be good for the brain.
Broccoli is rich in compounds called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates.
Isothiocyanates may reduceTrusted Source oxidative stress and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Broccoli also contains vitamin C and flavonoids, and these antioxidants can further boost a person’s brain health.
Other cruciferous vegetables that contain glucosinolates include:
- brussels sprouts
- bok choy
Leafy greens, including kale, may support brain health.
Like broccoli, kale contains glucosinolates, and leafy greens also contain other key antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. This is why many consider kale to be a superfood.
12. Soy products
Soybean products are rich in a particular group of antioxidants called polyphenols.
Research has linkedTrusted Source polyphenols with a reduced risk of dementia and improved cognitive abilities in regular aging processes.
Soy products contain polyphenols called isoflavones, including daidzein and genistein. These chemicals act as antioxidants, providing a range of health benefits throughout the body.
Supplements for brain function
In addition to making dietary changes, some people consider taking supplements to improve their brain function. But do these supplements actually work?
Taking vitamins B, C, or E, beta-carotene, or magnesium may improve brain function if a person has a deficiency in any of them. If a person does not have a deficiency, these supplements are unlikely to improve mental performance.
The foods listed above may help improve a person’s memory and concentration. Some may also reduce the risk of stroke and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Some of the foods contain compounds such as healthful fatty acids, which can help improve the structure of brain cells called neurons. Other compounds, such as sugars and saturated fats, may damage brain cell structures.
Brain-boosting foods tend to contain one or more of the following:
- antioxidants, such as flavonoids or vitamin E
- B vitamins
- healthful fats
- omega fatty acids
Beyond adjusting the diet, a person can optimize their brain function by:
- not eating too much or too little
- getting enough sleep
- keeping hydrated
- exercising regularly
- reducing stress through yoga, mindfulness, or meditation
- reducing alcohol intake
Eating a brain-boosting diet will also provide many benefits for the entire body.
6 Foods You Should Be Eating Every Day for Better Brain Health, According to a Dietitian
The brain is a very important organ. It’s the control center of your body and allows you to move, think, feel, breathe and more. Because the brain has such a big job, it’s imperative that we provide it with an abundance of fuel and nutrients to help it function properly and stay healthy. The foods we eat play a huge role in the structure and health of our brains. Research shows that foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, flavanols, polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids can help protect your brain. They can help to improve memory, concentration and overall brain health.
Additionally, research has shown that following the MIND diet, a mashup of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet that promotes eating specific brain-healthy foods, can help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Many of the foods we’ve included here are also on the MIND diet’s list of best brain foods. Here are six things you should be eating for better brain health.
CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES / SEAN GLADWELL / ANDRIY ONUFRIYENKO
6 Foods to Eat Every Day for Better Brain Health
1. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, are packed with nutrients, including vitamin K, beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A), folate and vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the cells from free radical damage and has been linked to preventing cognitive decline in the aging population. Vitamin K and beta carotene have also been linked to improving brain health by helping to prevent memory loss and improve cognition. Increasing your intake of leafy greens doesn’t have to be hard. You can try adding a handful of greens when preparing a smoothie or adding a serving of greens to your favorite casserole recipe.
Are you a fan of lamb? If so, you may be surprised to know that lamb has been linked to benefits such as long-term cognition. According to a recent study, weekly consumption of lamb, but not other red meats, was associated with improved long-term cognition. The 10-year study noted improvements in fluid intelligence scores in individuals who consumed certain foods, including lamb. Lamb is produced in every state in the U.S. and available year-round, which makes it easy to add it to your diet. Try adding lamb to your favorite stew recipe or cooking it on the grill.
Eggs are possibly the most popular breakfast food—and for good reason. They are inexpensive and offer a host of health benefits, especially when it comes to brain health. Did you know that regular consumption of eggs has been associated with improved cognitive performance in adults? Eggs are one of the best food sources of choline. Choline has been linked to reducing inflammation and promoting brain function, like maintaining memory and communications between brain cells. Even though eggs are commonly served at breakfast, you can enjoy them at any meal. Try using eggs to make a savory dinner quiche, or fabulous creamy custard for dessert.
Salmon is commonly known as a great source of protein, but did you know that it was also great for brain health? Fatty fish like salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are critical for brain development and function. In addition to improved brain health, these fatty acids have been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and arthritis. Salmon can be prepared in a variety of ways. It can be seared and paired with hearty serving of vegetables or added to your favorite pasta dish. Our five-star Walnut-Rosemary Crusted Salmon will help boost your omega-3 intake in a delicious way.
While all berries are beneficial for brain health, blueberries are at the top of the list. They contribute essential nutrients to the body, including vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and phytonutrients. These nutrients help to stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, resulting in improved concentration. Evidence suggests that eating a diet containing a variety of vegetables and fruits, such as blueberries, is associated with lower risk of age-related cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. There are many ways to enjoy this tasty fruit—try adding a handful to your smoothie recipe or pureeing a few berries to make a delicious blueberry chia jam.
Nuts are a great addition to any diet regimen, but the one that contributes most to brain health is walnuts. When compared to other nuts, walnuts offer twice as many antioxidants. They contain an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-based omega-3 essential fatty acid that helps to counteract cognitive decline by suppressing inflammation and oxidative stress. Inflammation and oxidative stress have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Evidence suggests that eating about 1 to 2 ounces of walnuts per day can improve cognitive function. Try adding a serving of walnuts to a hearty salad or pairing them with a variety of roasted vegetables.
The Bottom Line
The foods you eat play an important role in brain health. You can help to improve your brain health, memory and alertness by including a variety of nutritious foods such as leafy greens, lamb, eggs, salmon, blueberries and walnuts in your daily diet. These foods may also help to reduce the risk of age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Foods to Improve Memory Power
The brain is an important organ in the human body that serves as the center of the nervous system. It is a powerful organ that controls the overall body functions. The brain makes up only 2 percent of our body weight, but it consumes 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe and 20 percent of the energy we consume.
Eating healthy foods will keep us fit both mentally and physically. Our brain also requires nutritious foods that contain enough vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants and other essential nutrients to improve and sustain our memory power. What we eat reflects the way we think, feel and remember, hence, this can help prevent age and brain-related illness, such as dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, depression and low memory power. Eat the following foods on a daily basis to help keep your brain healthier and stronger.
Blueberries are known not only for delicious taste, but can also work wonders to improve your memory. According to a study a photochemical known as anthocyanin, which is found in blue berries, contains memory-boosting properties. Anthocyanin can also help reduce the effect of old age related conditions such as, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat blueberries and enjoy its health benefits.
Snack on some walnuts to help boost your memory power. Walnuts are a great source of Vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids that are good for your brain and nervous system. It also contains an antioxidant called ellagic acid, which helps protect the brain from free radical damage.
Avocados are an excellent source of monounsaturated fats, which help keep your brain cell membrane flexible. The fruit can also aid in the absorption of antioxidants, increase blood flow to the brain and contribute to stroke prevention by lowering cholesterol level.
Eat dark chocolate to keep your brain healthy. Dark chocolate contains powerful antioxidants that promote a positive effect on your brain like improving concentration and focus. It can help boost your brainpower, and also stimulate the production of endorphins in brain, which lighten your mood and lift you out of depression.
Seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame seeds are a rich source of protein, Vitamin B and omega fatty acids. These healthy nutrients work wonder to enhance memory power and also help relieve depression. Eat a handful of these seeds daily to improve your memory.
The antioxidant found in tomatoes called lycopene, is good for the brain. It can protect against free radical damage to cells and prevent the development of dementia.
Start eating some fresh tomatoes as salads in your daily diet to boost your brainpower.
Eggs are protein-rich foods, and a great source of omega fatty acid and choline. Choline, an enzyme that is found in the egg yolk acts as a neurotransmitter, which enhances brainpower. Hence, having eggs for breakfast will be a perfect start for your day.
Pomegranates contain powerful antioxidants that are essential for maintaining a healthy function of the brain. The fruit also protects the brain cells from damages caused by free radicals. Drink a glass of pomegranate juice or eat some pomegranate fruit daily to keep your brain healthy.