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Best Brain Foods: 12 Foods that Enhance Your Brain Power

In this article, we’ll explore different types of foods that elevate your memory, mood, and mental functioning. You can sharpen your brain by improving your diet.

foods to boost brain power

Best Brain Foods - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Overview

The old expression, ‘you are what you eat’ actually has a lot of truth to it. The foods you choose have an impact on your physical health and your brain functioning.

Poor nutrition can lead to both short and long-term health problems. It can make you tired and slow down your functioning. It may also cause physical issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and depression (1).

It’s essential to take in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for a healthy diet. Antioxidants kill damaging free radicals and reduce oxidative stress, keeping the brain functioning at top capacity. Foods like refined sugars can damage your brain functioning and make mood disorders like depression more serious (2).

It’s important to be familiar with the best diet plan for brain health, to keep your mind functioning at its best.

Brain Health and Foods to Consume

There are some amazing immune-boosting foods available to add to your diet. Consider some of these options when you do your meal planning.

1. Fatty Fish: Essential Omega 3s

omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3s are polyunsaturated fats which are found within cell membranes, and their main role is to assist the cells in communication. They have been associated with lessening many health risks, such as reducing the risk of heart attack or stroke, and preventing muscle and bone loss (3). There’s even evidence they can lead to healthier aging.

When it comes to cognitive processing, omega 3s are essential for keeping your mental functioning in good condition. There’s evidence that they can reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease (4) and are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

Tips on Buying Healthy Fish

While fish is very healthy to eat, many people are uncomfortable selecting it. They’re concerned about the level of mercury in the fish, and they aren’t sure which ones are the best for their diet. Here are some tips.

  • Fish high in fatty acids but low in mercury include salmon, cod, canned light tuna, and pollack (4).
  • Farmed salmon has a higher level of omega 3s and omega 6s than wild salmon,which is higher in minerals. On the whole though, wild salmon is much healthier (5).
  • Choose albacore tuna, as this is the canned tuna with the most omega 3s (6).
  • Farmed oysters are very healthy, and they contain a very high amount of omega 3s (6).
  • Sardines are a powerhouse of omega 3s, and they’re also high in Vitamin D (6).

People Also Ask

Q: Which Other Foods Have Omega 3s?

A: Besides fish, you can find omega 3s in nuts and seeds like flaxseed, plant oils, and fortified foods like eggs, yogurt, soy, milk, and juices (7).

Q: Can Omega 3s Improve Memory?

A: There is some evidence that omega 3s can improve your memory, and even protect you from the memory decline that can occur in old age (8).

2. Eggs: For Memory and Learning

Eggs

Eggs are not only delicious; they play an important part in memory and learning. They are very high in two key nutrients called choline and lutein which are essential for proper brain functioning (9). Choline is also the precursor to acetylcholine, which is the brain chemical that breaks down when people develop Alzheimer’s disease (10).

Research has demonstrated the role that eggs play in cognition. One study looked at the effect of eggs on the cognitive performance of children aged 9-14. They found that the yolk of the eggs was related to improved mental recall.

Tips for Buying Eggs

Buying eggs isn’t difficult, but there are a few points you should keep in mind:

  • Eggs do have a best before date. Make sure you check it, because eggs that are past their sell date will not be as healthy or as helpful for brain health.
  • Brown and white eggs have the exact same nutritional value.
  • Free-range eggs are much lower in cholesterol, so they’re a better choice.

People Also Ask

Q: How Many Eggs Can I Eat Per Day?

A: healthy lifestyle can safely include up to 7 eggs a week (11)

Q: What’s the Best Way to Cook Eggs?

A: The best way to keep the nutrients is to poach or boil your eggs. It’s also the lowest in calories (12).

3. Avocados: World’s Most Perfect Food

Avocado

Avocados are a powerhouse food packed full of nutrition. They’re rich in potassium, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin B, folate, and Beta Carotene. They also contain a high amount of monounsaturated fats which can lower levels of bad cholesterol and increase the amount of good cholesterol in your system (13). The best diet plan should always include avocados.

Avocados are high in antioxidants, which are healthy for the body and brain. A study published in Nutrients looked at the effect of avocado consumption on older adults and found that it improved both working memory and problem-solving efficiency.

Tips for Buying and Storing Avocados

Picking out the perfect avocado is tricky because they tend to go bad quickly. Here are some tips for finding and storing them (14).

  • A ripe avocado is black and soft to the touch. However, make sure they aren’t too soft. A mushy avocado is already going bad.
  • Keep avocados out of the fridge to ripen. You can put a very soft avocado in the fridge to prevent it from ripening further.
  • If you’ve eaten part of an avocado and want to store the rest, rub some lemon juice on it to prevent it from going brown. Then cover it in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

People Also Ask

Q: Can Avocados Reduce the Risk of Cognitive Decline?

A: Avocados include monounsaturated fat, which can decrease your blood pressure and increase the flow of blood to your brain. This can reduce the risk of cognitive decline (15).

Q: Do Avocados Make You Gain Weight?

A: Avocados are high in calories and fats. Although they are healthy fats, if you eat too much it could make you gain weight.

4. Sea Vegetables: The Neglected Brain-Healthy Superfoods

Various Sea Vegetables

If you’re looking for more immune-boosting foods, consider sea vegetables. They are very popular in Japan and include nori, hijiki, wakame, and kombu.
Sea vegetables are incredibly healthy. They are very high in Vitamin B12 and are said to contain all the minerals required by the human body (16).

When it comes to brain health, these foods contain both tyrosine and taurine, both of which stimulate important brain neurotransmitters related to cognition and mood (17).

They are also high in iodine, which research has shown can increase IQ scores (18).

People Also Ask

Q: Can Sea Vegetables Lower My Stress Levels?

A: Many sea vegetables contain taurine, which initiates the release of a brain chemical called GABA. It plays an important role in mood and can make you feel less stressed (17).

Q: Can Nori Improve My Memory?

A: Here’s one of our tips to improve memory – eat Nori. Nori is high in choline, which is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (17). This brain chemical is key in learning and memory (10).

5. Kale: A Nutrition Bomb

Kale leaves

Kale is an incredibly healthy vegetable high in Vitamins A, K, B6 and C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. It has a number of medicinal benefits and may lessen the risk of developing cancer (19).

Kale is important for brain health. It contains a nutrient called lutein, which our body requires but can’t produce on its own (20).

Research has discovered that it can improve cognitive functioning. One study looked at older adults and found that kale made their mental functioning similar to that of younger people (21).

Tips and Benefits for Eating More Green Veggies

If you have trouble eating greens, here are some tips which could make it a little easier.

  • Try kale chips for a delicious snack!
  • Add your greens to a smoothie with some sweet fruit.
  • Make a leafy green soup, for some variety.

People Also Ask

Q: Can I Eat Kale Every Day?

A: Kale is very high in Vitamins A and K, and you can eat it often. There’s some evidence that it can interfere with your thyroid’s production of iodine but you would have to eat a lot to have this effect (22).

Q: Which is Healthier, Spinach or Kale?

A: They are both very healthy. Kale contains much more Vitamin C, and spinach is higher in Vitamins A and K. Both have health benefits for the body and brain (23).

6. Berries: Antioxidant Powerhouses

Berries

Berries are superfoods which are rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin K1, manganese, copper, and folate (24). They can lessen the chance of developing cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and inflammatory illnesses. They’re also an extremely potent source of antioxidants (25).

The antioxidants in berries benefit the brain by killing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. Research shows that they can prevent age-related mental decline, reduce brain inflammation, and enhance cognitive functioning (26).

Brain Supplements often include berry extracts, along with amino acids, vitamins and other botanicals. This means that in addition to being able to boost brain health, these natural nootropics also provide antioxidant protection that can reduce mental decline (26).

People Also Ask

Q: Can Berries Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

A: Yes, there’s evidence that berries can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s (26).

Q: Do Berries Improve Memory?

A: Yes, berries enhance memory, learning, and cognitive skills (26). One of our best tips to improve memory is eating berries.

Brain Food

7. Olive Oil: Key Ingredient of the Healthiest Brain

Olive-oil

Olive oil is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols. Besides being very healthy, research on mice has demonstrated that they can prevent age-related learning and memory issues. They do this largely by lessening oxidative stress on the brain. A study carried out at the Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine also found that olive oil enhances brain power in mice (27).

People Also Ask

Q: Can I Take Olive Oil Every Day?

A: Olive oil is also high in fat and cholesterol, so it’s preferable to either not use it every day or only use it in small quantities.

Q: Does Olive Oil Have Any Side Effects?

A: Occasionally it may cause nausea in some people, but generally olive oil doesn’t have side effects (28).

8. Coconut Oil: Boosts Brain Functioning

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acids, which can be absorbed by the liver and converted into ketones. Ketones are an important source of brain energy and can boost cognitive power. They can also prevent the development of memory-related issues like Alzheimer’s disease.

People Also Ask

People Also Ask

Q: Is Coconut Oil Healthy?

A: It has many health benefits, but it’s also high in saturated fats. These are associated with high cholesterol and heart disease. Limit the amount of coconut oil you use.

Q: What’s Healthier, Coconut Oil or Olive Oil?

A: It’s much healthier to use olive oil as it’s lower in saturated fats.

9. Turmeric: Antidepressant, Natural Anti-Inflammatory Compound

Turmeric

This is a spice with powerful benefits, especially for brain health. Its primary active ingredient is curcuminoids, of which the most potent is curcumin.
This substance has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These antioxidants enhance brain health by killing free radicals and reducing oxidative stress. There’s also evidence that turmeric could be an effective treatment for depression (29).

People Also Ask

Q: Can Turmeric Treat Alzheimer’s Disease?

A: Research has shown that turmeric can cause memory improvements in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Q: How Much Turmeric Should I Take Each Day?

A: To really reap the health benefits of this spice, take 500-2,000 mg of curcumin each day (30).

10. Dark Chocolate: Improves Memory and Focus

dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories called flavonoids. Besides supporting cardiovascular health, they have a tremendous impact on cognition. Research at Loma Linda University discovered that dark chocolate enhances memory, cognitive focus, immunity, and mood. Dark chocolate is also high in caffeine, which has a positive impact on brain health.

Facts About Dark Chocolate

  • To get an adequate number of flavonoids, eat at least 70% dark chocolate (31).
  • Two ounces of dark chocolate contains 50-60 mg caffeine (31).
  • 48 g 70% cacao consumption leads to an enhancement in the cerebral cortical brain (32).
  • Eating dark chocolate on a daily basis can lessen your risk of heart disease by 77% (33).

People Also Ask

Q: Does Dark Chocolate Have Any Side Effects?

A: Chocolate can cause headaches or migraines in some people (34).

Q: Does the Smell of Chocolate Have Any Impact?

A: When you smell chocolate, it activates your theta waves. This stimulates relaxation (34).

11. Walnuts: The #1 Nut for the Brain – Keep Your Brain and Memory Sharp

Walnuts

Walnuts are high in an omega 3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Omega 3s can improve your memory and lessen the effects of age-related mental decline (8). They also contain polyphenolic compounds, which improve brain heath by reducing oxidative stress. A study in the Journal of Nutrition looked at the role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age.

People Also Ask

Q: Can I Eat Walnuts Every Day?

A: Yes, you can. Eating walnuts daily will improve your cardiovascular and brain health, and your mood.

12. Fermented Foods: Contribute to Positive Mental Health

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods are rich in probiotics which include Lactobacillus Helveticus and Bifidobacterium Longum. This makes them very healthy for your digestive tract, as they get rid of bad bacteria and replace it with good gut bacteria. They also significantly enhance your immunity. Fermented foods are often high in Vitamin C, which contains antioxidants.

In addition, some research indicates that these probiotics play a role in staving off depression, anxiety, and stress, and in helping to develop coping strategies.

People Also Ask

Q: How Often Should You Eat Fermented Foods?

A: You can eat fermented foods every day, and 2-3 servings are recommended (35).

BONUS POINT

13. Coffee: Improves Alertness, Mood, and Concentration

Coffee

Coffee is rich in caffeine and antioxidants, both of which play an important role in brain health. Research indicates that coffee can make you more mentally focused. One study found that drinking coffee can enhance memory performance in young adults (36).

Coffee can also reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Caffeine makes you more alert, and it could also elevate your mood by raising serotonin levels (37).

People Also Ask

Q: Does Coffee Have Any Disadvantages?

A: Coffee can make you jittery if you drink too much or are very sensitive to caffeine.

Q: Can I Drink Coffee Every Day?

A: According to research you can safely drink up to 4 cups of 8 ounces per day (38).

Conclusion

The world of food is filled with healthy choices which can enrich your brain power, improve your cognitive functioning, and even stave off the effects of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Most of these foods are also delicious and have other beneficial properties that will elevate your physical health.

If you’re trying to enhance your mental and physical health, select some of the items you enjoy from our list and work them into your diet.

1 - https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/is+your+health+at+risk/the+risks+of+poor+nutrition
2 - https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/is+your+health+at+risk/the+risks+of+poor+nutrition
3 - https://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/is+your+health+at+risk/the+risks+of+poor+nutrition
4 - https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower
5 - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/wild-vs-farmed-salmon
6 - https://www.onemedical.com/blog/eat-well/healthy-fish-eating-guide
7 - https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
8 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26890759
9 - https://www.eggnutritioncenter.org/science-education/cognition/fuel-brain-nutrient-rich-eggs/
10 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16273023
11 - https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-many-eggs-can-i-safely-eat
12 - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eating-healthy-eggs
13 - https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/avocado
14 - https://www.wellandgood.com/good-food/avocado-hacks-for-buying-opening-and-storing/
15 - https://www.alzheimers.net/10-20-14-avocado-recipes-for-brain/
16 - https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3eee/ca088571587f3f8c723ee90617c28d61a875.pdf
17 - https://bebrainfit.com/brain-foods/
18 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6919660/
19 - https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-many-types-and-health-benefits-of-kale
20 - https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/07/26/science-just-gave-you-a-brain-boosting-reason-to-eat-kale/#5d07b432f378
21 - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00183/full
22 - https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-clinic-q-and-a-hypothyroidism-spinach-and-kale/
23 - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/kale-vs-spinach
24 - https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-reasons-to-eat-berries
25 - https://www.alzheimers.net/antioxidants-lend-themselves-to-brain-health/
26 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5890122/
27 - https://news.temple.edu/news/2019-11-26/study-olive-oil-can-protect-against-dementia-mice
28 - https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-233/olive
29 - https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/topics/mood-disorders/curcumin-shows-promise-as-depression-treatment/
30 - https://lyfebotanicals.com/health/turmeric-dosage/
31 - https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/
32 -https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2018/04/27/dark-chocolate-may-boost-brain-function-immunity-and-mood/#4aa67e554608
33 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2797556/
34 - https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-chocolate
35 - https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20170213/could-fermented-foods-boost-your-health#1
36 - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5107567/
37 - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-3010.2007.00665.x#b19
38 - https://time.com/4768860/is-coffee-good-for-you/
Author

Melissa Feldman

Health and Wellness Writer

Melissa Feldman lives in Toronto, Canada and works as an independent research writer. She spent almost 20 year...

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