Up to one billion people in the world, or one-sixth of the population, have some type of neurological disorder. Everyday foods can protect and nourish your brain. Everyone knows that some foods are better for you than others. For example, pick a salad over a pizza or choose some fresh veggies instead of French fries. But did you know that there are foods that are brain superheroes? Check out these brain foods that you should eat every single day. These foods increase memory retention, decrease oxidative stress, and more. They can even help prevent onset symptoms of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and others. Read on to learn about 30 healthy foods that can help your brain.
If you’ve ever heard an old wives’ tale, you know that garlic is excellent for your immune system. Eating garlic regularly can help reduce inflammation and the severity of an illness, promote cell healing, and boost the number of natural killer cells in your body. All of this helps defend against infections.
But did you know that garlic is also quite good for your brain? Multiple studies have shown that garlic can help reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease by lowering your body’s oxidative stress. And what’s oxidative stress? It measures how many free radicals and other Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) molecules are messing with our cells. When you reduce oxidative stress, the body can function better, protecting the brain from damage. Garlic can also reduce your cholesterol and blood pressure while improving your attention and memory! Whether you consume it in sauces or supplements, a regular helping of garlic is great for your body and mind.
Ah, sardines. These small fish have a bad reputation, but they pack a powerful nutritional punch. They have all the same qualities as salmon, tuna, or halibut but are usually much more affordable. And being small means they have less chance for bioaccumulation, which means fewer overall toxins can accumulate. Bigger fish build up more toxins simply from living longer and eating more. Not that we’re saying to stop eating fish; just try to get wild-caught fish whenever possible.
Let’s get back to sardines. Tests have shown that sardine oil can actually activate your cerebral cortex – the part of your brain that controls memory, attention, thought, and language. Keeping that part of your brain active can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. Plus, sardines are full of brain-loving Omega-3s, selenium, calcium, and phosphorus. These essential minerals help reduce inflammation, keep your nerves communicating with each other, and make sure your brain stays healthy.
Nuts, in general, have amazing health benefits. They are full of healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals, and protein. And peanuts are superheroes in the nut world. They contain resveratrol, a bioactive chemical that is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-aging, and more. Resveratrol may increase blood flow to the brain by as much as 30%, helping to reduce the risk of stroke. Increased blood flow can potentially also improve your cognitive abilities, improving your short-term memory, processing speed, and more.
But resveratrol isn’t all the mighty peanut has going for it. Peanuts also contain niacin and vitamin E, both of which can help protect against Alzheimer’s and other age-related cognitive decline issues. And they’re a great source for polyphenols, which go to work in the area of the brain used for memory and learning. Polyphenols can even help enhance your mood. As little as 2-3 oz of peanuts a day can profoundly affect your brain. Why not try them out?
People have used lentils in cuisine since practically the beginning of human history. Egyptians had lentils in their royal tombs, and lentils remain a staple in Middle Eastern and Indian diets. All varieties of lentils are excellent sources of both B vitamins and folate, essential vitamins that your cells need to function. Folate, in specific, helps your cells control gene activity and lower homocysteine levels, which can help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s. Folate also helps your body build new cells.
Lentils are also a tremendous pantothenic acid source, making co-enzyme A a vital ingredient for brain function. Co-enzyme A helps with energy production and overall cognitive performance, keeping your brain healthy and strong. Combine these benefits with the fact that lentils have the second-highest protein content of all legumes and have other essential minerals like magnesium, iron, and zinc.
Baked, mashed, or covered in marshmallows, sweet potatoes are often a staple at holiday meals. But did you know that the humble sweet potato is also excellent for your brain? Sweet potatoes are full of antioxidants called carotenoids, which can help boost your immune system and protect against heart disease and cancer. They have tons of vitamin C and A. Plus, they are high in potassium and fiber and are low in calories.
The anti-inflammatory properties of sweet potatoes can also help improve overall brain function, especially memory creation and retention. It’s often recommended as part of a preventative diet to help slow or stop the effects of aging on memory and prevent Alzheimer’s issues. While people often overlook this healthy brain food, the sweet potato should become a core part of your diet.
This healthy brain food might shock you. Cheese is often found on the list of worst foods for you because of its high saturated fat content, but it’s also packed full of healthy nutrients that can help improve your brain health! A study using data from the UK Biobank found that cheese can protect against cognitive problems, even in older patients.
Cheese – especially cheese made from grass-fed cows’ milk or cheese that has a longer aging time – is full of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA can help reduce inflammation and help regulate fat, which can help improve your brain health. The study also showed that daily cheese consumption helped participants do better on cognitive tests. While we don’t suggest converting to a cheese-only diet, a serving of cheese a day may help boost your memory functions while protecting against future cognitive decline.
The ever-popular shrimp is delicious, of course, but it’s also packed with many health benefits. These tiny crustaceans can be a great addition to your diet, from improved bone health to anti-aging properties. Most people only eat shrimp tails, but did you know that you can use the entire shrimp in food? Shrimp heads and peels are fantastic for making shrimp stock, and shrimp paste is a key component in many Asian cuisines. Shrimp are full of iron, a necessary mineral in bonding oxygen to hemoglobin in the brain. With more iron, your brain can get more oxygen, improving comprehension, memory, and more.
Shrimp also contains astaxanthin, which may help to improve overall memory and prolong the survival of your brain cells. They’re also a great source of iodine, which helps your body make thyroid hormones, which we need for brain development! Try incorporating a serving or two of shrimp a week into your diet to take advantage of this nutrition-packed seafood.
It’s common knowledge that carrots can improve eye health. But they’re also excellent for your brain! Eating carrots can reduce age-related memory issues and help with brain inflammation thanks to luteolin. Luteolin stops the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain, which our immune cells produce in more significant numbers as we age.
Carrots also contain carotenoids and polyphenols, which can help protect against high blood pressure, stroke, free radical damage, and more. The trick to getting the best nutritional value from carrots is to eat them unpeeled since over half their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are in their skin. Try adding these tasty – and inexpensive – veggies to your everyday meals to boost your heart and brain health.
People often overlook the unassuming cauliflower in conversations about powerful health foods. But this kitchen chameleon is packed full of incredible benefits, from cancer-fighting sulfur compounds to anti-inflammatory minerals. Specifically, cauliflower is a good source of choline, a B-vitamin that’s crucial for brain development. Eating cauliflower while pregnant can boost your baby’s cognitive function.
As an adult, choline may diminish age-related memory loss and help protect your brain from toxins. And, like many of the other foods on this list, cauliflower has plenty of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Reduced inflammation – especially in the brain – can help to protect against memory loss and cognitive decline. Try this innocuous veggie in various dishes; cauliflower can adapt to almost any flavor profile.
Asparagus is a popular spring veggie loaded with vitamins and nutrients that can help protect and sustain your brain and body. When paired with salmon, shrimp, or other seafood, you can create a brain-healthy diet that tastes delicious.
But how exactly does asparagus support your brain health? First and foremost, it’s another great source of folate, one of our favorite tools in preventing cognitive decline. It’s also a great source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that can help break down harmful compounds in the body, like free radicals and other cancer-causing components. It’s one of the best veggies for anti-aging and anti-inflammation properties, both of which help your brain stay healthier for longer. You can also get a good helping of asparaptine to help lower your blood pressure and increase blood flow to your brain.
We know that lamb isn’t always readily available, but if you have the chance to add lamb to your diet, you should take it. Lamb is full of essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin b12, iron, and CLA – our friend in cheese. It also contains niacin, which works with b12 to combat cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s.
Lamb also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients, like glutathione and selenium. These nutrients can help reduce the risk of heart disease and protect against mental decline by keeping the brain healthy. And the iron in lamb is essential in getting enough oxygen to the brain. While it can be high in saturated fats, lamb is a rich source of a variety of brain-boosting vitamins and minerals and eating uncured lamb can be a good way to supplement your brain health.
Chicken is one of the most popular proteins available and is a staple in many diets, and for good reason! Often relatively affordable, chicken is packed full of protein and essential nutrients. This extremely versatile protein can help keep you full, improve your bone health, and more.
But how can chicken help your brain? Well, like cauliflower, chicken is a good source of choline. Choline helps your memory and other brain functions, slowing or preventing cognitive decline as you age. It’s also got a healthy serving of B12, another vitamin linked to memory function. And don’t forget the dark meat! Chicken thighs are high in iron and contribute to increased blood oxygenation, ensuring that your brain gets everything it needs to stay healthy and strong. As a relatively lean protein, chicken is an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Just make sure you’re eating a variety of other foods with it.
Tuna is one of the most popular fish around. Whether canned, served in a steak, or eaten on sushi, tuna packs a punch for protein. However, protein isn’t all tuna has going for it; it’s also a great source of niacin and omega-3 fatty acids.
Niacin is a critical component of brain health. Ensuring you have enough niacin in your diet can help delay the premature aging of your brain cells. It also helps reduce cognitive issues and the risk of Alzheimer’s. In fact, niacin is so essential that a lack of it can actually increase your risk of dementia. When you pair that with one of the brain’s favorites, omega-3 fatty acids, it’s easy to see how this popular fish can be a staple in a brain-healthy diet.
It’s a famous saying: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” But did you know that the right kind of breakfast can help your overall and daily brain health? Starting the day off with a healthy serving of steel-cut oats provides sustained energy through complex carbs to keep your brain active and alert. Oats also contain choline, an essential part of memory function, and are rich in B-vitamins that reduce inflammation in the brain.
Furthermore, oatmeal is an excellent base for other brain-boosting superfoods, like blueberries, almonds, strawberries, and even chocolate. It’s an affordable, healthy whole grain that you can incorporate into various dishes. Try adding oatmeal to your breakfast routine and see how it improves your brain function.
Let’s take another look at nuts – almonds, in specific. Almonds are a nutritional superhero, doing everything from improving your gut health to slowing aging to helping your brain create and repair neural pathways. They have tons of l-carnitine and riboflavin, which are essential for maintaining brain health and forming new neural connections. In other words, they’re a crucial part of developing new memories.
Almonds are also full of antioxidants and stimulate the production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter responsible for helping your neurons communicate. Without enough acetylcholine, you may experience brain fog and headaches, and a continued deficiency can lead to cognitive decline. Almonds may seem like an expensive investment, but when you consider how many brain-boosting nutrients just a handful a day provides, we think you’ll find that they’re well worth it.
Blackcurrants, a relative of the blueberry, are a fruit that is immensely popular in some parts of the world and hardly known in others. In the US, for example, blackcurrants have been removed from several locations due to helping in the spread of a fungus that infects white pine trees. However, you shouldn’t overlook healthy blackcurrants shouldn’t be overlooked when considering what foods to eat to improve memory, attention, and even mood.
Though the study of blackcurrant benefits has just begun, blackcurrants contain important antioxidants, vitamin C, gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), and more. GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that reduces inflammation and excess cell growth. Blackcurrants also decrease the activity of monoamine oxidase (MAO) enzymes, which break down serotonin and dopamine. Doctors also link MAO enzymes to depression and neurodegenerative symptoms of Parkinson’s. Blackcurrants are a healthy, tasty addition to smoothies, oatmeal, and more if you can find them.
This healthy brain food is one of our favorite options on the list. Who doesn’t love chocolate? Often considered a decadent treat, dark chocolate may be able to improve our overall brain health. Very dark chocolate (70% cacao or more) contains high levels of flavonoids, which are antioxidants that can protect our cells and reduce inflammation. Even eating just one small chocolate bar improved cerebrocortical function, which is involved in memory and sensory processing.
Another small study that evaluated candidates before and after eating dark chocolate every day for eight days found that dark chocolate increases the expression of genes involved in activating T cells and increases gene expression linked to neural signaling and sensory perception. In essence, eating a small amount of dark chocolate a day can improve mood, cognition, and memory.
Tomatoes are an essential component of so many of our favorite foods. Spaghetti, pizza, ketchup, chili – the list goes on and on. And tomatoes are also a super-easy way to get essential carotenoids into your diet. Tomatoes have tons of beta-carotene and lycopene, superhero antioxidants that eliminate free radicals and reduce inflammation. Since your brain has a high concentration of omega-3 fats, it’s vulnerable to free radical attacks, so getting these carotenoids is vital to continue healthy brain function.
What’s great about tomatoes is that cooking them increases the concentration of lycopene and makes it easier for our bodies to absorb. When paired with a healthy fat, like olive oil, you create a superhighway for the carotenoids to get into your bloodstream. Try getting fresh tomatoes when they’re in season and making sauce to use throughout the year to enjoy a boost of beta-carotene whenever you need it.
Mackerel is an oily fish that’s not as popular as salmon or tuna but still carries brain-protecting benefits that people shouldn’t overlook. Like its cousin, sardines, mackerel are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which help feed the brain and increase blood flow to the areas that control memory and learning. Omega-3s can help prevent cognitive decline. Experts also believe they help with symptoms of depression.
Mackerel is also a good source of iodine, which improves mental clarity. And you don’t have to eat fish with every meal; just 8 ounces of fatty fish like mackerel every week can have long-term positive effects on your brain.
Kale is a polarizing leafy green; you either love it or you hate it, there’s no in-between. But even if you don’t like kale, you should really try eating this healthy brain food. Kale is absolutely chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals; one loosely-packed cup has more than 100% of your daily needs of vitamins A and K. Both vitamins are vital for brain function. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s often how low vitamin A and K levels, so making sure you get enough of these vitamins is essential.
Kale is also a great source of lutein, which is a nutrient our body can’t manufacture by itself. Research has connected lutein with better cognitive function, especially in older adults. Higher levels of lutein led to older people having the mental performance of much younger individuals. So try to get this leafy green into your diet however you can.
Guava is a delicious, popular tropical fruit that’s become increasingly available over the years. It’s also a vitamin-rich powerhouse, containing vitamins C, A, E, B3, and B6. These vitamins all contribute to the overall health of your brain by increasing blood flow and relaxing your nerves.
Guava is also a great source of antioxidants like lycopene and carotene and anti-inflammatory nutrients, which help protect the brain from free radicals and reduce inflammation associated with memory loss and cognitive impairment. Combine the guava with some other fruits on this list for a brain-boosting fruit salad.
Blueberries are a favorite ingredient in everything from muffins to smoothies to breakfast bowls. These nutrient-rich superberries have enormous health benefits despite their small size. They have a high concentration of antioxidants like anthocyanin, which help balance the number of free radicals in your body and counteract oxidative stress. Remember when we talked about oxidative stress earlier? It contributes to premature brain aging and can negatively impact your brain function, so keeping that low is highly beneficial.
Blueberries also increase BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF helps keep your existing brain cells alive and promotes the growth of new neurons, a key component of memory. Add in their host of other vitamins – like C and K, both essential to your brain’s overall health – and it’s easy to see why blueberries have earned the label of a “superfood.”
Salmon is one of the most popular fish and is often a staple in healthy diets due to its high protein and low-fat content. However, salmon is also great for brain health. Like the other fish on our list, it’s an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which go directly to your brain. Our body can’t produce DHA – the omega-3 fatty acid found in salmon and other oily fish – on its own, so we must include it in our diet. DHA reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases and can even help improve depression symptoms.
Salmon is also a great source of the antioxidant astaxanthin, which gives the fish its red color. Astaxanthin protects our brains and nervous systems from inflammation and increases our good cholesterol while lowering our bad cholesterol. Since salmon is readily available, it’s easy to add to your diet. Try out this healthy brain food.
Strawberries are the most popular berry in the world and for good reason! These nutrient-rich berries have both heart and brain health benefits. Full of antioxidants like anthocyanins and ellagic acid, strawberries can help control inflammation and protect the brain’s memory centers.
A single pint of strawberries a day may prevent age-related neurodegeneration, which experts connect to cognitive and motor function decline. Add these tasty, versatile berries to breakfast smoothies or toss them into a salad to enjoy their healthy sweetness. Keep reading for more healthy brain foods, like fruits, vegetables, and fish, so you can protect you neurological system for issues, especially as you age.
We’ve talked about kale; now let’s get into spinach and its intense brain benefits. Full of folate, iron, calcium, and other essential vitamins and nutrients, spinach can help defend the brain against homocysteine, a toxic compound that can damage neurons. Vitamins E and K help protect against dementia and other symptoms of cognitive decline.
Combining spinach with other leafy greens and veggies like broccoli and cauliflower can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by over 50%. Studies show that the brains of people who eat diets rich in these foods have the cognitive power of a mind over seven years younger than they are. Get spinach in your diet at least six times a week to maximize its brain-protecting benefits.
It’s popular to joke that these brain-shaped nuts help brain health, but multiple studies show that walnuts have brain-boosting compounds. They have the highest antioxidant efficacy among dry fruits, even more than almonds!. They also have a high alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) content, which is a plant-based omega-3 that has powerful anti-inflammatory benefits.
Walnuts also contain more polyphenolic compounds than any other nut. These benefits help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, two primary components of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Therefore, adding walnuts to your diet has a strong potential for keeping your brain healthy and sharp.
Oranges are one of the easiest fruits to add to your diet due to their popularity and abundance. You probably already know these fruits are healthy for you in general. Like many of the other vegetables and fruits on this, though, it does more than keep you healthy. But did you know that even a single orange or a glass of orange juice a day can help keep your brain young?
Oranges contain flavones, a type of flavonoid. After numerous studies, researchers link flavones with a nearly 40% decreased risk of cognitive impairment. In other words, flavones keep your brain acting three to four years younger than its actual age. Just 600 mg of flavonoids a day can give you a 20% decreased risk of cognitive decline. So, please don’t be afraid to add this sunny fruit to your daily meals. Keep reading for the top brain foods that can help protect against neurological disorders, memory loss, and other issues.
Much like its fellow cruciferous veggie, cauliflower, broccoli is one of the best veggies for preserving brain health. Containing a chemical called sulforaphane, broccoli can help improve cognitive functions by promoting brain healing. It can also contribute to protecting your neurons because of its lutein content.
Broccoli may also contribute to learning since it is full of antioxidants and nutrients that can preserve and boost your memory. Studies show that compounds in broccoli facilitate and enhance learning and memory. Broccoli is a heavy hitter when it comes to brain-boosting health benefits.
Everyone knows that eggs are an affordable source of protein, able to be incorporated into almost any dish with little difficulty. But eggs are special in another way: they contain every single nutrient needed to make a brain cell, including folate, vitamin A, choline, zinc, iron, and more.
Choline is vital as it helps our body build some of its most essential membranes. One of the membranes it’s necessary to can help preserve – and potentially even improve – memory! And don’t worry about the cholesterol; there’s not enough evidence to prove that cholesterol in eggs is bad for your heart. In fact, some evidence shows the opposite. So add those eggs to your breakfasts, salads, or just enjoy them on their own to reap the brain health benefits.
The avocado is one of the holy grails of foods. You can make avocados into guacamole, add them to smoothies, and use them in sweet and savory dishes. And eating an avocado a day may be beneficial to both brain and eye health thanks to that popular bioactive, lutein. Study results showed that people who ate a whole avocado a day had better results on cognition tests than the control group, improving or maintaining their memory, processing speed, and attention levels.
Avocados are also full of healthy fats that feed the brain and preserve and protect cognitive function. And while eating a whole avocado a day might seem like a lot, the overall health benefits of this tasty fruit mean you should try to eat them when you can.