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.