Brain Healthy Foods: 10 Foods to Fire up Your Brainpower

A woman with healthy foods that improve brain power

Brain healthy foods are not a myth. Several scientific studies and nutritionists alike claim that eating the right foods containing the right nutrients can boost cognition and brainpower.

Did you know that your brain consumes nearly 20% of your body’s calories? That means, alongside the other organs, our brain and nerve cells too require plenty of fuel to work optimally. Ideally, this good fuel should come from food containing nutrients that support brain power and optimal functioning.  

According to studies, brain-healthy foods support cognitive ability and improve brainpower. While there is no single brain-boosting food that ensures a sharp mind, nutritionists and scientists emphasize the importance of eating a brain-friendly diet. Wondering what foods help with memory and can make you smarter? Read on to discover the complete list of brain-healthy foods that can help you formulate a nutritious diet plan that is bound to boost brain health and ensure proper brain function.

Food and Basic Brain Health

No doubt, food is a source of energy for the body. But what about the brain? Research [1]National Library of Medicine: Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function has provided considerable evidence for the association between diet, mental function, and overall brain health.  

 Studies have proven that certain foods’ relative abundance of certain nutrients can impact cognitive processes. For instance, a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (Omega-3) supports cognitive processes and reduces inflammation linked to specific neurological diseases and disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Another scientific review [2]National Library of Medicine: Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases has showcased how antioxidant compounds in berries positively affect brain function. According to this review, these compounds increase brain plasticity which eventually boosts memory. 

Science has also found an interesting link between feeding and cognition. Experts say that the neural circuits involved in feeding behavior are well coordinated with the centers of the brain that influence cognitive function. The general notion is that several gut hormones that are produced by the brain or enter the brain can affect cognitive ability. 

The ingestion of brain-healthy foods releases the peptides and hormones into the circulation from where they reach integral parts of the brain and eventually contribute to learning. 

Examples of Brain Healthy Foods – Brain Food List

Listed below are the 10 best brain foods you should eat to power your brain health and improve cognition. 

1. Berries

Berries are one of the best foods for the brain. They are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids that improve memory. Studies have found that strawberries and blueberries can lower the rate of cognitive decline in humans. Try to consume at least 2 servings of berries each week for better memory. 

2. Cruciferous Vegetables & Leafy Greens

Vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and spinach are excellent for brain health since they are a powerhouse of brain-boosting nutrients like β-carotene and folate. Scientific research [3]National Library of Medicine: Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline claims that the neuroprotective actions of these nutrients can help slow cognitive decline. So, include these brain power foods in your everyday diet. Use them to prepare salads, sandwiches, curries, soups, and snacks. 

3. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of zinc, copper, and magnesium. While zinc and copper contribute to nerve signaling, magnesium is crucial for memory. Pumpkin seeds are also known to protect the brain from free radical damage and prevent brain aging and degeneration, thanks to the potent antioxidants present in them.

4. Fatty Fish 

If we have to name one food for the brain that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, it would surely be fatty fish. Fish such as tuna, salmon, and cod are power-packed with omega-3s, which are healthy unsaturated fats that are hailed to benefit heart health. If you are a vegetarian, you can try other brain-boosting foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds, which are also rich in these fatty acids. 

5. Nuts & Seeds 

Nuts and seeds not only have omega-3 fatty acids but are also rich in vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases and oxidative stress. A higher intake of vitamin E has a positive impact on cognitive performance during aging. So, eat a lot of nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc. An easy tip is to use these brain-healing foods as toppings over smoothies and salads.

6. Turmeric 

Turmeric has a special place in Indian cuisine. This yellow spice is considered a power food for the brain. It is known to improve certain neurological conditions like depression and headaches due to the presence of the compound curcumin. This brain booster is also anti-inflammatory and can heal inflammation. 

7. Tea & Coffee

Your daily cup of joe or coffee might give you the daily caffeine boost. And yes, caffeine consumption has been much villainized in the recent past. But do you know tea and coffee can benefit your brain health too? According to researchers, these beverages protect from neurological diseases and disorders like, major depressive disorder, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease. Tea and coffee also boost your mood and eventually influence your mental state.

8. Eggs

Eggs have certain nutrients that are associated with brain health. These nutrients include choline which indirectly regulates memory. Eggs are also a rich source of vitamins B6 and B12 which play a crucial role in age-related memory loss. Try to eat eggs in your breakfast every day.

9. Dark Chocolate

This decadent delight is rich in brain-boosting compounds, such as antioxidants, caffeine, and flavonoids. According to one study [4]PubMed: Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, eating dark chocolate helps to perform brain-related tasks efficiently. Try to eat a large chunk of unsweetened dark chocolate every day. You can also use it to prepare sugar-free desserts. 

10. Oranges

We all know that oranges are loaded with vitamin C. But are you aware of the fact that vitamin c-rich foods help prevent mental decline? A scientific research [5]National Library of Medicine: Plasma Vitamin C Concentrations and Cognitive Function: A Cross-Sectional Study suggests that higher levels of vitamin C in the blood improve memory and focus. So, eat these brain-healthy foods every day. You can count on orange juice. Just make sure your juice has no added sugar. 

Brain Healing Foods- Myth or Reality?

Although there are sufficient studies claiming that food influences cognitive functioning, there are contradicting studies prevalent as well. Hence, it is crucial to distinguish myth from reality when it comes to brain-healthy foods and how they affect our minds. 

Reality: Absorption of Nutrients 

There are certain components of food or certain nutrients present in them that affect our brain. These nutrients are:

  • Antioxidants 
  • Fatty acids
  • Glucose or insulin 
  • Peptides
  • Amino acids 

These components provide good fuel to the brain and contribute to nerve signaling. As stated above, antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage that is linked to age-related mental decline. Omega-3 fatty acids or fatty acids help develop and repair brain cells and prevent neurodegenerative disorders.

Myth: Brain Healthy Foods Work in No Time

Brain healthy foods would undoubtedly improve your mental ability, boost memory, and make you think efficiently. However, it is a prevalent myth that they act quickly. The reality is that these brain-healthy foods won’t make you smarter in a week. Plus, you can’t rely on a single food.

To benefit your brain health and allow your brain to function optimally for a longer period, you need a well-rounded diet. This diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, protein, fatty acids, etc. You also need to ensure you get sufficient vitamins and minerals through this diet.

An Exception to the Above Myth

There are no magical foods that make you smarter in no time. If you have been eating unhealthy food in the past and now start consuming brain-healthy foods, you might experience healthy changes in your cognitive function within a week. However, these changes are a consequence of the improvement in your diet and not due to any ‘magical’ effect of any specific food. There are no magical foods that make you smarter in no time. 

Tips to Develop Brain Healthy Food and Lifestyle Habits

To benefit your mental health, you need to make the most of those brain-healthy foods. In addition to this, you need to make certain specific lifestyle changes that can positively impact your brain. 

  1. Eat a Mediterranean diet. This diet lowers the risk of cognitive impairment. Try eating a diet rich in olives, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fish, and leafy greens.
  2. Exercise regularly to boost circulation in the body, which is crucial for optimal brain health. 
  3. Do brain exercises to strengthen your brain. Try crosswords, puzzles, and mind games to boost brainpower. 
  4. Take the medications just as your physician has prescribed to keep your mind and body working properly. 
  5. Keep stress in check. Make sure to do things you love to ease stress. De-stress your mind through yoga and meditation. 
  6. Learn something new to stay mentally active. You can also indulge in arts and crafts to boost creativity. 
  7. Drink your coffee or tea (sugar-free) and eat unsweetened dark chocolate.
  8. Choose healthy snacks such as peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt berry parfait, or protein balls over highly processed snacks. 
  9. Get enough sleep to support optimal brain health. It is crucial to get at least 8 hours of sleep every day.
  10. Cut back on sugar, limit alcohol intake, and quit smoking. 

Conclusion

Your brain controls your entire body. Hence, it is crucial to keep it healthy. Brain-healthy foods can help keep your brain in perfect health. Foods such as eggs, nuts, seeds, tea, fatty fish, and dark chocolate can improve cognition and boost brainpower. Try to eat a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fatty acids regularly.

Sleep well, rest, recover and rejuvenate your brain. Keep exercising your brain with a regular dose of mental challenges like brain games, puzzles, and so on. Last but not least, follow healthy lifestyle practices to maintain your brain health.

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