The Top 10 Foods to Improve Brain Health and Memory
Most people are aware of the relationship between diet and health, but few consider the link between what they eat and their brain’s health. Yet your diet can dramatically influence your brain.
Nutrient deficiencies can increase your risk of developing mental disorders and prompt the development of serious neurological diseases. Keeping your brain healthy doesn’t have to be hard – you can turn to superfoods, or foods that provide nutrients that benefit brain function. Here are 10 foods you can add to your diet for better brain health.
Delicious in everything from Mexican dishes to smoothies, avocados pack a real punch when it comes to brain health. The fruit is loaded with nutrients like monounsaturated fats according to the California Avocado Commission¹, which not only help deliver healthy blood flow to the brain but also enhance the functioning of information-carrying nerves. It’s also a rich source of potassium, which helps keep blood pressure in check, and B vitamins that promote healthy nerves and brain cells. To top it all off, avocados contain tons of brain-strengthening nutrients like vitamins C and E, copper, and folate.
Oily fish in general is an excellent source of nutrients that promote a healthy brain, but salmon provides the richest source of all-important omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA according to Good Housekeeping². Omega-3 fats have been linked with healthy brain structure and functioning, and they are especially abundant in wild salmon as opposed to farm-raised salmon. The fish is also loaded with zinc, which aids in nerve signaling, and it includes high levels of B vitamins, vitamin D and magnesium. You also get a healthy dose of choline, which aids in the synthesis of crucial neurotransmitters, in every serving.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains aid in brain health in more of a roundabout way. According to the American Heart Association³, whole grain foods like whole grain bread, oatmeal, and brown rice help maintain and improve cardiovascular health. Optimal cardiovascular health is a good thing for all bodily organs, including the brain, because it helps improve blood flow throughout the body. Although it isn’t technically a whole-grain food, wheat germ deserves a mention too because it contains high levels of omega-3 fats, fiber, and vitamin E.
Diets that are rich in folate are optimal for healthy brain functioning and memory, and beans contain more folate than any other type of food according to the National Institutes of Health⁴. Essential for brain functioning, folate deficiencies are linked to issues like cognitive impairment, depression and various neurological disorders. This nutrient-rich starch is a low-glycemic food, which means it’s digested very slowly, and loaded with a key source of brain fuel: glucose. Beans are also full of nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and fiber, and they are loaded with antioxidants that help shield brain cells from oxidation and harmful free radicals.
5. Pumpkin Seeds
The next time you carve a pumpkin, save the seeds! Pumpkin seeds earn a place on the list of brain superfoods because they’re loaded with powerful antioxidants that provide essential protection to the brain according to Healthline⁵. These delicious seeds contain high levels of copper, which is involved with controlling nerve signals, as well as magnesium, which is linked to learning and memory processes. On top of all of that, they are rich in iron. Zinc is a crucial nutrient for brain health, and deficiencies of it can lead to depression, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Many nuts are beneficial for overall brain health, but none of them packs quite as much of a wallop as the walnut. These tree nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, which has been shown to prevent cognitive decline and impairment according to the Harvard Health Blog⁶. They’re also loaded with polyphenols, a plant compound that provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They may help to protect the brain from harmful processes like inflammation and oxidation, and contain omega-3 fats and an array of beneficial B vitamins.
7. Dark Chocolate
When you have a hankering for some sweets, reach for a bar of dark chocolate to boost overall brain health. This food’s claim to fame in terms of brain health is that it’s loaded with flavanols. A form of antioxidant, flavanols dilate blood vessels around the body. In turn, more oxygen, blood and nutrients are able to flow around the body — including to the brain.
Broccoli is a great source of a particular vitamin not found in most of the other foods on this list: vitamin K. Every one-cup serving of broccoli contains this vitamin, which plays a crucial role in the formation of sphingolipids — areas of fat that are densely packed into brain cells. It’s believed vitamin K may help to improve memory, so go ahead and gobble up these greens to keep your brain in great working order.
Blueberries bring many prime benefits to the table in terms of brain health. In particular, these delicious fruits are loaded with plant pigments called anthocyanins, which provide many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits according to Healthline⁷ and have even been shown to reverse the signs of again in the brain. They also work to repair and protect brain cells, and they have been linked to improve memory. The best part is certain antioxidants found in blueberries may accumulate in the brain and help to improve communication between cells.
10. Dark, Leafy Greens
If your diet doesn’t already include dark, leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, and Swiss chard, it’s time to fix that. Leafy greens like these provide a broad array of brain-protecting nutrients, including vitamins A and C according to the USDA⁸. They provide a decent dose of omega-3 fats and are loaded with antioxidants that help protect the brain from damage. On top of all of that, leafy greens are extremely low in calories.
Add These Brain Superfoods Into Your Diet
Track your diet for a bit to see if you’re getting enough of these key brain superfoods. If you aren’t, take steps to introduce more of them to your diet. Regardless of your age, they can do a lot to protect your brain, its functioning, and your memory for years to come. With a combination of healthy habits and powerful brain-boosting foods, you’ll be well on your way to improving your overall health as well as your brain.
Like anything, it's always a good idea to be aware of the latest research. We recommend comparing at least 3 or 4 options before making a final decision. Doing a search online is typically the quickest, most thorough way to discover all the pros and cons you need to keep in mind.