Updated: Sep 14
We all know to skip the fast food if we want to keep our waistlines trim. Eat your vegetables and ditch the soda – we’ve heard it a million times. But what do you eat if you want to focus on brain health too?
Many people may not know the answer to that question, but we should. Research has shown that eating certain foods has an impact on the overall health of your brain. Luckily, if you’re not already eating these foods, they can easily be incorporated into most diets.
Here are just a few of the best foods for your brain:
Any kind of berry is a healthy choice, but blueberries in particular are full of brain-healthy flavonoids. Flavonoids are a type of antioxidant that may help protect the brain against oxidative stress. Blueberries are also a great anti-inflammatory and some studies have linked them to reversing the signs of brain aging.
Much like berries, all nuts are a good snack choice for brain health. Walnuts are especially good for the brain in part due to their high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid. This type of acid is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, which has been linked to brain and heart health. Walnuts are also rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and can help the brain from degeneration and cognitive decline.
Some experts say that wild salmon is the best protein for brain health. Salmon is known for being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but this fish doesn’t stop there. Salmon is also a great source of magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, vitamin D, and choline – all of which help support brain health. Try incorporating salmon (preferably wild versus farm-raised) into your diet twice a week.
From toast to smoothies, avocados are finding their way into all kinds of recipes lately, and with good reason. Avocados are bursting with nutrition that makes them great for heart and brain health. Full of monosaturated fats, avocados help promote blood flow, which is beneficial for the brain. They’re also full of folate, vitamins B, C, and E, and potassium, making avocados a great food for helping to lower blood pressure. Try adding a quarter of an avocado a day into your diet.
It may surprise some people to see beans on this list, but experts say beans are frequently overlooked and underrated as a brain food. All beans are low on the glycemic index, meaning our bodies digest them slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stabilized. With the brain using half of the body’s sugar supply, it needs a steady flow of glucose to work optimally. Aim to have a half cup of beans or lentils every day.
It’s true – chocolate can be healthy, but it has to be dark chocolate and it has to be in moderation. Dark chocolate is full of plant antioxidants called flavanols. These antioxidants open up blood vessels, which allows for more blood flow to the brain. Dark chocolate also has minerals like magnesium and zinc, and even contains a dose of fiber. Just be sure to keep your portion size in check. Keep your serving to no more than about 1 ounce.
There are plenty of other foods that are great for brain health, so if you’re not partial to the list above, there are still options out there. Challenge yourself to pick one new, brain-boosting food to add into your diet every day. You might surprise yourself with a new recipe or favorite food.
Edwards, Scott. “Sugar and the Brain.” Retrieved from http://neuro.hms.harvard.edu/harvard-mahoney-neuroscience-institute/brain-newsletter/and-brain-series/sugar-and-brain
Smith, Brittany. “The 10 best foods for brain health.” Retrieved from https://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/10-best-foods-brain-health
Sorgen, Carol. (2008, December 18). “Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain.” Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain#2