While it’s widely understood that diet and nutrition are good for health and well-being, these qualities have been most often associated with physical health, aesthetics, and athletic performance.
Yet, something not usually considered is that the food being regularly consumed has a major impact on the health of the brain. As the control center of the entire human experience, the brain is a highly significant organ to protect.
Even though the heart may be considered more important as it’s the one ultimate lifeline, the truth is that the three-pound organ that is the brain actually ensures the heart continues beating.
In what follows, we’ll explore the best foods to consume to maintain and improve brain health.
The Effects of Nutrition on Brain Health
With glucose being the primary source of brain energy and metabolism, it’s important to utilize foods that contain natural glucose. Some primary examples to be discussed include fruits, vegetables, fatty fish, and nuts.
In addition to its energy benefits, glucose aids in brain cell development and repair, cognition, and neural generation, promoting benefits such as learning, memory, mood, and focus.
Some other key components that help to enrich brain health include antioxidants, polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals.
The 10 Best Brain-Boosting Foods
Nutrition has a profound impact on brain development, memory progression, focus, concentration capacity, and mood.
While no singular diet is the most appropriate, one might want to consider certain foods that can help improve cognition and boost brain cell health. Such foods include fatty seafood, dark leafy greens, antioxidant-rich fruits, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices.
The following is a summarized list of 10 brain-boosting foods. We’ll aim to break them down separately into associative food groups:
Fatty Seafood & Poultry
Arguably one of the best brain-boosting foods on the list, fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are incredible for the brain’s health. The brain is comprised of nearly 60% fat, and the majority of this fat is made up of omega-3 fatty acids.
Helping the brain build new cells and aiding in learning, memory function, and anti-aging properties, fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, are a go-to for many seeking to improve brain health.
Because eggs comprise several key nutrients, both macro and micro, some of which are often deficient in large populations, they’re great for regulating brain health, improving mental function, and regulating mood.
The most beneficial nutrients in eggs that promote brain health include vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and choline. Eggs are also a rich source of protein.
Rich in flavonoids, blueberries have been shown to boost memory, delaying such impairments at a statistically significant scale.
The reason for this improved memory is felt to be due to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of blueberries, which reduce stress and inflammation that would otherwise impact brain aging. These effects also help prevent neurodegenerative complications.
The importance of vitamin C is well documented, particularly as it pertains to the immune system. What’s less known, however, is that vitamin C may be responsible for preventing mental decline.
As another powerful antioxidant similar to blueberries, it’s worth considering adding more oranges to the diet to improve brain health.
Dark Leafy Vegetables
Similar to most other dark leafy greens, such as broccoli, spinach, and collards, kale is abundantly rich in several vitamins and minerals that are healthy for the brain.
These elements include vitamin K, beta-carotene, and folate. All of these are great enhancers of brain health.
Rich in antioxidants and vitamin K, broccoli is a great brain-boosting food because it promotes healthy fat in the brain. An increase in Vitamin K has also been associated with cognitive improvements in older adults.
In addition to vitamin K, broccoli is also rich in several other beneficial vitamins and minerals that are advantageous for both brain health and overall health through the process of reducing oxidative stress and inflammatory stress.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts, in general, are a great source of omega-3 healthy fats, complete proteins, and several valuable vitamins and minerals. Walnuts are regarded as some of the most beneficial, brain-boosting nuts.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Sharing a common theme amongst most other brain-boosting foods, pumpkin seeds are a great antioxidant and help protect the brain and preserve cognition. In addition, some of pumpkin seeds’ most prevalent vitamins and minerals include iron, copper, magnesium, and zinc.
Herbs and Spices
Often discussed in detail as a great joint pain reliever, turmeric also happens to be a great brain-boosting ingredient due to its antioxidant qualities.
In addition, turmeric has been shown to boost BDNF, a growth hormone that promotes the development of healthy brain cells and helps improve the aging process and mood.
- Herbal Tea
Similar to coffee, herbal tea has been shown to boost performance, increase alertness, and improve cognitive memory. Rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, herbal tea is an excellent beverage for the brain.
Other great brain-boosting foods and beverages include water, coffee, spinach, flaxseeds, strawberries, tomatoes, kiwi, avocados, and dark chocolate.
No matter the health, fitness, or wellness goal, a combination of multiple foods can help to bring about the best results. Regarding brain health, this type of diversity is much the same.
Many foods and food groups have been shown to be helpful in brain health; others can be harmful and should be avoided.
Prioritizing the right foods and nurturing the brain will be helpful for brain performance and mental and physical well-being.