Do you suffer from brain fog, lack of focus or memory problems? Whatever your mind challenges may be, remember that food is medicine. And by eating a variety of whole nutritious foods, you have the power to protect and support your brain health right into your old age. While many factors affect our brain health and mental state, eating quality food is an important first step. Below is a visual slideshow of some of the most nutritious foods for brain health to inspire you to eat for your body and mind!
Many eat healthier food to lose weight or to get a healthier body. But remember, food is not only for our bodies, but it’s also for our minds. Eating a variety of whole nutritious foods can actually support our brain health and can even prevent cognitive decline as we grow old.
You can keep it simple and just focus on eating a variety of whole nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables, to give your brain many of the nutrients it needs.
Or, you can take it a step further and also start eating more foods that contain specific brain-boosting nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B, C, D and E, minerals like magnesium, and antioxidants and flavonoids.
And apart from the above better-known nutrients, there are others to look out for like turmeric, ginkgo biloba, choline, phosphatidylserine, acetyl-L-carnitine, MCT oil and probiotics, that each support brain health in some way.
If you’d like to delve deeper into these nutrients, below are some useful links to reliable sources.
The brain benefits of omega-3 fatty acids – Be Brain Fit
How omega-3 fish oil affects your brain and mental health – Healthline
Essential vitamins and minerals for brain function – Developing Human Brain
Vitamins and minerals that boost brain power – Medical Daily
Nutrients for better brain power – omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamin E – Everyday Health
As Dr Mark Hyman says:
Eat real food. Food is the most powerful intervention that we have, and the first step we can take, in resetting our bodies and our brains.
Below is a list, in alphabetical order, of some wonderful foods that are good sources of one or more of the above-mentioned nutrients.
Excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats (the same kind that is in Olive Oil), and brain-boosting vitamins like C, E, K and the B complex vitamins.
IDEAS: Mash avocado, mix with salt and fresh lemon, and spread on toast. Cut up into pieces, mix with fresh lemon and salt, and enjoy as a side salad with protein. Add to a smoothie for extra creaminess.
All berries - blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries - are packed with antioxidants, like flavonoids, that help protect the brain from oxidative damage. IDEAS: Add fresh berries to your morning porridge or yoghurt. Add a handful of frozen berries to your next smoothie. Snack on berries and nuts.
Excellent source of vitamin K and choline, two important nutrients for brain function. Also contains a good amount of folate (vitamin B9). IDEAS: Steam broccoli and dress with freshly squeezed lemon, olive oil and salt as a side to protein. Chop up and add to stir fries. Add to soups or savoury smoothies.
Apart from brain-stimulating caffeine, quality coffee is, in fact, a rich source of antioxidants that protect the brain. While too much coffee can have negative effects, it is considered to be a healthy beverage, in moderation. We are all bio-individual and we all react differently to coffee, so see what works for you. IDEAS: If you drink coffee, try taking small steps towards drinking it without sugar and even black. If you drink excess coffee, start crowding out your coffee cravings by drinking more water and herbal teas instead.
Dark chocolate is considered to be a superfood, and has been shown to have many anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory health benefits. IDEAS: If you love milk chocolate, start slowly eating darker chocolate. Over time your taste buds will adjust until you reach 100% cacao chocolate. Indulge in a cup of homemade hot chocolate with pure cacao powder, milk and honey or maple syrup. Make Cacao Date Balls as a healthy treat (recipe on the blog).
Good source of vitamins B6 and B12, as well as folate (B9) and choline, all great in supporting brain health. When buying eggs, get "free-range" (chickens have access to the outdoors), or better-yet, "pastured" (they live outdoors & eat a better diet). IDEAS: Boil a couple eggs for breakfast and enjoy with rye toast or tomatoes and rocket. Scramble a couple eggs and mix in chopped smoked salmon and chives. Add boiled eggs to your next tuna salad - it's a yummy combination.
Excellent source of many essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that support the health of body and mind. Antioxidant-rich foods protect the brain from cognitive decline. IDEAS: Eat more fruits and veggies - raw or cooked, just eat more of them! Include a fruit for breakfast. Add more veggies to your lunch and dinner. Make veggie soups for dinner. Enjoy healthy snacks like carrots, celery and hummus. Down a powerful green veggie smoothie a few times a week.
Just like coffee, green tea contains caffeine (but less), which has been shown to improve various aspects of brain function. Green tea also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which supports brain health. Studies have shown that L-theanine and caffeine are a potent brain-boosting combo! IDEAS: Enjoy a pot of green tea regularly and be sure to use quality tea leaves instead of tea bags, which are far more nutritious.
Rich source of essential nutrients like vitamin E and K, beta carotene, lutein and folate. In general, leafy greens are known to be nutrition powerhouses! These include spinach, rocket, kale and collard greens to name a few. IDEAS: Make a morning green spinach smoothie (recipe on blog). Enjoy steamed or lightly-fried spinach as a side to protein. Use big spinach or collard green leaves as wraps. Make a big rocket, tuna and tomato salad for lunch
Good source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Many are rich in nutrients like vitamin E, which help protect the brain from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Some of the best nuts for the brain include walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. IDEAS: Sprinkle some nuts over your porridge or fruit & yoghurt breakfast. Add a handful of nuts to your salad for some crunch. Have a handful of raw nuts with fresh fruit as a healthy snack.
Excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential nutrient for brain health. Fatty fish includes salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and herring. IDEAS: Add chopped up smoked salmon and chives to your scrambled eggs. Treat yourself to a piece of salmon baked in the oven and served with steamed veggies or a salad. Eat canned sardines as a snack, dressed with fresh lemon juice and sea salt. Enjoy a tuna salad with rocket and tomatoes, dressed in fresh lemon juice.
Rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Good source of other essential nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and tryptophan. Top brain-boosting seeds include pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flax seeds. IDEAS: Sprinkle mixed seeds over your breakfast. Snack on sunflower seeds. Soak chia seeds in water and keep in a sealed jar in the fridge - have a couple tablespoons every morning. Add seeds to salads and smoothies.
Rich in fibre and other essential nutrients like vitamin E that help support brain health. Examples of whole grains include brown rice, barley, oatmeal, whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, millet, buckwheat, and many more. IDEAS: Enjoy oatmeal for breakfast, topped with banana, nuts and a splash of honey. Make a wholesome meat and veggie stew with brown rice as a side. Add some whole grains to your soups.
Ready to start eating for your brain?
I hope this post has inspired you to start eating for your brain.
Don’t get overwhelmed or make healthy eating over-complicated. One of the easiest and most effective ways to boost your health through food is to simply eat more fresh fruit and vegetables – which are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you want to take it one step further, eat foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins. Just by doing that, you’re giving your body and mind so much to work with.
Which of the foods in the slideshow do you currently eat? And which are you inspired to start eating more of? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to know.