Need a mental boost? Eat these foods to supercharge brain health and memory
09/10/2020 / By Joanne Washburn / Comments
Need a mental boost? Eat these foods to supercharge brain health and memory

Regular exercise, adequate sleep and relaxing hobbies are all crucial for maintaining a sound mind. But more and more, experts are finding that food also has a major influence on the health of our brains.

In fact, numerous studies suggest that the food on our plate can make or break brain health. Bad foods can trigger dementia – the gradual decline in our mental abilities – but good foods can protect against it.

If consumed as part of a balanced diet, brain-boosting foods can promote optimal brain health and minimize the risk of dementia and the host of brain disorders that it could open us up to.

Top brain-boosting foods

Here are the best brain-boosting foods that ought to be a regular part of mealtimes, plus some ideas for incorporating them into a balanced diet.

Nut butters

Plant-based butters like almond butter boast a richer nutrition profile than their milk-based counterparts thanks to the nuts’ high monounsaturated fat content.

But don’t panic. This kind of fat is linked to an increase in the production of a chemical in the brain that is critical for both learning and remembering.

Monounsaturated fat has also been found to reduce inflammation that could trigger the premature onset of dementia.

Slather almond butter – or other nut butters, for that matter – onto slices of homemade bread for a simple but delicious breakfast, or add spoonfuls into a healthful smoothie for a creamier and richer texture.

Green tea

This soothing, herbal tea has been consumed for millennia, not just for its calming effect but also for its long list of incredible health benefits, from reducing cancer risk to promoting brain health.

These benefits are all thanks to a critical ingredient in the tea, called epigallocatechin-3-gallate. This plant compound, classified as a catechin, acts as an antioxidant to stamp out inflammation in the brain.

But that’s not all there is to green tea. This healthful drink is also abundant in a substance called pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). In the brain, PQQ reduces inflammation, and it also promotes restful sleep.

Drink green tea for a quick time-out from a hectic schedule or mix matcha (ground green tea leaves) into oatmeal for a brain-boosting breakfast.


If you’ve ever tried Indian dishes, then you’re sure to have encountered turmeric. This fragrant, golden spice is just the ground-up form of turmeric root, a ginger-like root used in traditional Indian medicine.

Like green tea, turmeric also has a potent ingredient behind its reputed health benefits: curcumin. It has been linked to better brain health and improved cognitive abilities because of its antioxidant effects.

Besides suppressing inflammation, curcumin has also been found to eliminate plaque (proteins that had clumped together) in the brain that can lead to dementia.

First time using turmeric? Slather it onto beef, lamb or chicken for a spicier rub, or mix a couple of spoonfuls into homemade fruit smoothies. You can also toss some turmeric into a classic green salad to liven it up.


Remember that monounsaturated fat from earlier? This next brain-boosting food is chock-full of it! But on top of that, avocados are also rich in vitamin E, another essential micronutrient that fights inflammation.

But take note that avocados do contain more calories than other fruits, so don’t go eating too much of it in one sitting.

Aside from mashing them to make the quintessential guacamole dip, avocados can be blended to make a rich and nutritious green smoothie or folded into scrambled eggs.

You can also blend or puree a couple of avocados beforehand and leave them in the fridge to cool. Take it out in the morning and spread on toast for a quick, light and simple breakfast.


Flavonoids, the natural pigments that give berries their bright and appetizing colors, help keep the brain in good shape in later life. On top of that, flavonoids are also effective at fighting inflammation in the brain.

On the other hand, potassium, an essential mineral found in berries, helps boost blood circulation in the brain. Potassium is also crucial for brain health because it helps send messages from the brain to the muscles.

Berries are excellent grab-and-go snacks. You can also mix a bunch of blueberries and raspberries into oatmeal, or toss mixed berries into a summer-themed fruit salad.


Broccoli might not be the tastiest vegetable out there, but its brain-boosting nutrients more than makeup for its bitter flavor.

In particular, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K and choline. Both of these nutrients are crucial for improving brain function and strengthening cognitive abilities.

Its other nutrients, like vitamin C, selenium, folate and potassium, are also linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline. Plus, most if not all of these nutrients are capable of fighting inflammation.

Steam some broccoli florets and serve them as a side dish, or pop some chopped broccoli and smashed garlic in the oven for a more delicious and aromatic dish.

Fatty fishes

Good fats are essential for normal brain function, none more so than eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid.

These forms of omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in fatty or oily fishes like salmon, tuna and mackerel. Their main function? Maintain overall brain health.

Studies also indicate that omega-3s are capable of fighting inflammation, promoting brain cell formation and minimizing the risk of dementia.

Substitute fish for meat in main dishes for a healthier source of protein. Grill a slab of salmon and drizzle on some olive oil, or make some tuna fish fingers for sharing.

Black beans

Never underestimate the nutrition profile of beans and legumes, no matter the kind. Black beans, for instance, are one of the richest, plant-based sources of essential B complex vitamins.

Folate and vitamin B6, in particular, are among the most beneficial B vitamins for brain health. Folate aids in the formation of important chemicals in the brain, and it also protects against mental fatigue.

Meanwhile, vitamin B6 is crucial for maintaining brain functions for people of all ages. It also stimulates the production of serotonin, the hormone that regulates mood.

To reap the brain-boosting benefits of black beans, boil them over high heat after a good overnight soak. Once tender, serve them alongside meat or fish dishes, or mix spoonfuls of them into a steaming plate of rice.


Coffee-lovers, rejoice! The caffeine in your morning cup of joe might offer more than just a short-term concentration boost after all.

Earlier studies indicate that caffeine, if consumed in moderate amounts, has protective effects against cognitive decline, and it can also improve mental performance.

Orange foods

Squash, pumpkins and carrots all have one thing and common: their bright orange skins. The plant pigments responsible for this color, called carotenoids, also double as potent antioxidants.

Beta-carotene, in particular, is the main kind of carotenoid found in orange fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest that long-term consumption of foods rich in beta-carotene can protect the brain from mental decline.

There is no magic pill to prevent cognitive decline, and the same can be said for brain foods. That is, no single brain food can ensure a sharp mind in later life. Therefore, to maintain optimal brain health, eat a balanced diet that incorporates most, if not all of the foods on this list.


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