7 Best Foods for Brain Health

An avocado cut in half.
Let's look at foods to include in your diet that focus on brain health. (Image: Thought Catalog via Unsplash)

What are the best foods for brain health? There’s an enormous amount of health and nutritional advice out there — on TV, in magazines, and online. Among all these sources, there are a lot of conflicting opinions and false statements. No matter what opinion you listen to, one thing stands true for all of them. Eating more vegetables is the way to live a healthy, longer life.

It is easier said than done, right? Most of us have only learned one way to eat them and, well, not everyone finds them delicious.

If we aim for simple meals that are delicious and nourishing to the body, with that self-care, we can live with less pain.

It’s well known that most diseases are caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. According to a major nutrition association, less than 10 percent of chronic illness is thought to be genetic. So that means the other 90 percent is lifestyle-related — made up of attitude, nutrition, mobility, and environment, which includes toxins and stress. So this means most of your health is in your hands.

Here we will focus on foods that enhance brain function, that is, improve memory, attention span, and your ability to keep learning. It’s possible that you’ve heard about certain foods that are good for brain clarity, but there are probably some you don’t know about. So I will present seven of the best foods for brain health.

7 of the best foods for brain health that are super important to eat often

1. Blueberries

High in antioxidants and a rich source of Vitamin C, blueberries have been shown in many studies to guard against short-term memory loss. Eating them can help aid coordination and balance among other things due to their anti-inflammatory properties. They’re also relatively low in fructose compared to other fruits, making them one of the healthier fruits available.

I recommend 1 cup daily (fresh or frozen).

Walnuts are one of the best foods for brain health.
Vitamin E in walnuts is known to help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. (Image: via Larisa Birta via Unsplash)

2. Walnuts

Walnuts are good sources of plant-based omega-3 fats, natural plant sterols, and antioxidants, and have been shown to reverse brain aging in older rats. The Vitamin E in the nuts can also help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, making them one of the best foods for brain health.

I recommend 10+ raw, unsalted walnuts per day.

3. Oily fish

Fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines are rich in omega-3, which is essential for the development and maintenance of brain tissue. Everyone talks about omega-3 fats for a good reason. They are essential fats, meaning they can’t be made in the body and must come from dietary or supplement sources. 

Researchers at Tufts University found that people who ate fish 3 times a week and had the highest levels of DHA in their blood slashed their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 39 percent. Wild-caught fresh, frozen, or canned is superior to farmed fish. 

I recommend 3+ portions per week.

The zinc in pumpkin seeds supports the healthy functioning of the brain. (Image: Tom Shockey via flickr CC BY 2.0 )

4. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of omega-3 oils and zinc. They help maintain a part of the brain that keeps sensory function intact and they are perfect for those who don’t eat enough oily fish. 

I recommend a handful a day, raw and unsalted.

5. Kale and other cruciferous vegetables

Kale, broccoli, and cauliflower are good sources of choline, known for its role in brain development and as a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Choline is essential for the body and may boost cognitive function and improve learning and memory. These vegetables are also a great source of Vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower. They’re filled with antioxidants like Vitamin C and plant compounds called carotenoids, which are particularly powerful brain protectors.

Antioxidants prevent damage from free radicals, which are waste products your body makes when cells use fuel to create energy. Your brain is especially vulnerable to damage from free radicals because it uses a lot of fuel (it’s only about 3 percent of your body weight, but it uses up to 17 percent of your energy). Since your mind makes a lot of these toxic by-products, ample antioxidants help to disarm and defuse them.

While all antioxidants (from a variety of plants) are good for your brain, these cruciferous veggies are especially effective. A Harvard Medical School study of more than 13,000 women found that those who ate the most lowered their brain age by 1 to 2 years.

I recommend 2+ cups daily.

Cooking technique for kale or leafy greens:

6. Celery

Celery contains a unique compound that helps to decrease inflammation in the brain. High levels of antioxidants and polysaccharides in celery act as natural anti-inflammatories and can also help alleviate symptoms like joint pain.

I recommend 2+ stalks per day.

7. Avocado 

Avocados facilitate blood flow to the brain, which is essential for keeping the mind alert and focused to concentrate on the stress of the day. They can also help to reduce overall blood pressure in the body.

I recommend 1/2 per day.

Sheridan Genrich CGP is a naturopath and nutritionist who received her health science degree from Charles Sturt University, and also received the Dean’s Award for academic excellence. Sheridan mainly works with over-stretched professionals, entrepreneurs, and executives who struggle to be in their best health. Find her at Better Brain Health.

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  • Sheridan Genrich

    I’m Sheridan, a clinical nutritionist, naturopath and iridologist based in Brisbane. My client base stretches Australia-wide and throughout the USA. I thrive on helping individuals and families find the missing pieces to enhance their mind and body, based on genetics, lifestyle and real food practices.