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10 “Brain Foods” to Help Boost Cognitive Function and Memory

Our bodily health influences the function of our brain. Just as nutrient-rich foods can improve our physical health, they can also affect brain health. Certain foods can provide clearer thinking or better function for a short period, while others have long-term effects on the health of our brains. They can even reduce health problems related to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cerebrovascular diseases. 

Certain “brain foods” stand out for their high nutrients, antioxidants and other healthy components that provide short- and long-term brain benefits. Here are the 10 best foods for brain health to add to your diet.

1. Berries

Particular berries, like blackberries and mulberries, contain various components necessary for healthy brain function. Flavinoids, a compound common in these berries, can act as antioxidants, protecting brain health. These compounds can reduce damage to structures in the brain, delaying brain diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Grapes are another fruit in the berry family with numerous health benefits, including helping cognitive function. The skins of red grapes contain resveratrol, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects which can protect against Alzheimer’s. You can also get this compound and improve brain function through moderate red wine consumption. 

2. Whole Grains

Whole grain foods include:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Whole oats
  • Whole wheat
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur wheat
  • Millet

These brainpower foods contain complex carbohydrates, which help with regulating mood and behavior. These compounds aid in learning and memory. Whole grains also contain vitamin B and folate, which can protect tissues in the brain, and vitamin E, which supports brain function. 

3. Coffee

This drink increases short-term alertness and mood. Drinking coffee also influences the brain’s long-term health. Coffee has antioxidants that lessen oxidative stress and inflammation, which cause neurodegenerative disorders. Coffee consumption also relates to lower chances of Alzheimer’s.

Moderate coffee consumption can even help with cardiovascular health. Better cardiovascular health supports healthier blood flow in the brain, reducing the chances of conditions like strokes, the fifth most common cause of death. 

4. Oily Fish

Oily fish includes:

  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Kippers
  • Herring

These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which influence cognitive development. They’re essential throughout every stage of life, from early development onward — older adults who eat fatty fish experience better cognition and brain health.

5. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a variety of nightshade vegetables, meaning they are rich in various alkaloids and often used for herbal medicine. The most critical element for brain health in tomatoes is lycopene. This antioxidant provides anti-inflammatory properties inside the brain. 

6. Dark Chocolate

A brain-healthy diet can include more than just fruits and vegetables. Sweet foods like dark chocolate are rich in polyphenols. These substances improve blood flow to the brain, enhancing its function and raising concentration during tasks.

7.  Dark, Leafy Greens

Dark, leafy green vegetables contain numerous vitamins, minerals and other components that promote vascular health. These components include vitamins A, C, E and K, fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, folate, and carotenoids. The antioxidants in these vegetables serve a neuroprotective role, which can improve cognition and reduce declines in function over time. 

A diet rich in leafy greens includes:

  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach 
  • Bok Choy
  • Collard greens

8. Nuts

Walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds contain various components that support brain function. They are a good source of fats, fibers, vitamin E and L-arginine. Vitamin E reduces oxidative stress, which supports brain health in old age. It may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Amino acids, like L-arginine, help nourish the brain with the protein needed to function.

Walnuts, like fish, contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve memory and brain performance. Peanuts contain resveratrol, which has shown effects in combatting Alzheimer’s disease. Many varieties of nuts bring beneficial effects on brain health. 

9. Eggs

Egg yolks contain a substance known as choline that your brain needs to regulate functions like memory, mood and muscle control. Regular consumption of eggs can improve functions like verbal memory among middle-aged and older adults. Eggs also contain folate and other B vitamins, which support nervous system function and can improve alertness. They are accessible and nutritious, great for breakfast or any other meal.

10. Soybeans

Soybeans and other soy products contain isoflavones, which provide brain health benefits for younger and older adults. Isoflavones can improve spatial memory, verbal fluency and memory. Isoflavone also offers anti-inflammatory properties that benefit the brain. 

Soybeans are a versatile staple with various food options, including:

  • Soy milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
  • Soy nuts
  • Edamame

Improve Your Brain Health

From improving concentration in the short term to combatting neurological diseases, many foods positively influence your brain health. Food compounds that contribute to a healthy brain include antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamins. 

The best thing you can do for your brain health is to eat a varied diet containing multiple items from this list. A mixed diet allows you to care for your brain health while promoting healthy effects throughout the body. 

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