What you eat impacts mental sharpness, focus, vitality, even your mood. Discover 9 brain boosting foods that help you perform your best, optimize life, and help prevent mental disease and decline.
Feed your brain, boost your performance.
I spent 13 years coaching myself and others to use the power of healthy foods to shed unwanted pounds, reverse illness and improve wellness. After developing an intestinal disease and struggling with brain fog, anxiety and a loss of vitality, I decided it was high time I rekindled my obsession with the healing properties of food. I dug into the science, looked at the latest research, and used my own coaching experiences to compile this list of hero foods that can help you optimize your mental stamina, boost memory, and lift mood.
Brain foods are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.
- The food you eat is directly correlated to the fitness of your brain
- Your brain is 60% fat
- Good fats boost brain function, bad fats drag it down
- Your brain is 2 % of our body weight and uses 20% of our energy resources (it demands to be fed!)
- Healthy fats and antioxidants protect the brain from inflammation and disease
- Poor eating habits correlate with smaller brain size
- Boost brain health and boost wellness, vitality, and mood
Avocado is packed with monounsaturated fat, these are the good fats. The monos are the king of the hill, a superfood for the brain. Remember, the brain is 60% fat, making avocado the perfect fruit for feeding brain function.
- Highest fat and lowest sugar content of any fruit
- Rich is vitamin B and C
- High in monounsaturated fats
- Contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and zinc
According to a study by the University of Vermont, replacing a diet full of saturated (bad) fat with more monounsaturated fat is said to improve your overall mood, as well as reduce the risk of depression.
Feed Your Brain With My Keep It Simple Guacamole
Blueberries are rich in polyphenols called anthocyanins which can cross the blood-brain barrier. Anthocyanins may decrease vulnerability to the oxidative stress that occurs with aging, reduce inflammation, and increase signaling between neurons.
According to Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, of Tufts’ HNRCA Neuroscience and Aging Laboratory, “A growing body of preclinical and clinical research has identified neurological benefits associated with the consumption of berry fruits. In addition to their now well-known antioxidant effects, dietary supplementation with berry fruits also has direct effects on the brain.” Source.
The Tufts University study also found that diets rich in anthocyanins improved short-term memory, navigational skills, balance, and coordination.
Nuts are great for your overall health because they are packed with protein, vitamin, and minerals. But, which nut is BEST for brain health? The undisputed winner is the WALNUT!
Walnuts are one of the best sources of ALA (alpha-
linolenic acid), the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids.
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHNES) found that for adults of all ages eating walnuts improved reaction time, learning, and memory recall. Source
4) Wild Salmon
Salmon is chock-full of DHA Omega 3 fatty acids. Your brain loves DHA!
DHA is the most abundant omega-3 fat in our brains. Our bodies make very little DHA, we need to eat DHA-rich foods to keep our brains functioning optimally.
Eating foods rich in DHA, like salmon, mackerel, and sardines, may support brain health. As we age DHA levels in our brain decline. This deterioration has been linked to memory loss, mood disorders, cognitive decline, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reduced brain volume and Alzheimer’s disease.
Wild vs. Farmed Salmon? The Cleveland Clinic says “it is becoming clearer that the risks associated with farmed fish are higher than concerns about wild fish. If you want to get the many health benefits fish such as salmon provide, your best bet is to keep it wild.” Read more here.
Mom knew best, you need to eat your broccoli. Broccoli is high in two vital brain nutrients, Vitamin K and Choline. Vitamin K helps to strengthen cognitive abilities while choline has been found to improve memory.
Never forget where you parked again (maybe I need more broccoli), research shows people who eat plenty of broccoli perform better on memory tests.
Happy Stalks Bonus: broccoli is high in folic acid, important in mood health. A lack of folic acid can lead to depression and has been linked to Alzheimer’s.
6) Dark Chocolate – YES!
Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties. It also contains several natural stimulants, including caffeine, which enhance focus and concentration. Lastly, it stimulates the production of endorphins, which helps improve mood. Source.
I didn’t need science for this one! Chocolate always lifts my mood and puts a pep in my step. I’ve learned to enjoy 80%+ dark chocolate, The intensity of the chocolate is highly satiating making one square just enough.
7) Coconut Oil
Has any single ingredient ever been so controversial? The story of the egg might come close, but I think coconut oil takes the top spot for most vilified. I’m not here to take up the coconut debate if you prefer to avoid coconut oil, jump to #8 and use Olive Oil.
Coconut oil contains healthy fats called medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). These unique fats are:
- Caprylic acid
- Lauric acid
- Capric acid
- Improves energy and recall
- Boosts endurance
- Is quickly converted to usable energy
The MCFAs in coconut oil are quickly converted to energy, easy to digest, and have antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Choose high quality, unrefined coconut oil, quality matters with both coconut and olive oil.
Try these Peanut Butter Cup Keto Bombs with coconut oil and cacao powder, two brain boosting foods in one decadent snack.
8) Olive Oil
Olive oil is not only a heavenly dip for torn sourdough, but it’s the heavyweight of brain boosting foods. Packed with powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, olive oil helps improve learning and memory.
Always choose “Extra Virgin”, other versions such as “light” or “virgin” may have undergone a harmful chemical process that strips the oil of its beneficial properties. Choose olive oils labeled:
- Extra Virgin
- Certified Organic
- Cold Pressed
Read more about selecting olive oil here.
After years as the red headed step child of the nutritional world, eggs have reclaimed the spotlight and they’re enjoying their moment.
Eat the yolks! The yolk is what makes eggs a brain boosting food because this is where you find the concentration of choline.
Your brain uses the choline to make a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Research shows acetylcholine is important for maintaining memory and communication among brain cells. Boston University researchers monitored the eating habits of 1,400 healthy adults for 10 years and found that choline intake correlated positively with better performance on certain types of memory tests.
Additional Research on Brain Boosting Foods
Role of walnuts in maintaining brain health with age. J Nutr. 2014 Apr
A New Way To Produce Hyperketonemia. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Jan
Research Driven Coconut Oil Benefits – https://draxe.com/coconut-oil-benefits/
The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance. http://ajcn.nutrition.org