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Brain Food: What’s the Best Food for Brain Power?

Want to improve your productivity and reduce your risk of developing neurodegenerative disease? Add healthy brain food to your diet.

SUMMARY

Brain food enhances your productivity, and it can help protect you from neurodegenerative diseases. So, what is the best food for brain power? The best foods for brain health include choices such as fatty fish, blueberries and nuts.  

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A healthy brain is important if you want to live a happy life and optimize your productivity at work. 

The brain needs the right mix of nutrients to function at its best. That means good brain food is essential if you want to support the health of this organ. 

Foods that contain nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants give your brain the support it needs to foster mental clarity and ward off brain fog. These brain-healthy foods may be able to help you boost cognition and stave off depression. And brain-boosting foods give you the resources you need to combat certain types of neurodegenerative disease. 

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the best brain food for health and wellness. 

In this article, we will:

  • Discuss key nutrients that support brain health
  • Provide a brain food list that details the best food for brain power

Brain food basics: Which nutrients do these foods contain?

Brain-healthy foods owe their power to the nutrients they contain. These nutrients give your brain the support it needs to function at its very best.

Here are some key nutrients found in brain-boosting foods:

1. Omega-3 fatty acids

When you’re considering your options regarding brain food, know that omega-3 fatty acids pack a potent punch. 

Your body needs omega-3 fatty acids to perform at its full potential. The body is unable to create these healthy fats on its own. That means we have to get them from omega-3 foods or supplements that contain this nutrient. 

So, how exactly do omega-3s benefit the body and the brain? These healthy fats are powerful building blocks. They work hard to generate membranes around every cell in your body, including your brain cells. By doing this, they can help improve the structure of a specific type of brain cell: the neuron. 

Omega-3 fatty acids come in three main types:

  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)

ALA comes from plant oils such as flaxseed oil and soybean oil. You’ll find EPA and DHA in oily fish such as tuna and mackerel. EPA and DHA are also present in algae and seaweed. 

Research proves that omega-3 fats belong on your brain food list. A 2017 study showed that people with high levels of omega-3s experienced improved blood flow to the brain. This study also established a relationship between omega-3 levels and improved cognition. 

2. Antioxidants

Menu items that contain antioxidants are essential for your brain food list; they’re great choices if you’re seeking food for brain power. Antioxidants work hard to slow or prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that the body creates as it’s processing food and reacting to the environment. If the body is unable to remove free radicals in an efficient manner, they can cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition that can damage your cells and compromise the way your body functions. It’s been linked to ailments such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and immune deficiency. 

So, what factors cause free radicals to multiply? Inflammation caused by an unhealthy diet can ramp up the production of free radicals in your body. The amount of free radicals in your body can also be amplified by environmental factors, such as pollution, sun exposure and cigarette smoke. 

There are many different types of antioxidants. Here are a few examples:

  • Flavonoids
  • Anthocyanin
  • Flavones
  • Vitamin C
  • Polyphenols
  • Beta carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Lutein 
  • Vitamin E
  • Lycopene

Foods containing antioxidants support brain health by neutralizing free radicals. By doing this, they protect the brain from the effects of oxidative stress. 

Antioxidants are found in many different types of fruits and vegetables. 

3. B vitamins

Some of the best brain food contains B vitamins. Research indicates that B vitamins can help delay cognitive decline and prevent brain shrinkage. 

The list of B vitamins includes folate and B12. Deficiency in these two types of B vitamins has been linked with increased incidence of depression. 

You can find B vitamins in foods such as eggs, peanuts, chicken, tofu, sweet potatoes, fish, bananas, pork, beef, avocados and pistachios.  

Brain food list

So, which dietary choices make the cut for being the best brain food?

Here are some of the best foods for brain power:

Brain food #1: Fatty fish

If you’re looking for the best brain food, know that fatty fish contains valuable nutrients that make it a key contender. 

Those nutrients are omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty fish is a good source of omega-3s. 

As we’ve mentioned, omega-3s have potent brain-boosting benefits. A 2005 study showed they can help ward off age-related cognitive decline. And a 2016 study showed that omega-3 fats may help treat Alzheimer’s disease. 

Brain health is an important factor in depression, a common mood disorder. Research has linked low levels of omega-3s in the body with increased incidence of depression. A 2019 meta-analysis showed that omega-3 fatty acids were effective antidepressants. 

So, which fatty fish are your best bet if you’re looking to up your intake of omega-3s? Here are some great choices:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna 
  • Sardines 
  • Mackerel
  • Herring

Keep in mind that animal-based foods such as fish aren’t your only option if you want to get more omega-3s in your diet and consume the best food for brain power. You can also get this nutrient from plant-based foods such as seeds and nuts.

Brain food #2: Berries

When it comes to brain food, berries belong in the hall of fame. 

Why is that? Well, this type of fruit is a rich source of antioxidants. As we’ve mentioned, antioxidants support the body and the brain by easing inflammation and oxidative stress. 

The list of antioxidants present in berries includes:

  • Caffeic acid
  • Anthocyanin
  • Quercetin
  • Catechin
  • Vitamin C

Research shows that berries are tremendously effective as food for brain power. They can help diminish inflammation and enhance communication between brain cells. They help the brain cells develop new connections, and this can boost learning and memory. Finally, berries contain valuable antioxidants that can slow or prevent age-related brain disease and cognitive decline. 

These berries are rich sources of antioxidants that support brain health:

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Mulberries

Brain food #3: Coffee

People drink coffee to remain awake and sharpen their mental focus. But its benefits go deeper than you may realize. Coffee contains antioxidants that make it a potent brain food. It’s also a good source of caffeine, a nutrient that has positive effects for brain health. 

One way coffee improves brain function is by boosting alertness. Your brain produces adenosine, a chemical that can cause you to feel sleepy and sluggish. Research shows that the caffeine present in coffee blocks the production of adenosine. By doing this, it sharpens your brain’s performance and helps you feel more alert and energized. 

Coffee can also help your brain process information more quickly. A 2018 study showed that the caffeine present in coffee can help improve your brain’s ability to rapidly digest and process information. 

Furthermore, research shows that lifelong coffee consumption has certain brain-boosting benefits. According to one study, it can reduce your risk of developing these conditions:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cognitive decline
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease

It’s important to remember, though, that even though it’s a great food for brain power, coffee should be consumed in moderation. If you have too much of it, it could cause symptoms such as insomnia, restlessness, anxiety and irritability. Research suggests that four to five cups of coffee per day may be the optimal amount for many people.

Brain food #4: Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that has potent powers as a brain food. 

It contains an active ingredient called curcumin. Curcimin can cross the blood-brain barrier. This means it’s able to directly enter the brain cells when ingested.

Turmeric contains antioxidants that work hard to fight inflammation. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when considering turmeric’s role as a food for brain power.

Research shows that this spice can help clear the harmful brain plaques that are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. And a 2008 study shows that the curcumin present in turmeric helps boost serotonin and dopamine; this activity makes it possible for turmeric to ease depression.

Finally, a 2012 study shows that turmeric contains a growth hormone that helps support the generation of new brain cells. 

Brain food #5: Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are among the best brain-healthy foods you can include in your diet. These plant foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Both these nutrients work hard to help your brain function at its best. 

Research makes it clear that nuts and seeds have great value as brain-boosting foods. In a 2015 study, higher nut intake was linked with better overall cognition at older ages. 

Additionally, many nuts and seeds contain a specific type of antioxidant: vitamin E. Vitamin E is especially effective at protecting cells from oxidative stress, and it can help support brain health as we age. In a 2014 study, vitamin E intake was linked with improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Some nuts and seeds are also rich in nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, iron and copper. These nutrients can assist the brain with memory, learning and nerve signalling. 

Here are some examples of nuts and seeds that are excellent food for brain power:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Almonds 
  • Hazelnuts

Brain food #6: Dark chocolate

Many people are huge fans of dark chocolate. If you count yourself among this group, you’ll be happy to hear that dark chocolate has value as an effective brain food. 

It owes this capability to the fact that it contains lots of cocoa (also known as cacao). Cocoa is packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

The flavonoids found in chocolate help make this treat a good brain food. A 2013 study linked cocoa’s flavonoids with improved neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain that handle learning and memory. 

And a 2018 study linked chocolate consumption with improved neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity plays an essential role in cognitive processing, learning and memory. 

Brain food #7: Eggs

The humble, everyday egg qualifies as a top brain food. It’s loaded with nutrients that foster brain health.

For starters, eggs are a good source of B vitamins such as B6, folate and B12. 

Folate deficiency is commonly seen in elderly people with dementia. Folic acid has been shown to reduce age-related cognitive decline. 

B12 helps the body synthesize brain chemicals. It also helps regulate the brain’s sugar levels. 

In addition to B vitamins, eggs contain choline. Choline is a neurotransmitter that helps support healthy mood and memory. A 2011 study linked higher choline intake with improved cognitive performance. Menu items that contain choline are worth considering if you want to include food for brain power in your diet.

Brain food #8: Broccoli

Broccoli owes its capability as a leading brain food to its high antioxidant content. Antioxidants battle free radical damage that can compromise brain health. 

But broccoli’s brain benefits don’t end there. This plant food is also a great source of vitamin K. Vitamin K is used by the body to create sphingolipids. Sphingolipids are a type of fat found in brain cells; these fats are essential for healthy brain development. 

Studies show the increased vitamin K intake can help improve cognition during aging. 

In addition to being a great brain food, broccoli shines as an excellent low-calorie source of dietary fiber. 

Next steps

The brain food options listed above can help sharpen your cognition and reduce your likelihood of developing certain brain diseases. Increase your intake of these brain-boosting foods by picking them up online or at your local grocery store. 

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