You are what your eat. Your overall health is affected by your nutrition choices. There are foods that can help maintain or improve your brain’s health. Your risk of developing neurological issues later in life can be greatly reduced if you eat the right foods. These are the top foods for your brain.
Omega-3, which is found in oily fish, can boost brain health.
Oily fish are a good sourceTrusted Source of omega-3-fatty acids. Omega-3s are essential for building membranes around every cell of the body, including brain cells. Because they can improve the structure and function of brain cells, called neurons, Omega-3s are also beneficial.
A 2017 studyTrusted Source showed that people who have high levels of omega-3s had higher blood flow to the brain. Researchers also found a link between higher levels of omega-3s and improved cognition or thinking ability.
These findings suggest that omega-3-rich foods, like oily fish, can improve brain function.
These are some examples of oily fish rich in omega-3s:
You can also get omega-3s by eating nuts, soybeans, flaxseed and other seeds.
Dark chocolate is made with cocoa, also known to be called cacao. Flavonoids are a type antioxidant found in cacao.
Brain health is especially important because of the vulnerability of the brain to oxidative stress. This can lead to cognitive decline as well as other brain diseases.
The brain seems to be well-served by cacao flavonoids. A 2013 reviewTrusted Source suggests that they could encourage blood vessel and neuron growth in brain areas involved in learning and memory. They can also increase blood flow to the brain.
A lot of research suggests that chocolate’s flavonoid ingredient may reverse memory problems in snails. This has yet to be tested in humans.
A 2018 study on humans supports dark chocolate’s brain-boosting benefits. After participants consumed chocolate containing at least 70% cacao, the researchers used imaging techniques to examine brain activity.
Researchers concluded that this dark chocolate could improve brain plasticity. This is critical for learning and may provide other benefits.
Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. These antioxidants may make berries good food to the brain, according to research.
Antioxidants reduce inflammation and oxidative stresses. Anthocyanin and caffeic acid are some of the antioxidants found in berries.
A 2014 reviewTrusted Source reveals that antioxidants in berries have many beneficial effects on the brain.
- improving communication between brain cells
- Reduce inflammation throughout the body
- Increased plasticity which allows brain cells to form new connections. This helps boost learning and memory.
- Reducing or delaying the progression of age-related neurodegenerative diseases.
These antioxidant-rich berries can boost brain health:
Nuts & seeds
The brain may benefit from eating more nuts and seeds, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acid and antioxidants.
A 2014 studyTrusted source showed that higher nut intake is linked to better brain function as we age.
Nuts and seeds are also rich sourcesTrusted Source of the antioxidant 2014 reviewTrusted Source discovered that vitamin E could also help improve cognition and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
These are the nuts and seeds that have the highest levels of vitamin E:
- sunflower seeds
Further research is needed to fully understand the effects of vitamin E on the brain.
Consuming whole grains can also help you reap the benefits of vitamin E. These grains are a good sourceTrustedSource of vitamin E.
Whole-grain foods include the following:
- Brown rice
- Bulgur wheat
- Whole-grain bread
- Whole-grain Pasta
Coffee has a long history of being a concentration aid. Many people drink it to keep awake and focus.
Coffee blocksTrustedSource contains a substance called adenosine in the brain, which causes a person to feel tired.
A 2018 studyTrusted source shows that caffeine can increase alertness and brain processing speed.
Researchers found that caffeine can increase brain entropy. This refers to brain activity that is complex and variable. The brain can process more information if entropy levels are high.
A source of antioxidants, coffee may also be beneficial for brain health. One studyTrusted source found that coffee drinking has been linked to a lower risk of developing:
- cognitive decline
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
However, caffeine can affect the quality of sleep, so doctors don’t recommend it for everyone.
Avocados are a source of unsaturated fat that is good for the brain.
Monounsaturated fats can lowerTrusted Source blood Pressure, and high blood pressure may be associated withTrusted Source cognitive impairment.
The unsaturated fats found in avocados can lower your risk of cognitive decline by lowering high blood pressure.
You can also find unsaturated healthy fats in the following:
- Almonds, cashews and peanuts
- Flaxseed and Chia seeds
- Soybean, sunflower, and canola oils
- Brazil nuts and walnuts
Turmeric has been generating a lot of buzz in recent times.
This yellow spice has many benefits for the brain and is a key ingredient of curry powder.
Curcumin, which is the active ingredient of turmeric, has been shown that it can cross the blood-brain border. This means that it can enter the brain directly and benefit the cells ( 21Trusted source).
It is a powerful antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory compound. This compound has been shown to have the following brain benefits.
- Curcumin may improve memory. It could also clear amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark for this disease ( 21Trusted source, 22Trusted source).
- Reduces depression. Curcumin increases serotonin levels and dopamine. One study found that curcumin can improve anxiety and depression symptoms when combined with standard treatment for depression ( 23Trusted source, 24-Trusted Source).
- Enhances the growth of new brain cells. Although it may delay the onset of age-related mental decline, more research is required ( 25Trusted source, 26Trusted source).
Remember that studies often use high-concentrated curcumin supplements at doses of 500-2,000 mg daily. This is a lot more curcumin than people eat when they use turmeric as a spice. Turmeric is made up only 3-6% curcumin ( 27Trusted Source).
To get the benefits of turmeric in your food, you might need to take a curcumin supplement with doctor’s supervision.
Broccoli contains powerful plant compounds such as antioxidants ( 28Trusted Source).
It is also high in vitamin K. A 1-cup (1160-gram) of cooked broccoli ( 29Trusted Source) contains more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDI).
This fat-soluble vitamin is vital for the formation of sphingolipids. A type of fat densely packed in brain cells ( 30Trusted Source).
A few studies have shown that older adults who consume more vitamin K have better memory and cognitive function ( 31Trusted source, 32Trusted source).
Broccoli contains more than vitamin K. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This may help to protect the brain from damage ( 33Trusted source).
The pumpkin seeds are rich in powerful antioxidants that protect your body and brain against free-radical harm ( 34).
They are also a great source of magnesium and iron as well as zinc and copper ( 35Trusted Source).
Each one of these nutrients is essential for brain health.
- Zinc. This is a vital element for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiencies have been linked to many neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s, depression, and Parkinson’s disease ( 36Trusted source, 37Trusted source, 38Trusted source).
- Magnesium. Magesium is vital for memory and learning. Low magnesium levels can lead to many neurological disorders, such as migraine, depression, epilepsy, and other mental illnesses ( 39Trusted source, 40Trusted source).
- Copper. The brain uses copper to control nerve signals. Copper levels that are too low can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s ( 41Trusted source, 42Trusted source).
- Iron. iron deficiency can often be characterized by brain fog or impaired brain function ( 43Trusted source).
These micronutrients are more important than the pumpkin seeds themselves. Adding pumpkin seeds to your diet is a good way to reap the benefits of these micronutrients.
Eggs provide a source of many nutrients that are important for brain health. These include vitamins B6 and B12 as well folate and choline ( 64Trusted Source).
Choline (65Trusted source, 64Trusted source, 67Trusted source) is an essential micronutrient your body uses in order to make acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter helps regulate mood, memory, and behavior.
Two studies from earlier years showed that higher intakes choline are linked to memory and mental function ( 68TrustedSource, 69Trusted Source).
However, many people don’t get enough choline from their diets.
Choline is easily obtained by eating eggs, as egg yolks are one of the highest concentrations of this nutrient.
A healthy intake of choline should be 425 mg for women and 550 mg for men. Only one egg yolk contains 112 mg ( 65TrustedSource65TrustedSource).
The B vitamins in eggs play a number of roles in brain health.
They may slow down the development of dementia in older adults by lowering homocysteine levels, which is an amino acid linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia ( 70Trusted source, 71Trusted source).
Folate and B12 deficiencies have been linked to depression ( 72Trusted Source).
Folate deficiencies are common in dementia patients older than 65, and studies have shown that supplementing with folic acid can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease ( 73Trusted source, 74Trusted source).
Vitamin B12 plays a role in the production of brain chemicals and regulation of sugar levels ( 72Trusted source).
It is important to note that very little research has been done on the relationship between eggs and brain health. There is however research that supports the brain-boosting benefits from specific nutrients found within eggs.