We used to think that brain diseases were the result of getting older or solely limited to genetic impairments, however, we now know that’s not true at all and that brain diseases of multiple kinds are very easy to either prevent or prolong by decades.
Brain Health and Diet: They’re More Strongly Related Than You Think
Research over the last decade has shown that brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, general memory loss, ADHD, ADD, some forms of seizures, and a host of other health issues associated with neurological impairment are all strongly related to what we eat, or most importantly, don’t eat.
Foods such as refined sugar and refined grains, red meat, trans fats from foods such as processed snacks and vegetable oils, fried food and fast food, and foods with artificial colors have all been strongly related to declining brain health and even forms of brain disease such as those mentioned above.
Thankfully, there are a number of foods you can eat that not only support your brain health but also help prevent memory loss and decline, mood disorders, lack of focus, attention deficit issues, and many others that are easy enough to add to your diet.
So add these 25 nutrient-dense foods that improve brain health to your plate, and you might just be surprised at how quickly you notice a difference in the way you feel, think, and live!
Apples are high in the antioxidant quercetin which has been shown to improve everything from allergies to inflammation and even brain disorders, believe it or not. Apples are also a great source of a special fiber known as pectin which helps remove unhealthy types of cholesterol from the body. This is important because recent studies show that plaque that builds up in the brain from unhealthy levels of cholesterol may be one of the most common reasons for Alzheimer’s disease.
Choose from any varieties of apples you enjoy, but you may want to consider buying them organic since regular apples are high in pesticides linked to brain impairments and severe health conditions.
Oatmeal is rich in B vitamins, iron, protein, and magnesium which are all essential nutrients you need for optimal brain function. These assist with focus, blood flow to the brain, mood, and overall neurotransmitter support. And although oatmeal is well-known for its heart-healthy properties, the popular whole grain is also a valuable food to eat daily in order to improve longevity and brain health.
Add some oatmeal to your day whether you enjoy it in its whole grain form for breakfast as a hot porridge or you can add it to a smoothie for extra fiber, protein, and creaminess! Just choose plain oatmeal instead of those with added sugars and artificial ingredients for the most healthy choice.
Berries have antioxidants within them that have been shown to significantly improve brain health, and studies have also shown that these antioxidants in berries even dramatically reduce the rates of Alzheimer’s disease.
Choose from a variety of berries when you go about adding them to your daily diet. Blackberries, blueberries, whole (unsweetened) cranberries, strawberries, and raspberries are all great sources of Vitamin C also helps reduce stress and reduce inflammation. Berries are also low in sugars and can help reduce high insulin levels associated with diabetes, as a bonus.
4. Ground Flax
Slightly nutty and sort of sweet, flaxseeds are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and trace minerals such as magnesium and manganese that you need for healthy brain function. In fact, the omega-3’s in flaxseeds, (which are known as ALA omega-3 fats), have even been shown to reduce oxidative stress linked to age-related memory loss and inflammation related to brain disorders.
Flax is also a great source of fiber that you need for healthy blood sugar levels and digestive health; just be sure to eat your flaxseeds ground versus whole so you’ll be able to digest the nutrients they contain.
Leafy greens are one of the most important and overlooked foods for improving your brain health because they’re packed with important nutrients that help improve blood flow to the brain including iron and B vitamins. The Vitamin C found in greens is also essential for reducing oxidative and physical stress.
Add some greens to a smoothie, eat a salad each day, or cook up some kale or spinach with some fish for dinner. They’re not only great for your brain but also the rest of your body too!
Salmon is one of the best foods you can choose when it comes to selecting foods that support your brain health because of its vast nutritional profile. First off, salmon is one of the best sources of lean protein, and it’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that you need for optimal brain support. Wild salmon is also a great source of magnesium, Vitamin D, calcium, B vitamins, and Vitamin E which support your overall heart and brain by reducing inflammation and poor focus.
Salmon is easy to include in your diet whether at breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but if you’re not into salmon, opt for halibut or tuna which are similar in their nutritional benefits.
7. Peanut Butter
Plain peanut butter is rich in B vitamins, protein, magnesium, monounsaturated fats, fiber, iron, manganese, Vitamin E, and zinc that all support your brain health, heart health, and energy levels too. In other words, it’s one of the best and most affordable nutrient-dense foods you can eat for optimal brain health.
The key to choosing a great peanut butter is to look for varieties without added sugars, oils, or excessive levels of sodium. Read the ingredient list to make sure that the only ingredient in your peanut butter is peanuts, and opt for organic peanut butter to avoid the risk of pesticides and other chemicals found in regular peanut butter.
Walnuts are commonly linked to brain support because they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, and Vitamin E—all crucial nutrients that are needed for preventing memory loss.
Walnuts are also a great source of monounsaturated fats consistently linked to better brain health, heart health, and metabolic health. Finally, walnuts are also a natural source of melatonin so they also improve your brain health by helping you get sufficient levels of sleep.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin C, magnesium, Vitamin A, and antioxidants shown to improve mood, memory, and stress-related issues. They also help reduce inflammation associated with brain, heart, and joint decline making them an important food to eat for overall health.
Enjoy plain sweet potatoes (versus fried) either baked or roasted and pair them with some lean protein and greens for an easy and healthy dinner in just minutes!
Asparagus is a great source of amino acids needed for memory and function, and it’s a great source of folate needed for optimal brain support. It’s also high in antioxidants shown to reduce oxidative stress related to aging and brain decline. Finally, asparagus is a wonderful source of Vitamin B6 which reduces stress levels and improves your mood quickly since it’s easily absorbed and assimilated in the body.
Eggs are packed with brain-boosting nutrients such as Vitamin D, choline, protein, B vitamins, and Vitamin E. They’re also one of the best natural sources of Vitamin B12 which is essential to brain health and focus, not to mention overall health.
Studies have also shown that adding an egg to your diet can reduce your risk for depression and memory-related brain diseases and disorders. This is due to the way eggs uniquely support neurotransmitter support that is needed for an optimal mood and memory function.
Everyone loves avocados and it’s no surprise why! These healthy, fatty fruits are packed with nutrients that support your brain including Vitamin E, monounsaturated fats, oleic acid, Vitamin E, magnesium, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin B6, chlorophyll, and even protein too! Each of these work together to improve focus, memory, reduce inflammation, and aid in overall neurotransmitter support.
Enjoy some raw avocado each day either at breakfast, lunch, or dinner; it pairs well with either fruit, protein, greens, and a variety of vegetables making it easy to work a little avocado into each day!
13. Sunflower Seeds or Sunflower Seed Butter
Sunflower seeds are a great source of Vitamin E, one of the most important nutrients you need to prevent free radical damage and inflammation that are commonly linked to brain decline. They’re also packed with minerals and B vitamins needed for brain function such as thiamin, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, copper, zinc, folate, and even amino acids.
You can enjoy raw sunflower seeds or plain sunflower seed butter (Sunbutter) by adding some seeds to a salad or soup, snacking on them raw, or using sunflower seed butter just as you would peanut butter.
14. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, iron, protein, magnesium, and omega-3 fats which all nourish the brain. They’re also rich in the amino acid tryptophan that can help relax the mind and ease anxiety. Pumpkin seeds are also alkaline and a great food to balance inflammation. Eat them raw to gain the most nutritional benefits of these powerful little seeds!
Olives are a good source of Vitamin E as well as anti-inflammatory fats that nourish the brain and protect the heart. They’re also low in sugar and very easy on the glycemic index, as a bonus. Olives can help improve brain health by protecting the cells and improving blood flow to the brain (and heart). Enjoy ¼ cup per day, or you can enjoy a tablespoon or two of olive oil instead.
16. Black Beans
Black beans’ dark color denote their incredibly high antioxidant content. These antioxidants protect the brain and may prevent disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease when eaten with a well-balanced diet because they reduce inflammation caused by plaque build-up in the brain.
Black beans are also high in fiber, protein, and are a great source of magnesium and potassium. Eat ½ cup of black beans a few times per week for the most benefits.
17. Almonds or Almond Butter
Almonds are high in B vitamins, protein, magnesium, Vitamin E, zinc, copper, and iron which are all needed for mood and brain health, not to mention heart health and healthy blood sugar levels.
Raw almonds and raw almond butter are also one of the most weight-friendly choices you can choose when it comes to selecting healthy fats to eat, and they’re one of the most common varieties of nuts associated with longevity.
Coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut flour, or fresh coconut meat are all excellent choices when it comes to adding coconut to your diet to support your brain. Coconut is a magnificent food for your brain because of its rich source of MCT fats that improve focus, energy levels, and may even help prevent neurotransmitter decline.
Coconut is also rich in fiber and free of unhealthy types of cholesterol like those found in fried foods and red meat. So, add a little coconut to your diet in place of more unhealthy sources of fat and watch your mood, focus, and memory improve almost immediately before your eyes!
Carrots are rich in a number of trace minerals including magnesium and potassium. Carrots are also loaded with Vitamin C which you need to fight inflammation in every cell of the body, including the brain. The Vitamin A found in carrots is in the form of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts to Vitamin A in the body and helps protect the immune system as well as the heart, brain, and the eyes.
Carrots are also a great food to fight stress which can improve the health of the brain as well as hormone levels. Enjoy them raw or cooked— either way, they’re great for you
Bananas are a great source of the amino acid, tryptophan, as well. They’re also a great source of Vitamin B6, a key vitamin that helps reduce stress, low energy, and inflammation. Bananas are also a great source of magnesium and potassium, two minerals that reduce stress and high blood pressure. Enjoy ripe bananas for the easiest digestibility, and feel free to include them in either raw or cooked form to your day. Bananas taste great with some almond or cashew butter!
Cashews are rich in the nutrients magnesium, potassium, Vitamin B6, several amino acids, and they are also a good source of iron. Cashews can help reduce stress and inflammation, however, it’s important to eat them raw without salt or oil for the most benefits (which makes them less inflammatory).
Raw cashews can also be used in place of dairy and make a delightfully creamy spread. Or, toss them in some oatmeal or a smoothie for an easy way to add some to your day. Just watch your portion sizes of nuts and seeds; while the healthy fats in nuts and seeds are good for you, moderation is still key.
Lentils are a great source of iron, protein, zinc, fiber, and potassium. Each of these nutrients work to keep your body in tip-top shape, but they’re especially supportive to the brain. Minerals help reduce stress in the body that lead to inflammation and anxiety, and lentils are one of the highest mineral-containing legume and grain varieties.
Red lentils tend to be a little sweeter and nuttier than other varieties of lentils, and they’re also generally easier to digest. Enjoy them cooked in a stew or soup with some vegetables for a brain-boosting dinner that is also great for your heart!
23. Wild Rice
Wild rice is actually not a grain, but it’s an aquatic grass that is very easy to digest and highly alkaline. It’s great for your brain because it’s rich in tryptophan, magnesium, and potassium which all reduce stress and inflammation.
Wild rice is also high in dark-pigmented antioxidants that protect the cells and nourish the brain similar to the way that the antioxidants in blueberries and blackberries do. Enjoy wild rice in place of other more inflammatory grains (such as corn or wheat) and you’ll never look back!
Quinoa is a well-known source of plant-based protein that is fantastic for your brain and body. Its high in magnesium, manganese, potassium, and iron which is great for your energy levels as well as your muscle cells. Quinoa’s B vitamin and magnesium content, along with its protein content, make it one of the best grain-like seeds for your brain too. It’s a great mood-boosting food, but be sure you soak and rinse it first so that it digests optimally.
25. Dark Chocolate
Raw cacao and dark chocolate are some of the best sources of monounsaturated fats, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins such as chromium that you need for optimal brain support. They’re also a rich source of the natural stimulant known as theobromine which has been shown to improve not just your mood, but also focus and energy levels as well.
Raw chocolate, (or raw cacao), is the healthiest option when it comes to selecting varieties of chocolate to benefit you the most. Choose from raw cacao nibs or powder, and add a tablespoon or two to your morning smoothie, some yogurt, or a bowl of chia pudding. If you prefer a more traditional form of dark chocolate, choose a dark chocolate bar with no added sugar and look for varieties with at least 85% cacao content.
Putting it All Together:
Each of these foods will help support your brain health due to their unique nutrient profiles that junk foods and processed foods can never provide. Just remember to eat a variety of healthy foods in your diet so your brain and body get the most benefits as possible, and be sure to avoid inflammatory foods such as refined sugar and refined grains, red meat, and vegetable oils for optimal brain health. Your body and mind are counting on you, so give them both your best!