7 Foods That Feed Your Brain

Michele Deppe


Add these brain-loving superfoods to your diet to promote mental clarity, good mood, and support optimal brain health.

1. Leafy green vegetables

Pile on leafy greens, like lettuce, collards, kale, and spinach. Greens provide brain-healthy nutrients, including phylloquinone, lutein, and folate. According to a 2018 study published in Neurology, eating greens preserves memory and slows age-related cognitive decline. The study followed people aged 80 and above for five years. They ate approximately one serving of greens daily (a little over ½ cup cooked greens, or 1 cup raw lettuce). The elderly participants scored so well on the study’s “mental gymnastics” that they tested about 11 years younger, brain-wise. 

2. Berries

Brightly colored blackberries, blueberries, bilberries, black currants, mulberries, and strawberries are nutritional powerhouses. These delicious fruits nourish the brain with vitamin C, vitamin E, and health-promoting substances like antioxidants, flavonoids, and phytochemicals. Berries have brain-protective abilities, helping to fend off diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and premature aging. Need help with homework or problem-solving on the job? Berries may help clear “brain fog,” enhance motor skills and memory, and even alleviate behavioral problems by relieving stress, according to research published in Neural Regeneration Research.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a sunny-colored spice that may help increase brain function, according to research. The popular seasoning contains curcumin, a substance with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It also encourages higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is a critical neuroprotein that helps clear the brain of harmful plaques. These abnormal protein fragments can cause damage by clumping together between nerve cells.

4. Mushrooms 

Easy-to-find grocery varieties of mushrooms, including cremini, white or “button,” portobello, shiitake, oyster, or enoki, contain essential nutrients for the brain. Mushrooms are amazingly supportive for people eating a plant-based diet, providing selenium, potassium, copper, iron, choline, B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D. An extensive study followed 663 seniors in Singapore who ate more than two cups of cooked mushrooms weekly. The research concluded that the participantsdramatically reduced their risk of cognitive impairment and language problems. 

5. Nuts and Seeds 

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts, along with seeds, including sunflower, pumpkin, flax, hemp, and chia, are excellent sources of protein and fats for the brain. Crunchy and convenient, nuts and seeds are high in vitamin E, which may contribute to improved cognition and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a survey published in the journal Nutrients

6. Cruciferous Vegetables

Eating your veggies lowers your risk for brain problems, according to numerous studies. Load your plate with broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables contain antioxidants, flavonoids, and glucosinolates (sulfur-containing compounds) that work hard to protect the brain.

7. Whole Grains

Brain-healthy sources of vitamin E include whole grains, like wild rice, brown rice, kasha, whole-wheat couscous, barley, bulgur wheat, quinoa, and oatmeal. Look for high-quality flour, bread, and pasta that are labeled “100% whole wheat” or “whole grain.” Consuming whole grains provides vital B vitamins and other nutrients that reduce brain inflammation. Low-glycemic grains, such as barley, oat bran, and whole wheat, can help release glucose slowly, improving concentration and alertness.

Michele Deppe is a freelance writer based in upstate South Carolina.

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