Your brain is among some of your most vital organs, so keeping it healthy should be everyone’s priority.
Diseases of the brain can be impacted by lifestyle factors, including your diet.
Some of the most common brain diseases include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Other types of dementia
- Brain cancer
- Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
- Mental disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA)
While it’s impossible to control every risk factor for these types of diseases of the brain, it is possible to do the best you can with a healthy diet.
So which foods are best for your brain health, you might be wondering? We have the answers, so keep reading!
10 Brain-Healthy Foods
1) Fatty fish
Some of the most brain-healthy nutrients you can consume are omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat found in fatty fish, and some plant foods.
Eating omega-3 fatty acids is linked with lower levels of beta-amyloid, a peptide that can cause abnormal clumping in your brain leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
Not only can omega-3 fatty acids help increase the clearance of harmful beta-amyloid peptides, but they can also help reduce the risk of blood clots, which could cause a stroke if the blood clot blocks some of the blood flow to your brain.
Another way the omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish can promote brain health is by promoting healthy blood pressure levels!
According to studies, chronic high blood pressure leads to poorer brain health, which is why it’s essential to watch your blood pressure levels and work to keep them in check.
Fatty fish are among the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which can also help reduce inflammation which can lead to unfavorable brain changes.
Some fatty fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids for brain health include:
While all types of fruit are healthy and are rich in specific nutrients, berries are an especially brain-healthy fruit.
Berries are rich in phytonutrients (specific beneficial compounds in plants) which are associated with better cognition and preventing age-related neurodegeneration (the destruction of healthy parts of your brain).
Anthocyanins, a specific type of phytochemical found in dark berries like blackberries and blueberries, have a neuroprotective effect.
That means that regularly eating berries might help protect your brain against damage that can lead to memory problems and other signs of reduced brain function that can occur over time.
Some of the most brain-healthy berries to add to your meals and snacks include:
- Black elderberries
3) Vitamin K-rich foods
You might have heard of vitamin K in the context of blood clotting, but did you know it can also boost your brain health?
Vitamin K is an important factor in making sphingolipids, an important component of the brain cell membrane.
Sphingolipids are an important part of your brain health; altered expression of sphingolipids is associated with neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration.
Note: If you’re taking a blood thinner called Coumadin (warfarin), you’ll need to consult with your healthcare provider about how to safely eat vitamin K since it interacts with Coumadin.
Foods rich in vitamin K are primarily green leafy vegetables and include:
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Beet greens
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Kiwi fruit
4) Vitamin D-rich foods
Vitamin D is a nutrient that plays a role in several aspects of your health (mental health, immune health, and more!).
Vitamin D in its active form (vitamin D3) has been shown in studies to have neuroprotective effects, which means it might protect you against some of the markers of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases of your brain.
It’s important to note that vitamin D comes in two forms: D2 and D3. Your body can convert vitamin D2 into vitamin D3, which is considered its active form and the form associated with better brain health.
There aren’t many foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D, which is why many people choose to take a vitamin D supplement, especially if you live in an area that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, which helps your body make vitamin D.
Some food sources of vitamin D to include in a brain-healthy diet include:
- Canned fish
- Certain types of fortified non-dairy milk, such as soy milk
- Egg yolks
- Fortified cereals
- Liver, or liver oils (such as cod liver oil)
- Milk fortified with vitamin D (usually whole milk, or “vitamin D milk”)
5) Green tea
While it’s not food, we can’t leave green tea out of this list! Green tea is known for its antioxidant content, which helps reduce inflammation.
Not all green tea is created equally, though. Be sure to choose unsweetened or lightly sweetened green tea since sweetened versions can be just as high (or higher) in sugar than sodas and other sugary beverages
How does sugar impact your brain health, and why should you limit it?
Excessive sugar consumption among older adults has been associated with poorer cognitive outcomes.
Not only that, but eating a high-sugar diet if you have diabetes can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, which is also known as “type 3 diabetes”.
6) Magnesium-rich foods
Magnesium plays a big role in several aspects of brain health. First, magnesium might help reduce symptoms of anxiety, which impacts around 4% of the world’s population (those with an official diagnosis of anxiety disorder – which is likely underreported).
Magnesium is also an important facilitator of healthy nerve communication and neuromuscular connection.
That means that magnesium can help your brain better communicate with your body and better send signals within the brain and to other parts of your body.
Magnesium deficiency is estimated to impact up to 20% (if not closer to 30%) of people in developed countries!
So how can you protect yourself against magnesium deficiency while also improving your brain health?
Aim to include some of these magnesium-rich foods (listed in order of highest magnesium to lower amounts) in your diet, such as:
- Pumpkin seeds (one ounce provides almost 40% of the daily value for magnesium!)
- Chia seeds
- Black beans
- Edamame (soybean pods)
- Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, etc.
7) Plant-based omega-3 fatty acids
Seeds are not only rich in magnesium, but many of them are great sources of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids.
Plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are important for people who don’t consume animal products, such as vegans or certain types of vegetarians.
Some of the richest plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Chia seeds
- Algal oil
- Hemp seed
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Walnuts and walnut oil
8) Vitamin E-rich foods
Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant, which can help protect your brain cells against damage.
Studies show that higher levels of vitamin E are associated with better cognitive performance!
Studies also show that vitamin E intake is associated with the death of certain types of brain cancer cells that are being actively treated.
How can you get vitamin E in your diet? Here are some of the best foods to include in a brain-healthy diet:
- Wheat germ oil
- Sunflower, safflower, and soybean oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanuts, peanut butter
- Beet greens, collard greens, spinach
- Red bell pepper
9) Foods high in beta-carotene
Like vitamin E, beta-carotene is a natural antioxidant. Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A by your liver, and vitamin A is also an important antioxidant.
According to a study on mice induced with Alzheimer’s, beta-carotene is thought to improve the outcomes in Alzheimer’s disease as well as help enhance memory.
Beta-carotene is also considered a phytochemical and is richest in orange-colored produce as well as other plant-based foods.
Some of the best sources of beta-carotene include:
- Butternut squash
- Sweet potatoes
Caffeine is often thought of as being bad for you, but that’s not always the case. Unless it’s contraindicated for other health reasons, consuming caffeine is inversely related to Parkinson’s disease. Animal studies have also found caffeine to be neuroprotective!
Like green tea, not all caffeine is created equally! Avoid sugar-laden caffeinated beverages like energy drinks and sodas, and instead choose lower-sugar options like unsweetened or lightly sweetened teas and coffees.
You can also get a dose of caffeine from dark chocolate with high cocoa content (at least 70%), which is lower in sugar than “regular” chocolate like milk chocolate, semisweet chocolate, and some types of dark chocolate.
|Brain-healthy nutrient||General food sources|
|Omega-3 fatty acids||Fatty fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, algal oil, cod liver oil|
|Anthocyanins||Dark berries like blackberries, chokeberries, blueberries, etc.|
|Vitamin K||Dark leafy green vegetables|
|Vitamin D||Egg yolks, salmon, fortified foods, and drinks like cow’s milk|
|Magnesium||Nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds)|
|Vitamin E||Vegetable oils, nuts, seeds|
|Beta-carotene||Dark orange vegetables & leafy green vegetables|
|Caffeine||Tea, coffee, and dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa solids|
Ben’s Natural Brain Supplement: Mind & Memory
Mind & Memory is designed to help prevent cognitive decline, boost working memory, improve focus and concentration, and reverse the effects of brain fog.
Brain-healthy foods are those that contain antioxidants and other nutrients shown to help improve brain function and/or reduce the risk of brain diseases.
Some of the most important nutrients in a brain-healthy diet are omega-3 fatty acids; vitamins D, E, and K; magnesium; and antioxidants in the form of beta-carotene, anthocyanins, and those found in green tea.