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12 superfoods to support your brain health

Nutrition · Jun 29, 2021

Your brain controls almost everything you do, so it’s essential to keep it in peak working condition. Luckily, good nutrition can have a substantial impact on your brainpower: eating the right types of foods can have an effect on preserving cognitive abilities, including memory1, decision-making ability and mental response time2, and may be associated with better mental health, including mood.3

When it comes to eating for optimal brain health, focus on a varied menu that’s largely plant-based, and incorporates heart healthy fats from fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils. Try to incorporate these 12 superfoods into your diet to fuel your brainpower:

Blueberries – Berries, such as blueberries are rich in antioxidants that protect brain cells from oxidative damage and reduce inflammation, which can help to slow cognitive decline.4

Spinach – Green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and arugula, are sources of folate, vitamin E, carotenoids, and flavonoids -  all important nutrients that may play a role in lowering the risk of cognitive decline during aging.5

Salmon – When people talk about brain foods, salmon is often at the top of the list. The brain is the fattiest organ in the body, and foods rich in omega 3, such as fatty fish, help lower triglyceride levels and blood pressure, thereby keeping blood vessels healthy and brain cells flexible. Looking for a non-fish alternative to omega 3s? Try walnuts, hemp hearts, chia seeds, or ground flax seeds.

Beets – Certain vegetables are high in dietary nitrates, including beets, spinach, arugula, fennel, radishes, chinese cabbage and parsley, which can dilate blood vessels and may allow for more oxygenated blood to reach the brain.

Barley and chickpeas – Glucose is the brain’s preferred source of fuel; however, glucose fuel stores are small, which is why we need a continuous supply. Whole grains and legumes like barley and chickpeas provide the brain with a slow, sustained release of glucose. Legumes are also rich in folic acid, which may help cognitive functioning.

Extra virgin olive oil – When consumed in moderation and in place of saturated and trans fats, healthy monounsaturated fats, such as extra virgin olive oil and avocado oil, can help to maintain cognitive function by optimizing blood cholesterol levels.

Eggs and chicken – Eggs and chicken contain a B vitamin necessary to produce neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood, and allow for communication among brain cells and may even enhance brain cell production throughout childhood. Pairing proteins with carbohydrates at meals also results in a slow, steady supply of glucose for the brain.

Sesame seeds – Sesame seeds are rich in tyrosine, which is needed to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that keeps the brain alert and memory sharp.

Rosemary– Chemical compounds found in rosemary have been shown to have antioxidant effects, working to protect brain cells from oxidative damage, and improving memory in cell and rodent studies.6

Bonus brain tip: hydrate

Staying hydrated facilitates the transport of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. This helps to improve concentration and cognition, balance energy levels, maintain memory function, and prevent headaches.

Bonus brain tip: eat breakfast and eat regularly

Your brain is constantly working to sense, process, think and move. As a result, it requires an enormous amount of energy – twice as many calories as other cells in the body. Help wake up your brain with breakfast, and try not to go more than five hours without eating.

Remember, what’s good for your body also tends to be good for your brain.

Looking for more personalized help to improve your diet? Our nutrition team is here for you.


1 Morris, M.C., Tangney, C.C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F.M., Barnes, L.L., Bennet, D.A., & Aggarwal, N.T. (2016). MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement., 11(9), 1015-1022. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4581900/pdf/nihms693732.pdf

2 Tangney, C.C., Li, H., Barnes, L., Schneider, J.A., Bennett, D.A., & Morris, M.C. (2014). Relation of DASH- and Mediterranean-like dietary patterns to cognitive decline in older persons. American Academy of Neurology, 83(16), 1410-1416. Retrieved from: https://n.neurology.org/content/83/16/1410.short

3 Firth, J., Gangwisch, J.E., Borsini, A., Wootton, R.E., & Mayer, E.A. (2020). Food and mood: How do diet and nutrition affect mental wellbeing? BMJ, 369. Retrieved from: https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2382.short

4 Morris, M.C., Tangney, C.C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F.M., Barnes, L.L., Bennet, D.A., & Aggarwal, N.T. (2016). MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement., 11(9), 1015-1022. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4581900/pdf/nihms693732.pdf

5 Morris, M.C., Tangney, C.C., Wang, Y., Sacks, F.M., Barnes, L.L., Bennet, D.A., & Aggarwal, N.T. (2016). MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement., 11(9), 1015-1022. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4581900/pdf/nihms693732.pdf

6 Habtemariam, S. The therapeutic potential of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) diterpenes for Alzheimer’s Disease. Evid Based complement Alternat Med. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4749867/

Authored by:
Linda Cuda
Registered Dietitian

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