Your brain is a really big deal.
And, when you achieve the big five-O, you might start to notice that the changes are not only happening in your body but your brain too.
When you think “getting lucky” means going into another room and actually remembering what you went there for, you might be inspired to look for ways be nicer to your brain.
You brain is very much like the rest of your body, if you stay active it stays strong – that is going to be for another post.
And just like your body, your brain works better if it gets good nutrition.
What you eat plays a huge roll in the your brain health.
Nutrition can help with specific mental functions like memory and concentration.
Here are 15 brain foods to keep your brain running strong.
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Yeah I know that water is not technically a food, but it goes down the same pipe and it is essential to good health generally and your brain especially.
Your body overall is about 60% water so it seems pretty obvious that you need to drink enough water.
All of your body’s processes work better with good hydration.
Your brain is more than 80% water and it is also more sensitive to dehydration.
Along with slowing mental processes and causing “brain fog,” dehydration can actually cause your brain tissue to shrink.
Being well hydrated on-the-other-hand will improve your memory, energy, focus and keep you thinking clearly.
So the big question is: How much water should you drink?
You know the old thing that doctors used to say, “drink 8, 8 oz glasses per day, (that is 1/2 gallon).
As a place-to-start, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.
Here’s what I recommend:
- If you’re thirsty drink water. trust your body – thirst is there for a reason.
- When you’re not thirsty anymore stop.
- When it’s hot or your exercising or some other sweaty pursuit drink more.
- If you don’t feel thirsty but your head hurts – have a glass of water for most people too much water will just make you pee more often.
- That’s all.
A quick note on bottled water: Most bottled water is just filtered tap water.
If you live in the United States most tap water is safe to drink, and if you’re water does not taste great, get a water filter,
It’s much cheaper and much better for the environment.
In addition to being delicious and tremendously versatile, avocado are also good for your brain.
They are full of healthy fat that contribute to healthy blood flow and that is great for your brain.
Avocados have vitamins C, E, K, B5, B6, B9 – antioxidants and metabolic boosters.
They also have more potassium and magnesium than a banana.
These electrolytes are especially important to a healthy brain.
Mmmmm Chocolate. Just the thought of it makes my brain feel better – for real though in addition to being among the most delicious treats on the planet, dark chocolate is good for your brain.
Antioxidant flavonoids in chocolate (non-Dutch process cocoa) can improve blood flow to your brain.
Chocolate stimulates the release of Oxytocin – A mood enhancing endorphin that creates the feeling of being in love.
And one more thing – chocolate has caffeine which your brain is just going to love.
Some guidelines about chocolate:
- The darker the better – more than 70% cocoa is considered “dark.”
- Try not to overdo it. About an ounce a day is recommended.
- Enjoy your chocolate – If you don’t like dark chocolate have something you do like.
A day without coffee is like a day ….. actually I don’t know.
I don’t have days without coffee and I don’t plan to start. So, I was very happy to learn of the brain health benefits of a good cup-of-Joe.
Coffee – like chocolate – is filled with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and neutralize free radicals in your whole body including your brain.
Daily consumption of caffeine has been shown to lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cataracts, kidney stones and even some kinds of cancer.
- 4 cups per day is about the right amount for most people (about 400 mg caffeine)
- For some people coffee can interfere with sleep – if this is you, don’t drink coffee after noon.
- Avoid sugar in your coffee – if you really need it to be sweet use stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol sweeteners.
- Don’t use Sucralose (Splenda) or Aspartame (Equal and NutraSweet), these are toxic and especially bad for the health of your brain.
Reishi Mushrooms have been used for their medicinal properties for hundreds of years at the very least.
For the last few decades they have caught the eye of scientists who have discovered many bio-active compounds in reishi mushrooms that can extend life and slow aging in the brain.
You can get reishi powder and use it to make soups and lattes and such.
Or if you don’t like the taste – it is a little bitter and tree-barky – you can get it in capsules.
I bet you didn’t know that cabbage and broccoli are cousins.
They are both cruciferous veggies along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy collards, watercress, and believe it not radishes.
Cruciferous veggies have lots of fiber, and are packed with powerful compounds including antioxidants.
The fiber supports the good bacteria in your gut, and that good bacteria is instrumental in absorbing the micro-nutrients as well as removing toxins.
The Raw Broccoli Bonus
Eat raw broccoli and chew it well or chop it or blend it an hour before cooking.
There is a compound called sulforaphane which is made when two other compounds – myrosinase and glucoraphanin – are combined.
Myrosinase and glucoraphanin are in raw broccoli and chopping or chewing it combines to make the sulforaphane.
If you cook it before you chop it you will only get about a tenth of the benefit.
Colorful Fruits and Veggies
Some science suggests that the benefit of eating colorful fruits and veggies is the reason that humans developed color vision.
Lavishly colored things like peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkin have huge amounts of antioxidants that protect your brain by neutralizing the oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
Things like beets naturally contain nitrates that your body converts into nitrous oxide that relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure.
Brightly colored berries also contain a flavonoid called anthocyanidin that concentrates in the hippocampus where it aids in memory, learning and protects from oxidation and inflammation.
Deep green leafy veggies, have more nutrition – especially the brain healthy antioxidants – than most other veggies.
The USDA says just 2 to 3 servings per week can lower your cancer risk.
So eat your salad, lettuce, spinach, endive and micro-greens are good for your brain, and they can help you remember some other deliciousness like beet green and Swiss chard.
As body parts go, none is more susceptible to damage from free radicals than your brain so you will want to get enough antioxidants.
The antioxidants in pomegranates or the juice thereof can neutralize free radicals and protect your brain from damage.
Cranberries and citrus fruit have many of the same antioxidants, but not as much.
Nuts and Seeds
Nut and seeds are full of fiber, protein, healthy and generally not too many carbs.
Flax is one of the best sources of linolenic acid which your cerebral cortex needs to process sensory stimuli.
One study showed that just adding walnuts to diet resulted in significant improvement in learning skills, memory, motor development and reduced anxiety.
Chia seeds have a bunch of omega 3 and a lots of antioxidants.
Pumpkin seeds are also full of antioxidants as well as minerals – copper, iron, magnesium and zinc.
There are more nuts and seeds – almonds, macadamia, pecans, pistachio, hazelnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, quinoa, hemp and the list goes on.
You should be able to find one you like.
Beans beans good for your heart – you know how the rhyme goes – turns out they are good for your brain too.
All beans – but especially lentils are full of folate and copper and molybdenum which are important for metabolism and waste removal.
Beans can also help maintain blood glucose levels because there is lots of soluble fiber.
Keeping your blood sugar and insulin at healthy levels helps keep blood pressure and inflammation in check.
Normal blood sugar levels are less than 100 mg/dL after not eating (fasting) for at least eight hours. And they’re less than 140 mg/dL two hours after eating.
Also if you are trying to eat less carbs and/or less often, beans are lower carb and contain enough protein fiber and fat that they will keep you full for longer.
Fatty fish are tops among great brain foods.
Fatty fish like salmon, trout and sardines are full of brain healthy omega 3 fatty acids – yes plural, there are three major Omega 3’s – ALA, EPA, and DHA.
It’s the EPA and DHA that are good for the brain, and the highest concentrations are in fatty fish.
Your brain is about 60% fat, and about half of that is the DHA and EPA Omega 3.
Your brain uses EPA and DHA to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential to learning and memory.
Sufficient EPA and DHA can improve your mood and fight depression.
Additionally EPA and DHA have been shown to slow age related metal decline and stop or slow the the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
ALA is technically an omega 3, but it needs to be converted in your body to either EPA or DHA before it is useful as a nutrient. Your body is not very efficient at this conversion.
if you are going to eat fatty fish get the wild caught (not farm raised) it has more of the omega 3 and less Omega 6.
Most of us get too much omega 6. We need some, but too much omega 6 can cause inflammation in both your body and your brain.
Americans have had an on-again-off-again-relationship with eggs for about the if you would like a healthy brain you might want to get on with eating eggs.
Eggs are a great source of some nutrients that your brain needs, including vitamins B6, B12 and folate.
The other big contribution that eggs make to brain health is a micronutrient called choline
Your body then uses the choline to synthesize a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine.
Most people don’t get the recommended 425 mg per day for women and 550 mg for men.
The yolk of one egg has 112 mg of choline, and the whites are nearly 100% protein.
Keep your brain healthy have an omelet.
Seaweed (like Nori)
Yup this is the stuff that they wrap sushi in, or you can get in little sheets in a snack size pack.
Seaweed is full of vitamins and minerals and fiber just like most leafy green veggies.
Nori also contains large amounts of brain healthy antioxidants.
But the big benefit of seaweed is that it is one of very few plant sources of the DHA and EPA types of Omega 3 fatty acids.
These are the anti-inflammatory Omega 3 that can be used in the brain.
Spices are good for adding flavor. If that were the only benefit that would be enough for me, but there is so much more.
Cinnamon aids in digestion reduces inflammation and it has a bunch of phenolic compounds that are potent antioxidants.
Turmeric is a well known anti-inflammatory.
Ginger improves cognitive function.
And of course the capsaicin in chili peppers can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and the formation of blood clots.
If you’re a tea drinker keep it up and if you’re not you may want to start.
Freshly brewed tea is full of brain healthy antioxidants.
Studies link black tea to everything from increased energy to stress relief and a better immune system.
Green tea has a lot of the same benefits as black tea with the addition of some anti-oxidants called catechins which studies have shown can slow the mental decline caused by aging.
So enjoy a cup of tea, it will make you feel good and it’s oh-so-good for you.