Best Foods For Brain Health
You’ve probably heard the phrase “you are what you eat.”
This obviously isn’t literal. Eating a box of Krispy Kremes won’t turn you into a creamy delicious donut… unfortunately. But those tasty treats may not provide much in terms of sustenance—which is reflected in how much energy your body has.
That’s what the phrase really means: What you eat can significantly impact every aspect of your life, from energy levels to brain health.
Food for Brain Power: What Should You Eat?
Different types of cognitive function reach their peaks at different moments in our lives. Some, like short-term memory, peak in your 20s, but others, like recognizing the emotional state of others, peak in your 40s. This is why it’s important to maintain a good mental fitness throughout your life. Although your genetics has some say in the matter, your mental fitness is tied to the decisions you make around your health. Much like a muscle, exercise and proper nutrition allow your brain to feel its best.
So, what food is good for the brain? Your brain needs a well-rounded, clean eating diet that includes various fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, and healthy proteins. These foods contain the building blocks of a healthy, active mind. This type of healthy eating is sometimes called the mind diet. This guide to healthy food for your brain will blow your mind (and also fuel it).
Building Blocks of Brain Health
As you create a diet to support cognitive function, incorporate the food groups that have the following nutritional components:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Omega-3s (found in fatty fish, flax seeds, walnuts and soy) are polyunsaturated fatty acids that have long been linked to brain health. Your brain uses them to repair and build connections between brain and nerve cells, which are essential for memory and learning. Certain studies indicate that omega-3s have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can lead to healthier brain cells and mental well-being.
- Probiotics – Taking probiotics is an effective way to support your gut health. But did you know that they can also have a significant positive impact on your brain’s cognitive function? This is thanks to what scientists call “gut-brain axis.” Your gut produces neurotransmitters used by the brain to relay information, including serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—all of which play vital roles in regulating brain activity and mood.
By taking a probiotic, you can support your gut health. So, if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, adding a probiotic like Bio-K+® to your daily health routine is a must.
- B Vitamins – Folate (vitamin B9) is known for its role in the brain of developing babies. Recent studies also showed an important role for folate and vitamins B12 and B6 in maintaining a good brain function while you age. Making sure you avoid any B vitamins deficiency - by consuming a healthy, varied diet - can optimize your brain fitness.
- Antioxidants – Your brain is susceptible to oxidative stress, this worsens as you age. The consequences of oxidative stress on the aging brain can range from brain fog to memory lapses.Certain types of foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and seeds are high in antioxidants and help your body combat oxidative stress and everything that comes with it.
Foods that Are Good for Your Brain
Want to promote cognitive health, improve focus, and drive productivity? Then it’s time to start eating the right foods. Given the nutritional components we’ve just reviewed, consider adding these foods and substances to your diet:
- Fatty fish tend to contain high levels of omega-3s, which can help increase blood flow and fortify the neurons in our brains. Common oily fish include salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines. If you don’t see yourself incorporating fish into your daily diet, there are supplements you can take with high concentrations of omega-3s.
- Coffee – Does your morning routine start with a warm cup of joe? Good. You’re boosting your brain power. This can support brain health while creating other positive effects like:
- Increased alertness
- Higher energy levels
- Heightened concentration
- Improved moods
Some studies have indicated that regular coffee consumption can keep the mind sharp. Is your roommate chastising you for pouring your second cup of java? Just tell them coffee is both energizing and healthy. Keep in mind that excessive coffee consumption can lead to anxiety and even dependence, so drink it in moderation.
- Nuts – A variety of nuts contain high concentrations of both omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. A 2014 study found that a “higher long-term nut intake was associated with better average cognitive status for all cognitive outcomes.” The best nuts for brain power will also contain vitamin E, which is an antioxidant. Your go-to nuts should include:
- Seeds – Seeds contain many of the same natural components as nuts. Subsequently, they have the same brain-boosting capacities. Consider incorporating these and other brain-powering seeds into your own trail mix, including:
- Sunflower seeds
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Cocoa – Sweet-tooths rejoice! Dark chocolates and cocoa powder are chock full of flavonoid antioxidants, and caffeine—which can support brain health. Multiple studies about learning and long-term memory recall have shown that the compounds found in chocolate may enhance memory and boost brain power.
- Berries – Like chocolate, berries are rich in flavonoids that can reduce both inflammation and oxidative stress. A 2014 review found that berries may help:
- Improve cellular communication in the brain
- Reduce inflammation
- Prevent cognitive decline
- Increase brain plasticity
Berries that tend to have high antioxidant concentrations include blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and mulberries.
- Whole grains – It’s time to ditch the white Wonder Bread variants for whole grain breads. Why? Because whole grains are much healthier than refined or processed grains. A loaf of bread that is pure white has been processed and then stripped of most of its vital nutrients—whereas a brown bread will be rich in vitamin E and B. Whole grains you should add to your diet include:
- Brown rice
- Whole-grain bread or pasta
- Leafy greens– Leafy greens are a great addition to any meal. Some examples of leafy greens include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
A Brain Boost with Every Bite: Meal Ideas for Your Brain Health
Filling up your grocery list with these foods is just the first step in boosting your brain power. The next is finding easy and delicious ways to eat (and enjoy!) brain food. Here are just a few meal ideas to help you build your eating routine around fueling up your mental fitness.
Rather than jolt the brain with a dose of coffee, gently wake up with a noggin-fortifying meal of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Here are some breakfast ideas to try:
- Smoked salmon on a multigrain bagel
- Chia pudding with berries and hazelnuts
- Veggie omelet with a cup of coffee
- Oatmeal with fresh fruit and nut butter
Prevent that midday energy crash with an afternoon mind boost. Some healthy meals to consider include:
- Power grain bowl with roasted cauliflower, broccoli, shredded kale, and tofu
- Mashed avocado mixed with olive oil, flax seeds, and lemon juice on top of whole wheat toast
- Whole grain pasta salad with broccoli, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds
A few small snacks between meals can help stave off hunger cravings and offer an opportunity for a dose of brain-loving nutrients. Keep these snacks on hand:
- Brain-happy trail mix with cacao nibs, dried berries, and almonds
- Whole wheat rice cakes
- Small squares of dark chocolate
- Mini tuna salad with whole wheat crackers
At night, our brains are winding down for sleep. To enhance your nighttime ritual and fill your tummy with brain-boosting nutrients, consider these dinner meal ideas:
- Brown rice, baked salmon, and roasted broccoli
- Whole grain pasta with kale and hazelnut pesto
- Grilled mackerel with a side of arugula salad
- Roasted brussel sprouts with walnuts and pomegranate seeds
No day is complete without a little treat. But desserts are often full of processed sugars and nutrients that make you crash. Instead, try these brain-healthy, sweet-tooth-satisfying desserts to offer your mind and taste buds the best:
- Frozen berries and bananas mashed up with dark cocoa chips and cinnamon granola
- Hot chocolate made of dark chocolate and soy milk
- Almond butter on whole wheat toast topped with a drizzle of honey and berries
Bio-K+® – Built for Your Brain
Your diet can have a noticeable impact on your brain function. If you eat the right foods—particularly those containing Omega 3s, B vitamins, and antioxidants—you can support brain health, increase your energy, and improve your memory and focus.
But a healthy diet isn’t enough on its own. Sometimes you need a little extra help. This is where probiotics can be a gamechanger. Here at Bio-K+®, our products can be used to bolster your healthy lifestyle, support your gut health (your second brain, if you will), and improve your wellness routine. Our Extra drinkable vegan probiotics even contain functional active ingredients for added benefits.
So, are you ready to fuel your brain?
Check out our other healthy lifestyle articles on how to meditate properly and self care activities.
MIT. The rise and fall of cognitive skills. https://news.mit.edu/2015/brain-peaks-at-different-ages-0306
NCBI. Brain Health across the Lifespan: A Systematic Review on the Role of Omega-3 Fatty Acid Supplements. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116096/
NCBI. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404917/
John Hopkins Medicine. Can Probiotics Improve Your Mood? https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/can-probiotics-improve-your-mood
American Psychological Association. That Gut Feeling. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling
Cleveland Health Clinic. 3 Reasons Why Beans Can Boost Your Brain Power. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/boost-your-brain-with-b-vitamins-and-beans/
NCBI. Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/
Psychology Today. The Pros and Cons of Antioxidant Foods on the Brain. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nutrition-and-wellness/201903/the-pros-and-cons-antioxidant-foods-the-brain
Pub Med. Effects of coffee/caffeine on brain health and disease: What should I tell my patients? https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26677204/
NCBI. Long-Term Intake of Nuts in Relation to Cognitive Function in Older Women. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4105147/
NCBI. Chocolate intake is associated with better cognitive function: The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26873453/
NCBI. Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4192974/
Giudetti, A. M., Salzet, M., & Cassano, T. (2018). Oxidative Stress in Aging Brain: Nutritional and Pharmacological Interventions for Neurodegenerative Disorders. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2018, 3416028. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/3416028
Nehlig, A., Daval, J. L., & Debry, G. (1992). Caffeine and the central nervous system: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects. Brain research. Brain research reviews, 17(2), 139–170. https://doi.org/10.1016/0165-0173(92)90012-b