You are never too young or old to start enjoying the benefits that brain-boosting foods have to offer. Whether you have school-aged children that struggle with focus, a family history of mental illness or find yourself suffering from depression, proper nutrition can help support the brain in a big way.
The first step is to avoid processed, refined, and sugary foods that harm the brain. Sugar, which is hidden in everything from bread to salad dressing, is very inflammatory to your brain. It can reduce brain function, learning, memory, and formation of brain neurons.
The next step is to nourish your brain (and body!) with nutrient dense foods. Here are the 14 best foods to stock up on for a healthy brain.
Avocados are truly one of nature’s ultimate powerhouse foods. The creamy green fruit is high in healthy monounsaturated fat that helps protect brain cells. They can protect nerve cells in the brain and also improve its muscle strength. Not to mention, the oils found in avocado can help maintain your blood pressure levels. Get your daily dose in my Chocolate Avocado Pudding.
These vibrant little berries are actually Jackson’s favourite fruit (#momwin). Research linked the antioxidants and polyphenols in blueberries to the reversal of age-related neurological decline. Blueberries have also been shown to improve brain function, word recall, and memory recall. I prefer Wild Blueberries since they have a higher antioxidant capacity per serving than regular cultivated blueberries. Try out my Simple Blueberry Chia Seed Jam.
There’s a strong link between the health of your gut and the health of your brain. By healing your gut lining with nourishing foods like bone broth, you’re also boosting brain health. Bone broth is rich in amino acids proline and glycine which have been shown to boost immunity and support your memory. Glycine, which is derived from collagen protein, has been shown to help improve brain function. Get my Homemade Bone Broth recipe here – try it as a base for soups or to cook your brown rice in.
These little green “trees” are full of powerful plant nutrients, especially vitamin K and choline. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps to strengthen your cognitive function, while choline can improve your memory. Broccoli is also a great source of the detoxifying nutrient, sulforaphane. It also helps reduce inflammation in the body – including the brain. Try it roasted with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with hemp hearts.
Chocolate is not all created equal. So, don’t be so quick to reach for those Lindt truffles thinking they’re good for the brain. Most chocolate is highly processed and full of sugar which has been shown to cause brain inflammation. Raw cacao is the purest form of chocolate, containing all of the beneficial enzymes and antioxidants that make “chocolate” so healthy. Specifically, the flavanols in cacao powder have been shown to improve cognition in young adults and protect from cognitive decline in the elderly. I love having it in my Sexy Red Velvet Smoothie.
The most celebrated oil of the past few years can also add brain support to its list of health benefits. While coconut is high in unsaturated fat, this is a key nutrient for the function of your brain cells. The caprylic acid found in coconut oil also helps fight off bad bacteria in your gut. Remember: Healthy Gut. Happy Brain. Add it to my Super Quick Chocolate Quinoa Porridge.
Poor eggs have gotten a bad rap over the last few decades. Thankfully, studies have shown no correlation between cholesterol and egg consumption. The egg yolks actually contain the majority of the nutrition as well. Choline is found in large amounts inside an egg’s yolk. This brain-boosting nutrient is important for the developing fetal brain. Remember to stick to organic or pasture-raised eggs. Enjoy them poached in my Decadent Eggs Benedict with Creamy Avocado!
You can never go wrong with leafy greens when it comes to your health – your brain included. Greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are rich in brain-protecting antioxidants as well as vitamin K. A study of 950 adults over a 5 years period, showed that those who ate one to two servings of leafy greens showed a slower mental deterioration than those who did not. Add a big handful to your morning shake like my Almond Butter Smoothie or in this Strawberry Avocado Salad.
Fish like wild salmon, sardines, herring, trout, and mackerel are full of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids. These good fats are considered essential because your body cannot produce them itself. About 60% of your brain is made of up fats, with almost half of that being omega-3. Your brain uses these omega-3 fats to maintain the health of brains cells and stimulate new cells to grow in the brain’s memory centre. Always opt for sustainable choices like Wild Alaskan Salmon, not factory-farmed fish. Check out Ocean Wise to find the best options.
This cold-pressed oil is rich in polyphenols which improve both learning and memory. These same brain-protective antioxidants can also help reverse age-related changes in the brain. Make sure you are using real extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) packed in a dark glass bottle. Try it as a base in this Poppy Seed Dressing.
These green little seeds are definitely an underrated snack. They are packed with antioxidants and brain-boosting minerals. Zinc, particularly, plays a vital role in overall brain function and memory. Pumpkin seeds are great sprinkled on just about anything or added to smoothies like The Shamrock Shake.
A blue-green algae, spirulina is one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth. It contains more than 65% protein by weight! When it comes to brain health, it’s exceptional levels of phycocyanin play an important role in your neurotransmitters. Spirulina also contains high amounts of antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body and brain. It’s also a great source of those brain-protective omega-3s! Don’t just reach for any spirulina, though. I only consume Hawaiian Spirulina as it’s the cleanest and most nutrient dense option available. I have it in my Busy Mama Smoothie every day – get the recipe at the bottom of this blog.
I can’t get enough of this orange spice! It’s incredibly anti-inflammatory and has a bunch of brain benefits. The active compound found in turmeric is curcumin and it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. It’s been shown that curcumin can help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s and ease depression. It has a spice level similar to cinnamon and is absolutely delicious in my Simple Vegan Golden Milk.
You know how they say to support your body you should eat foods that look like them? Walnuts are a prime example. These brain-shaped nuts are high in not only omega-3s, but also the Alzheimer’s preventing, vitamin E. Crunching down on a few walnuts can help improve your cognitive health! Use them in place of the pecans in my Healthy Homemade Granola.