10 Best Brain Foods for the Grocery List
The benefits of healthy eating extend far beyond fueling our bodies and maintaining an ideal weight. A number of ingredients also go the extra mile in supporting brain health.1
So consider adding some (or all) of the following brain foods. Experiment with new options, pick up old favorites, and add items from these categories to your shopping list:
- Fatty, wild-caught fish.
Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, which improve the structure of our neurons, fatty fish are true power foods when it comes to brain function.2 One study revealed that people with higher levels of omega-3s experience increased blood flow to the brain and are supportive of cognitive abilities known to decline during aging.3
Salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, swordfish, and trout are just some of the fish varieties you might consider. Wild-caught salmon is a readily available fan favorite.
- Leafy greens.
Leafy green vegetables are full of compounds with neuroprotective properties. From folate and carotenoids to beta carotene and vitamins E and K, these veggies are packed with health benefits.4
One study showed that participants who ate more leafy greens experienced better brain health over a five-year period.5 What better reason than that to incorporate green vegetables into your diet? Kale, lettuce, spinach, collards, and chard are all delicious and nutritious options.
- Sea vegetables.
Have you ever ordered a seaweed salad at a Japanese restaurant? Regardless of your experience with sea vegetables, macroalgae (the scientific term for seaweed) is highly beneficial for health. It synthesizes vitamin D directly and contains generous amounts of calcium and magnesium. Seaweed also contains iodine, which is crucial to our thyroid and brain functioning.6
If you’re interested in the unique flavor of nori, wakame, kombu, and other types of marine algae, you’ll find these superfoods in the specialty section of your grocery store. You can use them in cooking or for snacking.
- Cruciferous vegetables.
Veggies like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, and turnips not only include plenty of dietary fiber, but they’re also filled with antioxidants supportive of brain health.2
Those of us who appreciate the sweet subtlety of beets are in for a treat. The nitrates in this flavorful vegetable support healthy cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain. Specifically, beets enhance blood flow to our frontal lobe, which has been shown in literature as linked to memory and decision-making.7
If boosting your brain health sounds appealing but you don’t love beets, consider juicing the root vegetable or adding it to a smoothie. You can also roast beets if you don’t enjoy them raw. This veggie is incredibly versatile.
- Prebiotics and probiotics.
Are you familiar with prebiotics and probiotics? Prebiotic foods include fibrous carbs that we can’t digest but that the healthy bacteria in the gut can. Oats, garlic, and green bananas are all high in prebiotic fibers.
Probiotics, meanwhile, are the actual live bacteria found in certain items. Examples of probiotic foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, and the popular yogurt drink kefir.
While prebiotics and probiotics each play a unique role, recent research shows they may support cognition through a brain and gut connection.9
- Healthy fats.
Say goodbye to corn and soybean oil and embrace other healthy alternatives like olive, coconut, and MCT oil. (MCT oil, if you aren’t familiar with it, is most commonly extracted from coconut oil.) Avocado, nuts, and seeds are also rich in heart-healthy fats that feature brain-supporting properties.9
Some specific benefits:
- Coconut and MCT oil feature medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that are easily digested and can be converted into ketones or broken-down fatty acids which may serve as an alternative energy source in the brain.10
- Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, which may help prevent cognitive decline.9 Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds are all compelling options. So are nonhydrogenated nut butters.
Who knew one of the most popular breakfast ingredients was also a powerful brain food? Eggs contain vitamins B6 and B12, as well as folate, all of which promote a high-functioning mind.2
Fried or scrambled, this simple ingredient can be prepared in any style and enjoyed. Your brain will thank you!
- Dark chocolate.
This rich, ever-popular brain food is best enjoyed in moderation. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, not to mention natural stimulants like caffeine that are known to support alertness and cognitive health.9
Despite its mass appeal, we should try to limit ourselves to a single ounce of dark chocolate per day.9 In addition to being ideal for our health, eating just small amounts of the stuff will make us appreciate it more.
- Green tea.
Are you a tea drinker? Green tea works wonders for the brain. It includes a special class of antioxidants called catechins, which strengthen the cells and encourage healthy blood flow.9
Ultimately, two or three cups of freshly brewed green tea each day—not the bottled or powdered alternatives, mind you—can provide many health benefits9
So the next time you sit back and relax, aim to stay hydrated and cultivate a healthy mind with a steaming cup of green tea.
- Harvard Medical School Staff. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower. Accessed March 12, 2019.
- Burgess L. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324044.php. Accessed March 13, 2019.
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ScienceDaily. 2017. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170518140235.html. Accessed March 13, 2019.
- Berkeley Wellness Letter Staff. University of California – Berkeley Wellness. http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/leafy-greens-good-brain. Accessed March 13, 2019.
- Moris MC et al. American Academy of Neurology. 2017;90(3):e214-e222.
- Revelant J. Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/sea-veggies-the-new-superfood. Accessed March 13, 2019.
- Coyle D. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-beets. Accessed March 12, 2019.
- Cerdó T et al. Nutrients. 2017;9(11):1247.
- Sorgen C. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain#1. Accessed March 13, 2019.
- O’Brien S. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mct-oil-benefits. Accessed March 12, 2019.
Submitted by the Metagenics Marketing Team