Making small changes to the way you eat can help support memory, brain function, and brain health now and later in life.
Below are suggestions to incorporate into your nutrition plan so you can enjoy the health benefits these brain-boosting foods bring to the table.
The brain is more than 60 percent water by weight, so proper hydration is necessary to support short-term memory, focus, and decision-making ability. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in fl oz of water, especially if you’re more active. Start your day with a glass of water to hydrate after a good night’s rest.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines provide the EPA and DHA fats and B vitamins that promote increased circulation in the brain, better focus, and improved memory. Keep in mind that a serving of fatty fish may be less than lean protein servings, so when prepping fatty fish, think of something like the size of a checkbook (4 to 6 ounces).
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are loaded with alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid, and vitamin E, both of which support memory and cognition. Walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds are the best choices. Measure out a serving instead of eating from the jar or bag. It’s easy to over-do it with these nutrition-packed, dense foods. We suggest ¼ cup or 1 ounce as a serving size.
Nuts aren’t the only foods that contain powerful, brain-boosting oils. Avocados, olives, and olive oil are also options for increasing your intake of omega-3’s. Drizzle uncooked olive oil atop salads and tomato-based dishes for extra flavor and healthy fats.
Egg yolks provide choline, the precursor to the powerful neurotransmitter acetylcholine. To reap the benefits of an egg, eat the entire egg!
Soft boil some eggs and serve with mixed greens with balsamic, olive oil dressing for a double-whammy of brainpower in a quick and easy meal, or try deviled eggs made with avocado instead of mayonnaise.
A recent study at Tuft’s University showed that blueberries help improve short-term memory loss by neutralizing free radicals that affect the brain. Strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries also contain antioxidants to support brain function. Vitamin C from berries enhances the absorption of iron when served in dishes like a spinach salad, and their tart sweetness complements many savory foods.
When it comes to leafy green veggies, as with most foods, the more vibrant the color, the more nutrient density per serving. Spinach, arugula, kale, and other dark, leafy greens are full of vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, all of which may help protect the brain against impaired cognitive function, Alzheimer’s, and increased risk of stroke. Large leaves make an excellent replacement for taco shells, sandwich bread, and other processed foods. Whatever is on the menu, make it a wrap, and feed your brain.
Also rich in B vitamins, Greek yogurt is a wholesome food that’s healthy for the brain. Naturally rich in calcium and a good source of vitamin D, Greek yogurt can replace sour cream, mayonnaise, or the base of a salad dressing so every bite is filled with rich nutrients.
Lean protein is essential for fueling the body, and chicken is a tasty and healthy choice that also provides the brain with protective B vitamins. Like fish, chicken is a popular restaurant choice that is served in a variety of ways. Choose grilled, pan-seared, or broiled dishes instead of fried options for optimal nutrition.
Probiotic + Prebiotic Sources
Prebiotics are dietary fibers that help feed the friendly bacteria already in your gut. Studies have shown that people who eat prebiotic foods can help promote a diverse and vibrant “gut flora” that can help absorb nutrients more efficiently. They have also been known to lower anxiety levels and stress. Members of the Allium family, such as garlic, onions, and leeks, are excellent fuel for your gut flora.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that boost health, and when used in moderation, probiotic foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha tea, and kimchi are suitable for the GI and the brain. Look for fermented food products in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and remember live probiotics require refrigeration.