Health And Wellness

15 Best Brain-Boosting Foods You Should Be Eating Every Single Day

Photo: HTeam / Shutterstock
woman with blueberries

It might surprise you, but the foods we eat actually have a lot of influence on how our brain operates.

We always hear about healthy foods for weight loss, skin health, and other physical benefits. But what foods improve brain function?

Feeding your brain from the outside is key to staying focused during school, work, and other daily activities. But eating well has even more important benefits for us long-term.

Fueling our brain with the right food can help prevent dementia, Parkinson’s, and many other cognitive diseases — meaning, our minds can stay forever young as we age.

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Brain foods matter.

They are rich in so many beneficial components that help us retain information, memorize details, and keep our minds active. They also happen to be super delicious and easy to incorporate into our daily diets. 

Here are the 15 best brain foods for cognitive health:

1. Avocado

Avocados are loved by millennials and brunch-goers — and for a good reason. They are full of healthy monounsaturated fats that reduce blood pressure.

High blood pressure is associated with cognitive decline. Avocados also contain vitamin K and folate, which prevent blood clots in the brain and reduce the risk of stroke. 

2. Oily fish

Fish oils contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are basically brain fuel. Omega-3s improve the structure of the brain's neuron cells.

They are also believed to increase blood flow to the brain, which improves memory functions. Tuna, mackerel, salmon, and herring are all high in omega-3.  

3. Broccoli

Your mom was right when she said to eat your greens! Broccoli contains high levels of vitamin K and choline, which will sharpen your memory. Vitamin K is even associated with Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

Broccoli is also full of vitamin C for overall help and immunity. If you hate broccoli, foods like cabbage, bok choy, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower have similar effects.   

4. Sunflower seeds

If fish isn’t your thing, seeds are another really great source of omega-3. They can also be included in the diet easily by tossing them into salads, breakfast cereal, or eating at a snack.

Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, which protects brain cells against the oxidative stress associated with aging. 

5. Coffee

Coffee can get a bad rap since it plays tricks on our nervous system and is sometimes treated as a substitute for sleeping. But it has also been linked to preventing cognitive decline, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and strokes.

Caffeine in coffee causes an increase in brain entropy, which allows the brain to process high levels of information. 

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6. Blueberries

You could rename these "brain berries" because of all their amazing benefits.

The high levels of antioxidants in blueberries boost communication between our brain cells, which helps us process and retain information. They are also associated with a delay in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.  

7. Egg yolks

Often, when people are on a health kick, they ditch egg yolks because of their fat content. But if you’re just eating egg whites, you’re missing out on most of the nutritional benefits of eggs.

Eggs break down methane, a chemical responsible for producing hormones associated with happiness. A healthy brain is a happy brain

8. Peanuts

Peanuts have similar healthy fats to avocados, which helps keep the brain energized and concentrated throughout the day.

They also contain key vitamins for brain function and the antioxidant resveratrol. Reservatrol is said to prevent brain diseases, cancer, and diabetes.

9. Turmeric 

Not only is it a delicious addition to curries and marinades, but turmeric has amazing healing properties.

Thanks to curcumin contained in turmeric, this spice is great for healing inflammation and boosting anti-oxidant levels. It also increases your brain’s oxygen intake, which keeps us alert throughout the day. It can also be made into a delicious orange turmeric tea or latte!

10. Extra virgin olive oil

Real extra virgin olive oil fights against harmful ADDL proteins that are toxic to the brain. Polyphenols that are found in the oil are also associated with improved memory and learning capabilities.

The best way to eat olive oil is cold. Cooking olive oil causes it to hydrogenize and decompose, so you won’t get the same benefits out of it. Try drizzling it over your salads with some vinegar instead. 

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11. Dark chocolate

Unlike its milky, sugary counterparts, dark chocolate is actually pretty good for you. It contains flavonols, which can help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to both the brain and heart.

Look for a minimally processed bar in order to get these benefits, and make sure it’s as dark as possible. Anything that is at least 60 percent cocoa should be good, but the higher the better. 

12. Soybeans

Soy products are rich in polyphenols, which are beneficial to brain health. They slow the brain deterioration many people experience in old age and can even help prevent dementia.

Soy comes in many forms, so it's easy to include in your diet. Anything from tofu to soy milk will feed the brain.

13. Kale

Kale is rich in a compound called glucosinolates. When the body breaks these down, they produce isothiocyanates. These help the brain function and lower the risk of brain disease.

Kale is also rich in vitamins A and K, which improve your overall health. Just one cup of cooked kale provides almost five times an adult’s daily need for vitamin K

14. Walnuts

If it looks like a brain, it must be good for the brain, right? Munching on a couple of these every day will keep you from going nuts (sorry, not sorry for this pun). They are high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that improve our alertness and mental focus

15. Beets

The natural nitrates found in beets work to boost blood flow to the brain, helping with mental performance. This makes them a great aid to study and work.

Plus, during tough workouts, beets actually help boost energy and performance levels.

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Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her Twitter for more.