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6 Best Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory

Need a Natural Brain Boost?

Your brain controls everything your body does. If you think about it,  your brain works hard 24/7 – even while you’re asleep. This means that your brain requires a constant supply of fuel. That “fuel” comes from the foods you eat — and what’s in that fuel makes all the difference.

The foods you eat play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks, such as memory and concentration.

This article lists 6 healthy foods that will boost your brain and support your overall health.

1. Fatty Fish

When people talk about brain foods, fatty fish is often at the top of the list.

This type of fish includes salmon, trout, and sardines – which are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids (1).

About 60% of your brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 kind (2).

Your brain uses omega-3s to build brain and nerve cells, and these fats are essential for learning and memory (23).

Omega 3-s also have a couple of additional benefits for your brain.

For one thing, they may slow age-related mental decline and help ward off Alzheimer’s disease (4567).

On the flip side, not getting enough omega-3s is linked to learning impairments, as well as depression (38).

Overall, fatty fish is an excellent choice for brain health.

SUMMARY: Fatty fish is a rich source of omega-3s, a major building block of the brain. Omega-3s play a role in sharpening memory and improving mood, as well as protecting your brain against decline.

2. Coffee

If coffee is the highlight of your morning, you’ll be glad to hear that it’s good for you.

Two main components in coffee — caffeine and antioxidants — help your brain.

The caffeine in coffee has a number of positive effects on the brain, including (9):

  • Increased alertness: Caffeine keeps your brain alert by blocking adenosine, a chemical messenger that makes you sleepy (101112).
  • Improved mood: Caffeine may also boost some of your “feel-good” neurotransmitters, such as serotonin (13).
  • Sharpened concentration: One study found that when participants drank one large coffee in the morning or smaller amounts throughout the day, they were more effective at tasks that required concentration (14).

Drinking coffee over the long term is also linked to a reduced risk of neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s (9).

This could at least be partly due to coffee’s high concentration of antioxidants (15).

SUMMARY: Coffee can help boost alertness and mood. It may also offer some protection against Alzheimer’s, thanks to its caffeine and antioxidants.

3. Blue Berries

Blueberries provide numerous health benefits, including some that are specifically for your brain.

Blueberries and other deeply colored berries deliver anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (16).

Antioxidants act against both oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions that may contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases (16).

Some of the antioxidants in blueberries have been found to accumulate in the brain and help improve communication between brain cells (1617).

Animal studies have shown that blueberries help improve memory and may even delay short-term memory loss (181920).

Try sprinkling them on your breakfast cereal or adding them to a smoothie.

SUMMARY: Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that may delay brain aging and improve memory.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz recently.

This deep-yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry powder and has a number of benefits for the brain.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there (21).

It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the following brain benefits:

  • May benefit memory: Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease (2122).
  • Eases depression: It boosts serotonin and dopamine, which both improve mood. One study found curcumin improved depression symptoms just as much as an antidepressant over six weeks (2324).
  • Helps new brain cells grow: Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, but more research is needed (25).

To reap the benefits of curcumin, try cooking with curry powder, adding turmeric to potato dishes to turn them golden or making turmeric tea.

SUMMARY: Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which help the brain. In research, it has reduced symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with powerful plant compounds, including antioxidants (26).

It’s also very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (91-gram) serving (27).

This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells (28).

A few studies in older adults have linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory (2930).

Beyond vitamin K, broccoli contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage (31).

SUMMARY: Broccoli contains a number of compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, including vitamin K.

6. Avocado

The avocado is a rather unique fruit.

While most fruit consists primarily of carbohydrate, avocado is high in healthy fats.

These fats are called monounsaturated fats – which can provide the brain with sustained energy throughout the day.

Avocados are also high in magnesium and potassium, which help improve blood flow — and better blood flow means a healthier brain.

Also, research shows that the lutein (a carotenoid) that avocados provide can improve the ability to think (32).

What’s more, avocados have been associated with generally better health in people who eat them.

Research shows that people who consume avocados have better diet quality overall, higher nutrient intake, and lower risk of metabolic syndrome (33).

SUMMARY: Avocados are an excellent food, loaded with healthy fats and nutrients, many of which are lacking in the modern diet.

Conclusions

The foods you eat play a role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks, such as memory and concentration.

Some foods, such as the fruits and vegetables in this list, as well coffee, have antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage.

You can help support your brain health and boost your alertness, memory and mood by strategically including these foods in your diet.

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