Your brain uses 20% of your body’s calories. If you’re not eating right, you’re more susceptible to memory issues, brain fog, and even developing a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s later in life. A poor diet is even more detrimental to your overall wellness, because your neurological, mental, and sexual health are all interconnected. Here are some of the best brain foods available that we recommend increasing or adding to your diet:
1. Green Tea
Green tea is an excellent addition to a healthy morning routine. It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross your blood-brain barrier, which serves as a functional and structural roadblock to parasites, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms that may be circulating in your bloodstream. It also contains gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which reduces stress and anxiety. Green tea is also known to boost brain function and alertness, improve your memory and focus. It can protect your brain from cognitive decline and reduce your risk of neurodegenerative diseases, like the ones we mentioned above. We recommend adding lemon and ginger to your green tea. They boost your metabolic rate and help burn unwanted fat. They can even ease indigestion and reduce gas. If you’re not starting your mornings with green tea yet, now’s the time to start!
Of the two, green tea is a better option across the board. However, coffee is still considered one of the best brain foods (err, beverages) for you. Coffee improves your focus and alertness. Studies show that coffee can also increase your brain’s ability to process information, as anyone who’s slipped a thermos of coffee during a morning college lecture can attest. Coffee is also rich in antioxidants, which reduce your risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.
3. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate with 70% or greater cocoa content is great for you! It’s chalked full of brain-boosters, like caffeine and antioxidants. They’re also rich in antioxidant plant compounds known as flavonoids, which enhance your memory and can slow down mental decline . Dark chocolate puts you in a better mood by tapping into your “happy hormones.” For this reason, we don’t only recommend dark chocolate as a healthy brain food, but also as one that improves your sexual mood.
We cannot talk further about antioxidants without mentioning the powers of the berry family. While blueberries get the brunt of the credit, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are also excellent additions to your diet. The antioxidants in berries help reduce your risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease during your senior years. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, making them better for your overall health.
5. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens appear on pretty much every healthy foods list. Plant-based foods help slow cognitive decline and are usually high in brain-rich nutrients, including beta carotene, folate, and vitamin K. Not all leafy greens are created equal, but here are a few to consider:
If you don’t like the taste, we recommend adding them to a smoothie. Not only are you making your smoothies healthier, but also more filling.
Nuts are great for your heart, and a healthy heart leads to a healthy brain. One study reveals that consuming nuts regularly may correspond to a decreased risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Nuts may also be linked to improved memory<, particularly in women. Nuts also contain vitamin E, antioxidants, and healthy fats—the latter is particularly good for your brain, which is made of roughly 60% fat. Speaking of…
7. Fatty Fish
Fish easily makes the top of the best brain foods for your health. Fatty fish is rich in Omega-3s, which 95% of Americans don’t get enough of. Omega-3s improve memory, your ability to learn, and can slow age-related mental decline. Fish that make the list include salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, and albacore tuna. Research also suggests that people who regularly consume fatty fish have more gray matter in their brains. Gray matter makes up the outermost layer of your brain. According to Simply Psychology, gray matter “gets its gray tone from the high concentration of neuronal cell bodies it contains.” These cells improve your decision-making abilities, emotions, and memory.
Eggs contain choline, a nutrient your body uses to create chemical messengers that play a key role in regulating your intelligence, mood, and memory. Also, eggs contain high amounts of B vitamins, which further improve your memory while reducing your risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.
9. Oranges and Kiwis
Vitamin C plays a pivotal role in preventing mental decline. Everyone knows that oranges are infamous for their high amounts of vitamin C. In fact, you can get almost an entire daily intake of vitamin C from eating just one medium orange. But did you know that Kiwis actually contain even more vitamin C than oranges? Other fruits high in vitamin C include cantaloupe, mango, papaya, watermelon, grapefruit, and berries.
10. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds—and most seeds in general—contain omega-3’s, antioxidants, and vitamin E. We chose sunflower seeds over other seeds to round out our best brain food list, because they contain the highest amount of vitamin E. Vitamin E protects cells from oxidative stress, which can lead to neurodegenerative decline when you get older. Vitamin E also improves your cognition, keeping your mind sharp.