Top 10 Brain Foods To Improve Your Memory

What you choose to eat has a significant impact on the health of your brain and how well your memory functions. Your mind relies on antioxidants to protect grey matter, proteins to produce brain cells, and minerals to be the catalysts to make brainpower happen. Nutritional brain foods can really improve specific mental tasks, like concentration and logical thinking. Here we give the top ten snacks and foods that you can include in your diet to keep your brain at optimum health.

Why Eating Brain Foods Matters

Our mind controls the entire body. This three-pound lump of protein and fat is the most intricate structure known to humankind [1]. It’s comprised of billions of neurons that influence our central nervous system. In turn, these neurons regulate many vital functions.

We rely on our brain for:

brain foods
Your brain runs the show
  • Memory
  • Cognitive Function
  • Vision
  • Depth Perception
  • Mood
  • Emotional Response
  • Decision Making
  • Movement
  • Appetite

The list really goes on. So, we need to do everything in power to protect our brain. Feeding ourselves foods in a typical Western diet can completely undo all the productivity that consuming brain foods can do. Stay away from refined sugars and heavily-processed foods. Instead, opt for our top ten brain foods.

Brain Foods You Must Include In Your Diet

We rely on our brain for so much. So, it’s imperative we do everything in our power to protect this organ. The foods we consume communicate with our brain. Their nutrients travel via the gut-brain-axis, and give our mind the energy necessary to keep us healthy and productive. Here are the top ten brain foods you have to add to your meal plan!

Yogurt

Yogurt is a fantastic source of B-vitamins. B-Vitamins are like energetic currency for the brain. In fact, the mind autonomously hoards a supply of B-Vitamins to ensure it doesn’t run out.

B-Vitamins for gut health
B-Vitamins are essential for overall health.

An analysis of B-Vitamins and brain health noted,

“The importance of the B vitamins for brain function is illustrated by the fact that each vitamin is actively transported across the blood brain barrier and/or choroid plexus by dedicated transport mechanisms. Once in the brain, specific cellular uptake mechanisms dictate distribution, and, whilst the B vitamins all have high turnovers, ranging from 8% to 100% per day, their levels are tightly regulated by multiple homeostatic mechanisms in the brain. This guarantees that brain concentrations remain comparatively high [2].”

Nutrients

One of the B-Vitamins we have more research about is Vitamin B-12. We don’t produce this vitamin on our own, so we must consume it in our diet. Unfortunately, animal fat is the primary source of this essential vitamin.

So, yogurt is one of the ultimate brain foods for someone following a vegetarian diet. As a bonus, choose Greek yogurt, which has the highest protein level with no additional sugar.

Oatmeal

oatmeal brain foods
Great way to start the day!

A bowl of oatmeal made with real, uncut oats is the best way that you can start your day to boost your memory.

Oats are naturally gluten-free grains. So, you are not likely to develop inflammation from consuming them.

As whole grains, oats break down slowly. Therefore, your body is fed energy gradually throughout the day as the fiber digests.

Since we have trouble digesting oats on our own, the undigested fibers serve as prebiotics for probiotics. Thanks to the gut-brain-axis, a happy gut means a happy brain!

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Greens are a must for your diet if you want to improve brain function and the health of your overall body. They are rich in Vitamin K. Vitamin K. This fat-soluble vitamin is crucial in the formation of sphingolipids, which are fats needed for our brain cells [3].

Some of the best green brain foods include:

A little kale won’t kale ya!
  • Spirulina
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Kale
  • Asparagus
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Pea Shoots
  • Collard Greens
  • Spinach

Throw some spinach into your next soup. Make a superfood smoothie. Swap out a sandwich roll for a collard green wrap. It is easy to include green vegetables into most of your meals, and they give you a real bang for your buck!

Oily Fish

Make sure you are getting
wild-caught for optimal benefits

You can’t find more powerful brain foods than oily fish. Omega-3 fatty oils in fish are critical for a healthy brain. They serve as building blocks for your brain cells.

You need to consume omega-3s through diet and supplements because your produce doesn’t produce them naturally.  

“Without omega-3, you can experience fatigue and decreased memory function, so it is vital to incorporate some of this into your diet, “says Julia Green, an educator at Academic Writing Services. Green continued, “The best source is oily fish, like trout, herring, wild salmon, sardines and mackerel.”

When you purchase fish, make sure they are wild-caught. Factory-farmed fish are more likely to carry contaminants that may pose harm to your health [4].

Nuts & Seeds

If you are vegan or don’t enjoy the taste of fish, other excellent sources of omega 3-fats are nuts and seeds. In fact, walnuts are heralded at some of the best brain foods because its structure resembles a brain!

Besides walnuts, some of the best choices for an omega-rich snack include:

Make your own trail mix
for sustained energy
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds

Nuts and seeds aren’t just teeming with omegas, but they also contain a considerable amount of Vitamin E. This antioxidant increases blood flow, which helps move oxygen to the brain [5].

Additionally, Vitamin E protects cell membranes from free radical damage. This beneficial trait slows down cognitive decline. Lastly, these tiny treats are packed with protein, which helps you to stay full throughout the day. Just don’t go overboard. They’re still rich in fat!

Eggs

Eggs are a quick and affordable way to get high-quality protein and a little bit of brainpower. These breakfast staples are particularly high in choline. Choline is a micronutrient that acts as a catalyst for acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that influences our emotions and memory.

An analysis of this pivotal neurotransmitter concluded,

“Loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with impaired cognitive function, particularly memory loss and Alzheimer disease (AD). Brain atrophy and white-matter hyperintensity (WMH) are also associated with impaired cognitive function and AD [6].”

Am J Clin Nutr. 

If you are purchasing eggs, make sure they are cage-free. It’s not only the more humane option. Cage-free is better for your health. These animals are raised without hormones or fed crops grown with pesticides.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate, especially the dark variety, boosts your energy and helps your brain to focus. There are strong antioxidants in chocolate, as well as natural stimulants, like caffeine, that help keep us focused on the task-at-hand.

This tasty treat is also rich in flavonoids. Research found that flavonoids in dark chocolate were able to penetrate the blood-brain-barrier [7]. As a result, your brain gets a boost of energy. In particular, flavonoids in dark chocolate seem to influence the temporo-parieto-occipital (TPO) junction.

The TPO oversees functions, including:

Dessert, please!
  • Spatial Awareness
  • Reading
  • Math Calculations
  • Self-Awareness
  • Musical Memory
  • Face Recognition
  • Muscle Memory

Suffice to say; it’s beneficial for students to eat dark chocolate. However, make sure there aren’t too many added sugars. Instead, opt for naturally flavored dark chocolate with chilies or oranges.  

Berries 

Studies have linked berries to improved mental function, and all types can be beneficial for your brain [8]. The antioxidants in blueberries make these fruits one of the best choices for brain foods.

Snack away!

Blueberries are rich in anthocyanins. Studies show that anthocyanins “effectively scavenge” free radicals; thus, limiting the risk of declining brain function as you age [9].

Vitamin C in berries also improves the brain’s agility. Their healthy sugars boost your energy, helping you to stay alert. That way, you can concentrate on the day ahead.

Sprinkle your berries onto your oatmeal, add them to your yogurt bowl, or include them in a smoothie. Bought too much? Try fermenting fruits!

Beans

Beans are another plant-based protein that boasts a wide range of nutrients beneficial to brain health. They are abundant with magnesium, B-vitamins, and fiber. 

Some of the best beans for brain food include:

kidney beans brain foods
UnCANny brainpower!
  • Pinto Beans 
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Kidney Beans
  • Black Beans
  • Butterbeans

If you are sensitive to lectins, then beans might not be the best option for you. Instead, get many of these same nutrients from gluten-free grains, nuts, and seeds.

Avocados

Guac hard and guac often!

As we have seen above, fatty oils are crucial for brain health. Just behind berries in priority, avocados are incredible for your brain function. In fact, you should pair them together. Avocados are rich in healthy fats that help you absorb the vitamins in your fruit.

Although it is technically a fruit, avocados are packed with monosaturated fats. These efficient energy sources actually boost healthy blood flow, lower blood pressure, and increase cognitive skills. Be cautious with the amount that you eat, though; these brunch must-haves are high in calories.

How to Eat More Brain Foods

What you eat influences your mind. So, if you keep your gut healthy, your brain should follow. Therefore, you should find a balanced diet of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and high-quality proteins. We can help you with the Thryve Inside Gut Health Program.

Thryve Gut Health Program
Get health insights
at your fingertips

Our database is full of recipes that include all of your favorite brain foods. Better yet, these recipes are designed to help your probiotic bacteria grow in your gut, too.

As a member of the Thryve Gut Health Program, we give you in-depth insights on your overall health, metabolism, and gut bacteria. With this information, we can tailor a probiotic and meal plan that will get your gut in check. Ultimately, joining our program will help bolster your brainpower, too!

Thryve Probiotics Gut Health

Resources

[1] Zuckerman, Catherine. “Human Brain: Information, Facts and News.” Human Brain: Facts and Information, 1 Feb. 2019, www.nationalgeographic.com/science/health-and-human-body/human-body/brain/#close.

[2] Kennedy D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy–A Review. Nutrients8(2), 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068.

[3] Denisova, Natalia A, and Sarah L Booth. “Vitamin K and Sphingolipid Metabolism: Evidence to Date.” Nutrition Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15869125.

[4] “Factory Fish Farming.” Food & Water Watch, 29 Sept. 2015, www.foodandwaterwatch.org/insight/factory-fish-farming.

[5] Hong, Jung-Hee, et al. “Effects of Vitamin E on Oxidative Stress and Membrane Fluidity in Brain of Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats.” Clinica Chimica Acta; International Journal of Clinical Chemistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14734202.

[6] Nurk, Eha, et al. “Plasma Free Choline, Betaine and Cognitive Performance: the Hordaland Health Study.” The British Journal of Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 14 Feb. 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22717142?dopt=Abstract.

[7] Santiago-Rodríguez, E., Estrada-Zaldívar, B., & Zaldívar-Uribe, E. (2018). Effects of Dark Chocolate Intake on Brain Electrical Oscillations in Healthy People. Foods (Basel, Switzerland)7(11), 187. https://doi.org/10.3390/foods7110187.

[8] Subash, S., Essa, M. M., Al-Adawi, S., Memon, M. A., Manivasagam, T., & Akbar, M. (2014). Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural regeneration research9(16), 1557–1566. https://doi.org/10.4103/1673-5374.139483.

[9] Hwang, Jin-Woo, et al. “Anthocyanin Effectively Scavenges Free Radicals and Protects Retinal Cells from H 2 O 2 -Triggered G2/M Arrest.” European Food Research and Technology, Springer-Verlag, 1 Jan. 1970, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00217-011-1648-9.