“Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” These words, coined in the 1950’s by the famed radio host Earl Nightingale, are just as true today as they were during the evolution of human sciences in the middle 20th century. How we think, what we think, and why we think certain ways will determine the outcomes of our realities. Memories, attitudes, moods, motivations, actions and reactions all come from our grey-matter organic computer we call ‘the brain’. Many people have realized that by honing their most important “muscle” in their head, that true strength of purpose, form and function comes from how you perceive, how you think and how you feel.
While these kinds of notions aren’t pseudo-science anymore – the brain is one of the most carefully studied bits of human anatomy, and for good reason – one area that many people falter in supporting good brain health is what goes into their stomachs.
Foods for brain health – aka “brain foods” that improve memory for exams, foods like nuts that stimulate brain activity, or foods that prevent memory loss – should be a part of everyone’s diet. However, the reality of modern nutrition is that these brain nutrition facts are like the brain power we are missing out on: lost, neglected, forgotten.
Every healthy diet requires daily intake of brain foods like berries, nuts, seeds, fish, avocados, and an assortment of fruits & vegetables, but many people are either inconsistent or in denial of the importance of these kinds of brain nutrition facts.
Whether you’re in need of some increased brain power, you want to learn how to build brain cells, or you’ve got a very heavy mental workload and could use some support for your tired mind, there are a lot of ways to increase brain power naturally. Let’s put on our thinking caps and chef’s apron and sink our teeth into some of the best foods for brain health.
WHAT ARE “BRAIN FOODS”?
In order to understand how the food we eat affects our brain functionality, you need to know the essential components of any healthy diet for memory, critical and creative thinking. There are five major categories of brain fuel:
These are not necessarily everything you need to optimize your cognitive functionality. As always, a balanced diet, fitness routine, hard work, play, rest and relaxation make up the pillars of a healthy lifestyle. We have plenty of other articles focusing on these other elements for a healthier you, but today we will focus on the impacts of what we eat.
For starters, antioxidants are found in numerous food groups – such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, teas and more. An antioxidant has the power to counteract free radicals and other unstable molecules that put wear & tear on our minds and bodies. Antioxidants effectively protect essential nutrients in our system – healthy fats, vitamins, enzymes and minerals. With regards to how they influence our brains, antioxidants are very capable at combating oxidative stress which empowers our minds to stay in an optimal state.
Anything that reduces the amount of swelling, inflammation, stiffness or soreness likely has anti-inflammatory properties. Natural supplements and food sources like MSM, glucosamine, turmeric and hemp CBD can optimize your body’s inflammatory response – a reaction to infection, injury, illness or other negative outside forces. Your inflammatory response is a major part of your immune system’s defense, but sometimes circumstances lead to over activation of inflammation, causing a list of undesirable effects like pain, slower healing and sporadic swelling. The same can occur in your brain, where inflammation can be outright deadly if not very debilitating. Just like with antioxidants, anti-inflammatories are essential to maintaining a safe balance of inflammation throughout your mind & body.
We hope that you’re not one of those people who see carbs as “the root of all evils” like many fads have in the past, because they are a very important part of a nutritionally balanced diet. Carbohydrates are an essential source of energy for growing bodies and developing brains. It is thought that carbohydrates have been largely responsible for human evolution, as our history of cultivating many different kinds has led to our reliance on their nutrient densities and high-energy profiles. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and more are integral to providing your body with enough energy to not only function, but to continue to grow. Since our brains take up a lot of the fuel from the foods we eat, carbs are a great source for the high-octane energy needs of our most important muscle.
Sodium & Hydration
This category, while expressing two distinct elements of sodium content and hydration, demonstrates an essential balance you need to attain. There is an epidemic in societies around the world today whereby dangerously high amounts of sodium are ingested daily. Compound this health issue with the common problem of improper hydration, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster when it comes to your mental wellbeing. Staying hydrated throughout the day with enough water, and limiting your salt intake are both very integral to brain health. The general consensus for sodium intake per day averages around 1500 mg per person. This can be quite difficult to manage due to the large volumes of sodium in so many foods today. Similarly, many people struggle with how much water they should be drinking each day. The old “8 glasses per day” has been shown to be inaccurate for everybody, so the point is you should drink often and make sure you replace some of the extra cups of coffee, juice, or other sugary/salty drinks with plain old H2O.
Last, but certainly not least among foods for brain health, lipids are the building blocks that living cells need in order to be strong and multiply. In this case, many lipids come in the form of healthy fats that should be a major part of our meals each day. Why is fat so important in a world where we’ve been told to keep our bodies free of it with many diets over the years? Well, simply put the reason we need lipids in our diets is because your brain is actually the fattiest part of your body. The human brain is made of 60% or more fats making it the fattest organ in your body. Fats throughout your blood, muscles, and organs can provide nutrients and energy to your brain.
What constitutes healthy fats these days? Fats that are beneficial to your health & fitness are typically categorized as monounsaturated fats – healthy dietary fats that are liquid at room temperature – and polyunsaturated fats – essential fatty acids like omegas 3-6-9. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are important for many reasons, such as good circulation, muscle building, anti-inflammatories, memory, vision and mental relaxation. There are many sources for these kinds of healthy fats and amino acids, but chief among them are fish, nuts, seeds, avocados, and other nutritious oils like coconuts, olives or sesames.
HOW TO INCREASE BRAIN CELLS, NATURALLY
Over the decades, researchers have honed in on how to build brain cells with foods that improve memory, cognition, creativity, critical thinking, emotional processing and more. While many supplements can help you learn how to increase brain cells naturally, the most efficient way to boost your mental faculties lies in your daily diet.
There are thousands of impactful brain foods with which you can support brain power & development, but we’ve “narrowed” the list down to the most prominent 95 foods to improve brain health. This list is a good starting point for anyone looking to fix their diet with foods like nuts that stimulate brain activity, or high-energy/healthy-fat sources like avocados or fish. These top 95 brain foods have been broken into their constituent categories (veggies, fruits, proteins, carbs, etc) to make it easier to digest the scope of their benefits (pun intended!). Without further ado, here are the 95 foods for brain health you should be including in your diet.
Nuts & Seeds
Almonds – One of the staples in plant-based diets, Almonds are excellent sources of lean protein, vitamins and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Black Mustard Seeds
Cashews – Just like with Almonds, Cashews are full of protein, vitamins and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Pecans – Pecans are one of the best nuts for brain health due to their balance of protein, vitamins and DHA omega-3 fatty acids.
Walnuts – As they are kind of ‘brain shaped’, it’s no wonder that Walnuts have a longstanding tradition of being the best nut for brain development. Walnuts have a bevvy of omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols and other beneficial nutrients that are perfect for preventing oxidative stress and cognitive deterioration.
Vegetables & Legumes
Broccoli – Not only are Broccoli full of iron, fiber, calcium and other nutrients, but your brain loves that they’re rich in glucosinolates – when broken down, these compounds produce isothiocyanates which are excellent for reducing oxidative stress on the mind.
Brussell Sprouts – A significant source of ALA omega-3 fatty acids, iron and other essential nutrients that can increase brain development & strengthening.
Seaweed – Similar to Salmon or other Omega-rich fish, Seaweed is a great plant-based source for DHA and other omega fatty acids.
Avocados – One of the most popular sources for healthy fats (monounsaturated fatty acids), with added benefits of antioxidants, vitamins A-K, and proficiency for lowering cholesterol.
Blueberries – Almost all berries are very beneficial for your brain health, but Blueberries in particular are known to offer a significant portion of antioxidants and essential vitamins.
Pumpkins (yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit!)
Tomatoes (same goes for tomatoes, they’re actually a fruit!)
Herbs & Spices
Dark Chocolate – A significant source of antioxidants, dark chocolate is also particularly good for increasing positive endorphins. Darker chocolate is also considered to be an excellent addition to any diet for memory loss due to its flavanol contents (a plant-based antioxidant that supports memory, circulation and more).
Turmeric – Curcumin/turmeric is associated with many studies that show evidence of reducing degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Turmeric is well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant-rich profile, so it’s no wonder why it is included in so many natural cognitive booster products.
Proteins & Carbohydrates
Salmon – Salmon is particularly valuable as a brain food because of its DHA contents – an essential fatty acid associated with omega-3’s that can help in the development of tissues in the brain and body. DHA is thought to be one of the most prominent brain-boosting fatty acids, and Salmon and other wild fish are some of the most concentrated sources for this important omega compound.
What is the best food for brain health?
Most “brain foods” are associated with healthy fats, such as with any foods that contain omega-fatty acids (avocados, fish, nuts). These are great examples of essential brain-boosting foods, but any sources of healthy antioxidants or anti-inflammatories (such as berries, dark chocolate, teas and CBD) have been known to positively impact developing brains.
What foods kill brain cells?
There are many foods that prevent memory loss, but there are also many more that do the opposite. Alcohol, sugary foods & drinks, refined carbohydrates, processed foods, tans-fats, aspartame and others can be detrimental to your brain health if consumed in larger quantities.
What are the 12 best brain boosting foods?
The order of best brain foods is up for debate, but in general these are the top dozen foods to improve memory and foods that prevent memory loss: Fish, berries, avocados, nuts, seeds, coffee, tea, dark chocolate, whole grains, broccoli, kale and soy.
How can I boost my brain?
A combination of consistent exercise, healthy diet, mental stimulation, relaxation and good quality sleep are the best ways to boost your brain power. In most cases, a healthy diet is one of the best ways to increase brain cells naturally, but without an active body to support brain nutrition facts you might lose some progress. Eating nuts that stimulate the brain, focusing on lean but healthy fat protein sources like fish, or diversifying your diet with brain foods like broccoli, kale, avocados and berries can do wonders for your critical & creative thinking abilities.
How can I sharpen my brain?
Mind exercises – such as puzzles, reading, writing and drawing – is one of the best ways to stay sharp of mind. This is not enough, however, as you also need to support brain activity with brain foods like nuts, berries, fish and avocados. Sleep is also very important for keeping your brain working optimally. Lastly, cutting down on alcohol, sugar, high-sodium and trans-fats will go long ways towards empowering your brain instead of bogging it down. Caffeine can be beneficial as long as it isn’t consumed in large amounts or too frequently.
How can I make my brain smarter & faster?
Games that engage your critical thinking – puzzles, math or illusion problems, search & find, crosswords, etc – are essential for keeping your brain active. Testing yourself and continuously pushing yourself to improve, whether it’s at work or at home, is also conducive to keeping your mind sharp. Many people play instruments, play sports, read or write, paint, dance, and many other leisurely pursuits for enjoyment, but these activities are also very good for your brain health.
How can I increase my brain power?
There are many factors that affect a person’s brain power that are out of their control – genetics, limitations of time, etc – but most are well within the reality of day-to-day management. Fostering healthy relationships with supportive people, exercising in a positive environment, meditating regularly, sleeping consistently, eating healthy brain foods, and reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol and other harmful substances will contribute to a healthy, powerful brain.