It’s not often that the brain thinks about itself and all that it does to keep us properly functioning. However, the reality is that it takes a lot of energy to think, move and go about our daily lives. And our brain needs adequate fuel to do its job well.
Studies show that, on average, the brain accounts for about 20% of the calories we burn daily. However, that doesn’t mean any food will help your brain power through. When it comes to bolstering your brain to do its best work — staying focused and maintaining a strong memory — some foods are much better than others.
Consuming nutrient-dense foods will not only keep you brain happy and healthy, but may also aid in preventing diseases like dementia. The Mediterranean diet , which emphasizes consumption of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish, has shown promising results in prevent age-related conditions. This diet has also been shown to lower high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease .
If you want to keep your mind in good shape, here are the 12 best foods for brain health. Leafy greens
Not to parrot your mother, but she was right on this one. Those leafy greens really are good for you, especially your brain. Spinach, collards, kale — you name it. These veggies are rich in brain-boosting nutrients such as beta-carotene, folic acid, lutein and vitamin K. Plus, research has shown that plant-based foods may be especially good for curbing cognitive decline .
Daily recommended intake: Aim for about 1/4 of a cup per day , or 1.5 to 2 cups a week. Nuts
Nuts are lauded as a source of protein and healthy fats. But they’re also great brain foods. Each nut has unique benefits, and including pistachios, macadamias and almonds in your diet will definitely support your brain health. But for a real mental power boost , turn to walnuts. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which are important for preventing mental decline.
Daily recommended intake: A 2021 study found that adults who consumed 15 to 30 grams of nuts per day had notably higher cognitive scores than those who ate less. Coffee and tea
You may be accustomed to drinking coffee or tea to stay awake, but these caffeinated beverages have more to offer than a simple morning perk-up. Researchers have noted caffeine’s ability to boost the brain’s information-processing capacity , and coffee also packs many powerful antioxidants, which may help support brain health . In addition to both of these, green tea is rich in L-theanine. This powerful amino acid can help manage stress and anxiety , which is important for brain function.
Daily recommended intake: Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (about four cups of coffee or black tea) is generally considered safe for most adults. Tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the best foods for brain health, thanks to their rich lycopene content. This powerful carotenoid has been shown to help stave off cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. One fresh, medium tomato contains about 3.2 milligrams of lycopene , and you can also find even more in tomato sauces, pastes and ketchup.
Daily recommended intake: Studies show that 9 to 21 milligrams of lycopene per day may be most beneficial. Whole grains
Whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal, barley and brown rice are essential parts of a balanced diet, and they’re known to support cardiovascular health . What’s less well-known is that many whole grains are rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps reduce the presence of free radicals and prevent neurological damage . Experts also favor consuming vitamin E in its natural form rather than via supplements, making whole grains a great choice for boosting vitamin E intake.
Daily recommended intake: Guidelines recommend at least three servings of whole grains per day, totaling at least 48 grams. Broccoli
Leafy greens aren’t the only green veggies that make the list of the best foods for brain health. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are also important. These vegetables contain high doses of glucosinolates . When combined with water, these compounds produce isothiocyanates, powerful metabolites known to have neuroprotective properties .
Daily recommended intake: The USDA recommends that adults eat 1.5 to 2.5 grams of cruciferous vegetables per week. Salmon and tuna
You may make it a habit to avoid fatty foods, but when it comes to fish, fat is a good thing. Fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with many positive health outcomes, including for the brain. In particular, these healthy fats have been tied to lower levels of beta-amyloid in the blood. This damaging protein forms clumps in the brain that often lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Daily recommended intake: Aim for at least two servings of low-mercury fish such as salmon and light tuna per week. Berries
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a bunch of berries keeps mental decline at bay. Berries are one of the best brain foods because they’re packed with flavonoids . Not only do these natural pigments make berries colorful, but they also improve brain function, particularly when it comes to memory.
Daily recommended intake: Eating at least two servings (half a cup each) of berries per week has been shown to slow memory decline by as much as two-and-a-half years. Dark chocolate
If you’re looking for food that’s good for your brain, a delicious treat like dark chocolate might not come to mind. But dark chocolate brings together many of the benefits of the other foods on this list. It’s full of antioxidants, flavonoids and caffeine , making it one of the more brain-healthy foods you can eat. Don’t say I didn’t give you any good news.
Daily recommended intake: A small snack of dark chocolate, 30 to 60 grams a few times a week, may help improve brain function. Make sure it’s at least […]