Foods for Thought: What You Eat Can Improve Brain Health
Feed your brain! That sound advice is not just for reluctant children to eat their vegetables. Scientific research has identified certain foods that actually help support brain development and cognitive function.
USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-20251
Pharmacists may recommend some of these foods to their clients as they seek strategies to stay mentally sharp. Some of the top notch — and tasty — brain foods are:
Salmon: This popular fish is rich in omega-3 “essential” fatty acids, which studies suggest may help support memory and cognition. Salmon also is high in vitamin B12, a vital component in brain development. In addition, salmon contains the essential amino acid tryptophan, which research suggests helps the body produce melatonin and serotonin, hormones that help regulate sleep.
Nuts: This portable snack offer a wide range of brain benefits. Walnuts often are considered the top nut for brain health, as they contain high concentrations of DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid that research suggests can help assist brain performance.
Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is filled with flavanols, which studies have linked to support for cognition. Research also has shown this food may improve brain blood flow, oxygen levels, and nerve function.
Beans: High in fiber proteins, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, beans are well-known brain booster. Kidney and pinto beans, especially, are good as they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than other varieties.
Broccoli: A dinner-time staple, broccoli is filled with healthy nutrients, including high levels of vitamin K, which promote brain health.
Blueberries: Sometimes referred to as “brainberries,” blueberries are an excellent food for brain health. Antioxidant-rich flavonoids found in blueberries may support memory.
Avocados: Packed with vitamin C, vitamin B, folate, vitamin K, and healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados help support brain function.
Spinach: This leafy vegetable is filled many healthy nutrients for the brain, including vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Spinach also has been shown to have properties that may help maintain cognition.
Grapes: Grapes are full of antioxidants and other compounds that have been shown to support brain health.
Beets: Beets are packed with nitrates, which offer a natural way to get more nitric oxide into your body. This may help keep blood flow levels to your brain healthy.
For more information on nutritious foods, access the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.