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7 everyday foods that feed your brain

Cartoon of a brain in glasses meditating

Research shows certain nutrients are linked to good brain health and may help us stay sharper for longer. Include in your diet these seven science-backed, everyday foods to help increase your memory and brainpower.

1 Eggs

Why? They contain choline, which is important for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin.

1 serving = 1 egg

2 Dark green leafy vegetables

Why? They contain magnesium. People who get recurrent migraines are often low in magnesium, and supplementation is sometimes used (under the guidance of a doctor) for the prevention of them. Migraines 
can leave you tired for days after an episode and with reduced ability to concentrate and focus.

1 serving = 2 heaped tbsp cooked spinach

3 Brazil nuts

Why? They contain selenium. In a small randomised controlled trial of 31 adults with mild cognitive impairment, it was found that the group who consumed just 1 brazil nut a day had increased selenium levels and improvements in 
two markers of cognitive impairment. Have 1 portion of unsalted brazil nuts a day.

1 serving = 30g (around 3–4 nuts)

4 Grapes

Why? They contain substantial amounts of leutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to benefit brain function in a small trial. Sweetcorn, kiwi, spinach, orange juice and courgettes also provide good amounts of both lutein and zeaxanthin. Have two portions of fruit a day as part of your five-a-day.

1 serving = a handful (around 12–15 grapes)

5 Salmon

Why? Oily fish contains omega-3, which research has proved is important for brain development and function. Have 1 x 140g portion of oily fish each week (such as salmon, mackerel or sardines).

1 serving = 1 steak (the size of a deck of playing cards)

6 Sourdough bread

Why? It has a low glycaemic index, which means you won’t get the sugar high and low associated with white and standard breads… helping you stay more alert through the afternoon.

1 serving = 2 slices

7 Kefir

Why? Kefir is a fermented drink that contains probiotics, which are thought to influence your gut microbiome. An unbalanced microbiome has been related to anxiety and major depressive disorders. So including a natural probiotic food each day might help keep your mind functioning optimally (although more studies are needed before we can say that with certainty).

1 serving = 150ml glass

First published: Nov 2017
Last updated: November 23, 2020

Article sources and references

  • Rita Cardoso, B., Apolinário, D., da Silva Bandeira, V. et al. Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial. Eur J Nutr 55, 107–116 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-014-0829-2
    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00394-014-0829-2#citeas
  • Megan Clapp,, et al. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017 Sep 15; 7(4): 987. Published online 2017 Sep 15. doi: 10.4081/cp.2017.987
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/
  • Robert K.McNamara, et al. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and function: Potential implications for the pathogenesis and prevention of psychopathology. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, Volume 75, Issues 4–5, 2006, Pages 329-349, ISSN 0952-3278, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2006.07.010.
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0952327806001256
  • Lisa M. Renzi-Hammond,, et al. Effects of a Lutein and Zeaxanthin Intervention on Cognitive Function: A Randomized, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Younger Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1246. Published online 2017 Nov 14. doi: 10.3390/nu9111246
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707718/

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