15 Brain Foods to Boost Memory and Focus

Updated on March 19, 2018
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Varsha is an enthusiastic writer who likes to research topics related to health and wellness.

Want to eat for brain health?The following specific eats show mind-enhancing promise:


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Eggs

Eggs are a great source of nutrients that are essential for cell membranes. Healthy cell membranes mean better cell signaling and communication and reduced inflammation, all of which are important for memory and concentration. Eggs are great for fuelling the brain and an excellent choice for early risers who workout in the morning, especially with a slow release carb such as a slice of grainy toast.

Oats

Oats provide a low glycaemic meal good for stabilising blood sugar levels. They can also help to rebuild nerves and brain tissue. Being low on glycemic index, oats provide a slow and steady rise in blood sugar levels which is long lasting, leading to several hours of sustained brain power. A study by researchers at the University of South Australia says that oats may help prevent cognitive decline.

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Fish

Fish- With 60 percent of our brains made up of fat and 25 percent of our cholesterol found in the brain, it makes sense that the omega-3 fats native to oily fish lay the foundation for bringing your best brain to the boardroom.Omega-3 fatty acids—DHA in particular— contribute to a healthy brain. The brain’s membranes use these fats to improve the cellular structure and brain signaling, which translates into better cognitive function. DHA also quells chronic inflammation that can harm brain cells and lead to cognitive decline. Fish is the top source: Eating fatty fish (like salmon, sardines, mackerel, or trout) once a week can help slow cognitive decline and reduce Alzheimer’s risk, research suggests that salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, as it reduces inflammation in the body while also supporting brain function.Salmon also provides B12, a vital nutrient that produces brain chemicals to help mitigate mood issues.

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Dark Chocolate

When it comes to memory, plant compounds called flavonoids are key, improving vascular strength and acting as powerful antioxidants. There is significant evidence to suggest flavanoids can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect neurons, and stimulate neuronal growth and blood flow into the brain. This, in turn, improves nerve function and communication, and also reduces nerve inflammation. Dark chocolate provides a good level of flavonoids but must be in its raw form (think cacao powder). Once cooked, cacao loses most of its flavonoids and antioxidants and becomes cocoa. Stick to a square or two of dark chocolate daily. My favourite is Lindt Dark Chocolate with 85% cocoa. These come in different varieties from 70-99% of cocoa. Stick with one having 70-85% cocoa if you want to enjoy the health benefits it offers.

Whole Grains

The brain’s preferred fuel is glucose, which comes most readily from carbs. Without ample glucose, you may struggle with brain fog and difficulty in focusing. While you want to avoid refined carbs, whole grains contain fiber and help keep your blood sugar on an even keel. (Sharp rises and falls in blood sugar can impair your cells’ ability to uptake glucose because of insulin resistance).Whole grains are your best source of vitamin B, important for maintaining nerve and mental function, alertness and concentration.

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Coffee

If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, keep sipping. Caffeine may help protect against age-related cognitive decline. Studies have indicated that caffeine— for example, roughly 500 milligrams daily, the equivalent of about five cups of coffee—may help stave off memory issues in humans. (Experts warn against taking caffeine supplements, which flood your body with a lot of caffeine all at once.)

Plant Based Omega3s

Plant-based sources of omega-3 are typically comprised of the less well- absorbed form of omega-3 but are still valuable inclusions to your diet. Sources include hemp seeds, sacha inchi seeds, flaxseeds and chia seeds.

Probiotics

Fermented foods that contain probiotics (such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi) help create short-chain fatty acids. SCFAs help brain cells talk to one another and fight inflammation. To enable probiotics in your gut to flourish and produce SCFAs, nourish them with high-fiber foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, and whole grains. One type of fiber that probiotics love to feed on is inulin, found in asparagus, leeks, garlic, onions, and Jerusalem artichokes.

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Walnuts

Walnuts are a rich source of nutrients and bioactive phytochemicals. Walnuts contain large amounts of PUFAs such as ALA and LA, which have been shown to boost brain health and function even with an increase in age. They play an important role in brain health not only by reducing oxidative stress and altering the immune function but also in maintaining synaptic plasticity, neuronal membrane stability, gene expres- sion, and neurogenesis. The presence of other phytochemical components in walnuts contributes to healthy neuronal processes. Polyphenols found in walnuts promote neuronal calcium homeostasis in the striatum and hippocampus, regions of the brain crucial for primary and secondary memory functions.

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What to Avoid for Brain Health  
Sugary foods and drinks
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and pasta and chips
Hydrogenated fats (added to some processed foods) and trans fats (from fried food)
Fatty meat and full fat dairy products
Processed food like ready meals, takeaways and confectionary items
Alcohol
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Blueberries

Blueberries are packed with polyphenols, potent antioxidants that support brain health. Their high fibre content helps keep blood sugar and energy levels stable, which can play an important role in helping to reduce our anxiety levels and lowering depression. They are known to boost concentration and memory. Antioxidants found in blueberries stimulate the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain and keeps mood fresh. Eating them bolsters nerve cell growth in the hippocampus,

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Green Tea

Green tea’s primary protective agent is in EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). This highly potent antioxidant helps prevent the formation of B-amyloid which is a protein whose accumulation is recognized as causing Alzheimer’s disease. It also protects brain cells by removing iron which might otherwise produce destructive free radicals and inhibit brain function and helps prevent oxidative stress-induced brain cell death by “talking” to the brain cells’ genes responsible for cell cycling and survival. EGCG tells the genes in neurons to decrease production of caspase 3 which is an enzyme involved in initiating programmed cell death. and promotes memory-related learning abilities by protecting cells in the hippocampus. Recent studies have shown that simply consuming 2 or more cups of green tea daily reduces risk of cognitive decline and Parkinson's disease.

Foods to Eat each week for Better Brain Function

Food
Serving
Reason
Whole Grains
21 servings (3 per day)
Brown rice, oats and other whole grains are high in magnesium, which helps brain cells use energy.
Leafy Greens
6 servings
Greens contain antioxidants including beta carotene and folate, and they are also rich in vitamin K, which is used to make brain cell membranes.
Berries
2 servings
Berries contain flavonoids, which strengthen connec- tions between neurons, making it easier for them to communicate.
Nuts
5 servings
Almonds are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that ab- sorbs damaging free radicals surrounding brain cells, while walnuts contain anti- inflammatory omega-3 fats.
Beans
4 servings
Many beans, including chickpeas, navy beans and pinto beans, are rich in magnesium, which helps brain cells use energy.
Vegetables
7 servings (1 per day)
Veggies are full of vitamins, such as folate. In a 2012 study, women with Alz- heimer’s plaques and higher folate levels had fewer dementia symptoms.
Fish
1 serving
Oily fish are excellent sources of omega-3 fats, which reduce inflammation and are used to build the brain’s solid matter.
Poultry
2 servings
Poultry is rich in choline, a B vitamin that is important for brain development and, according to a 2011 study, could protect against dementia.

Beets and Spinach

Beets and spinach are high in naturally occurring nitrates which are converted by bacteria in our saliva and gut to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide plays an important role in concentration by enhancing blood flow to the brain.

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Foods High in Iron

Silverbeet is a great source of iron. Women need to ensure an adequate daily intake of iron to maintain energy levels and support immune function. Iron also provides compounds called carotenoids which, due to their antioxidant function, protect the brain. , legumes, etc. Plant sources of iron include lentils, chickpeas, beans, tofu, cashew nuts, chia seeds, ground linseed, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, kale, spinach, dried apricots and figs, raisins, collard greens, swiss chard quinoa and fortified breakfast cereal.

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What to Eat for Brain Health  
 
Fruit and vegetables cheap ones include apples, pears, bananas, berries, plums, salad leaves, tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery and potatoes
Unrefined carbohydrates like brown rice, wholemeal bread, oat cakes, porridge oats and rye bread
Beans, lentils and pulses like chickpeas, kidney beans and baked beans
Eggs poached, scrambled or boiled, or in omelettes
Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, fresh tuna and sardines
Nuts and seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds
Lean meat such as chicken, turkey, lean (not reconstituted) ham and beef
 

Foods high in Folate

Oranges, broccoli, spinach and bananas are rich in folate, which reduces blood levels of homocysteine, a substance that can injure brain cells. High levels of homocysteine has been associated with declines in recall memory.

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Dark green leafy vegetables

Vegetables, especially leafy greens like spinach, kale and turnip greens and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, have been strongly linked with lower levels of cognitive decline in older age.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Sunita 

        10 months ago

        Thank you loads for such valuable information

      • varsha bang profile imageAUTHOR

        Varsha 

        12 months ago from India

        Thank you Angel Guzman

      • Angel Guzman profile image

        Angel Guzman 

        12 months ago from Joliet, Illinois

        Come open a restaurant near Chicago I'll go ;) great read. I incorporate some of this in my diet but income restrictions prevent an ideal diet :(

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