10 foods to boost your brainpower

  • By
    Jo Lewin - Nutritional therapist

Eating well is good for your mental as well as your physical health. The brain requires nutrients just like your heart, lungs or muscles do. But which foods are particularly important to keep our grey matter happy?

Wholegrains1. Opt for wholegrains

Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from the adequate, steady supply of energy - in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Achieve this by choosing wholegrains with a low-GI, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for 'brown' cereals, wheatbran, granary bread and brown pasta.

2. Eat oily fish

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body and must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish as EPA and DHA. Good sources include linseed (flaxseed) oil, soya bean oil, pumpkin seeds, walnut oil and soya beans. They are good for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and general wellbeing. Oily fish contains EPA and DHA in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. The main sources of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.


Blueberry3. Binge on blueberries

Evidence accumulated at Tufts University in the United States suggests that the consumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. Widely available, so there's no excuse.

4. Eat more tomatoes

There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.


Runners5. Add vitality with vitamins

Certain B vitamins - B6, B12 and folic acid - are known to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. A study of a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment found that after two years of intervention with high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid there was significantly less brain shrinkage compared to a subset given placebo treatment.


Blackcurrants6. Get a blackcurrant boost

Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility. One of the best sources of this vital vitamin are blackcurrants.

Pumpkin seeds7. Pick up pumpkin seeds

Just a handful of pumpkin seeds a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills.


Broccoli8. Bet on broccoli

A great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower.

Sage9. Sprinkle on sage

Sage has long had a reputation for improving memory and although most studies focus on sage as an essential oil, it could be worth adding fresh sage to your diet too.


10. Go nuts

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly. Nuts are a great source of vitamin E along with leafy green vegetables, asparagus, olives, seeds, eggs, brown rice and wholegrains.


Brainpower supplements

Although research linking diet and dementia is still in its infancy, there are a few important relationships between nutrients and brain health that are worth exploring. Having a nourishing, well rounded diet gives our brain the best chance of avoiding disease. If your diet is unbalanced for whatever reason, you may want to consider a multivitamin and mineral complex and an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help make up a few of the essentials. If you are considering taking a supplement it is best to discuss this with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional.

More in health and nutrition:

Women's health
Men's health
Fitness & nutrition
Special diets
Eating for ill health
Healthy eating
Healthy cooking
Ingredient focus


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.


Show comments
mayank's picture

Awesome tips. Found it very useful. I have found a post from eVaidya which talks about "healthy heart foods" . Well tomatoes are very helpful for our heart.Tomatoes are high in potassium that is great for the health. Tomatoes contain lycopene that will lower the cholesterol.Foods like salmon, flaxseeds, oatmeal, beans, nuts, red wine, soy products, oranges, tomatos, green vegitables are great for healthy heart. Find out here how these foods are helpful for our health. https://www.evaidya.com/Health-Articles/10-foods-for-a-healthy-heart/

harinigs's picture

In India, okra is considered an important brain food, while brahmi is the herb traditionally used to cool the brain and build memory power. I was surprised neither of these figured on your list.

rhod mitch's picture

Eating healthy foods is good to the mind as well as to the physical health. We can think properly and do things without facing any health problems. We can also avoid having diseases. Anyway thanks for sharing this. Keep on posting :)
how to get more followers on soundcloud

HealthyJames's picture

This is an awesome list. But as another member also noted, it surprised me that Green Tea and some other items (like Vinpocetine) were not included in the list. Regardless, I think this is a great introductory list, I'm definitely going to be looking to eat more of these foods.

I also wanted to say that supplementation can also go a long way in meeting all the requirements too. Personally, along with taking vitamins and fish/flaxseed oil, I do also take a product called Limidax once a day. Limidax is a focus and concentration (brain-power) supplement that's made a great difference for me and its getting pretty popular, at least in my area, with professionals and college students (use it to study). It's completely all-natural and uses ten great ingredients with decades of research. Definitely something people should look into as well (they provide all the research and links to studies on their website; initially the main reason my friend and I bought it).

nedved1000's picture


Jimmy223's picture

Miro, can you explain please how brain training apps really work? It's really interesting to hear from you. But, we cannot avoid natural health benefited food, right? A couple of months ago, my foolish cousin boosts his memory by taking simple 6 foods. We just wondered about this and still believing natural foods are best for the brain. Here's the article how he boost his memory: http://www.ihomeremedy.net/foods-that-boosts-memory-power/

Marguerite van As's picture

Marguerite van As (14213461)
Thank you for the article, I enjoyed reading it. I have done a bit of reading on nuts in particular. I often hear that it is really healthy but did not know all the benefits it offers. Nuts, containing fibre and essential fats and a lot of protein, contributes not only to a healthy mind but also to physical health, such as your skin appearance.
An example of this is Almonds. It is rich in calcium and high in vitamin E. I read that Vitamin E helps improve skin appearance. I had a rough skin and I started taking in a handful of almonds everyday. It really helped my skin. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects and repairs your skin.
Antioxidants neutralize the oxidant effect of free radicals. They are molecules that damage collagen and cause skin dryness, wrinkles and pimples.

Katerina T's picture

Very interesting and informative article about brain health!
It has been proven that by eating the right food, you can boost your IQ, improve your mood, be more emotionally stable, sharpen your memory and keep your mind young. Your body ages as you get older, your brain often does too but IT DOESN'T HAVE TO! You can still have a healthy mind at your old age by eating the best brain foods.
Here is another article how to boost your brain health: http://www.healthyfoodmind.com/food-brain-health/

ihanterro's picture

There are numerous health benefits associated with the consumption of oily fish. Research indicates that it can reduce the risk of death from heart disease, improve mental ability, ward off cancer, prevent alcohol-related dementia, and lower your risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

visit us at: http://www.accountwarehouse.com/

Sharpie5's picture

Thank you for a very interesting and informative article on brain power.