10 foods to boost your brainpower

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 and healthy?

10 foods to boost your brainpower

Wholegrains1. Opt for wholegrains

Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work without energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an 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' wholegrain cereals, granary bread, rice and pasta.


Mackerel2. Eat oily fish

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body which means they must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish in the form of EPA and DHA. Good plant sources include linseed (flaxseed), soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and their oils. These fats are important for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and our general wellbeing. What makes oily fish so good is that they contain the active form of these fats, 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 an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss whilst having sufficient levels of both EPA and DHA is thought to help us manage stress and helps make the good mood brain chemical, serotonin. Consider a supplement if you're vegetarian. Those following a vegan diet may wish to supplement daily with a plant-based omega-3 supplement, and as a vegan don't forget to add seeds like linseed and chia to your diet.

Blueberry3. Snack 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. They're widely available, but you can also look out for dark red and purple fruits and veg which contain the same protective compounds called anthocyanins.

Tomatoes4. 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. Favour cooked tomatoes and enjoy with a little olive oil to optimise absorption and efficacy.


5. Add vitality with vitamins

Certain B vitamins - B6, B12 and folic acid - are known to reduce levels of a compound called 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. Opt for B-rich foods like chicken, fish, eggs and leafy greens.


Blackcurrants6. Get a blackcurrant boost

Vitamin C has long been thought to have the power to increase mental agility and protect against age-related brain degeneration including dementia and Alzheimer's. One of the best sources of this vital vitamin are blackcurrants. Others include red peppers, citrus fruits and broccoli.

Pumpkin seeds7. Pick up pumpkin seeds

Richer in zinc than many other seeds, pumpkin seeds supply this valuable mineral which is vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. These little seeds are also full of stress-busting magnesium, B vitamins and tryptophan, the precursor to the good mood chemical serotonin.


Broccoli8. Bet on broccoli

Broccoli is great source of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function and improve brainpower. Researchers have reported that because broccoli is high in compounds called glucosinolates, it can slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which we need for the central nervous system to perform properly and to keep our brains and our memories sharp. Low levels of acetylcholine are associated with Alzheimer's.

Sage9. Sprinkle on sage

Sage has long had a reputation for improving memory and concentration. Although most studies focus on sage as an essential oil, it could be worth adding fresh sage to your diet too. Add at the end of cooking to protect the beneficial oils.


Walnuts10. Eat more 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.


The importance of exercise

Don't forget that as well as a healthy diet, exercise helps to keep our brains sharp. Research suggests that regular exercise improves cognitive function, slows down the mental aging process and helps us process information more effectively.


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 your GP 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

This article was last reviewed on 6 May 2016 by nutritional therapist Kerry Torrens.

A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

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

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13th Nov, 2014
These are all really great items, but I didn't see green tea? Check out this article for more great supplements to help boost brain potential; http://www.edenschambers.com/activate-your-brains-limitless-potential/
8th Oct, 2014
My friend just wrote a piece about this! As well as blueberries and oily fish he mentions turmeric, ginger, spinach. The only problem is that a lot of the studies are done on rats, not people! http://www.cafe.com/r/93239969-2fa4-4d82-b2d1-89a96975467d/1/a-recipe-for-the-ultimate-brain-food
28th Sep, 2014
Thanks for sharing! nuts and berries really helps to improve brain function. I also use supplement such as Laminine and its good for me! try it too and see for yourself https://office.lifepharmglobal.com/2014/Enrollment.php?SPONSOR=2108658
10th Jun, 2014
Cinnamon essential oil activates brain, strengthens memory and reduces nervous tension فوائد زيت القرفة - فوائد زيت القرفة للشعر - فوائد زيت القرفة للبشرة
25th May, 2014
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
3rd May, 2014
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
27th Apr, 2014
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/
31st Mar, 2014
Recent studies have shown that brain training tremendously increases the brain power. By using the newest and best brain training apps you'll be able to train your brain to the max! More at http://www.brainqo.com/category/brain-training-apps/
19th Feb, 2015
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/
13th Mar, 2014
Thank you, I am really interested in knowing more about food that really helps people using their brain in a more healthier and balanced way. I wrote more healthy foods for your brain here, http://www.weightlossdose.com/health/well-being/food-makes-us-smarter/ Hope they can help out other folks! :)


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