Many of the foods we eat help to keep our brains healthy. Some foods, like fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices contain plant compounds that help protect the brain. Others like nuts, eggs and oily varieties of fish contain beneficial fats and certain vitamins and minerals that the brain needs to ensure our memory – both short-term and long-term, remain sharp.


Discover our full range of health benefit guides, check out our 10 foods to boost your brain power and our top 20 mood boosting recipes.

Spiced salmon with traybaked sag aloo

Top 10 foods to improve your memory

1. Oily fish

We’ve long been told that fish is the ultimate ‘brain food’, and there’s convincing evidence to support this. Studies suggest regular consumption reduces age-related brain loss and may improve memory – it’s the omega-3 fatty acids that are responsible for this. They do this by promoting electrical signalling between nerve cells, allowing the brain to communicate quickly and easily. It’s also thought that they may help improve mental concentration.

Try our spiced salmon with traybaked sag aloo and smoked mackerel, courgette & butter bean salad.

2. Blueberries

Berries, and blueberries in particular, appear to have memory-enhancing properties thanks to plant flavonoids, known as anthocyanins. It appears these effects may improve memory and cognitive processes, whatever our age.

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Enjoy blueberries as a snack and include them in our warming porridge with blueberry compote.

3. Walnuts

Eating a small handful of nuts on a regular basis is good for the heart and supports blood circulation which has knock on benefits for the brain. This is supported by studies that demonstrate that a higher nut intake is associated with better overall cognition for the older age group.

Walnuts appear to have the edge over other nuts, being an especially good source of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids – munching just a few each day may improve both memory and cognition speed.

Try our spaghetti with spinach & walnut pesto or our goat’s cheese, pear & walnut tartines.

4. Eggs

Whole eggs are nutritionally rich, supplying almost every nutrient you need. They are one of the best dietary sources of choline – this little talked about nutrient is needed for the formation of cell membranes and for brain function, including memory. It’s especially important during pregnancy and breast feeding, when an adequate supply is essential for the baby’s brain development.

If you choose eggs from brands that enrich the hen’s diet with omega-3 fatty acids, you’ll benefit from higher levels of these brain-boosting fats.

Start the day well with our basil scramble or our mushroom brunch.

Roasted pumpkin seeds in a bowl

5. Pumpkin seeds

Being a better source of the memory-enhancing mineral zinc, than many other seeds, pumpkin seeds are a useful addition to your memory-boosting diet. They're also a good source of B vitamins that are important as they provide protection for the brain as we age and support memory function.

Try our simple roasted pumpkin seeds and indulgent pumpkin seed cookies.

6. Rosemary

The smell of rosemary may significantly improve prospective (our ability to remember to do something) and retrospective memory. This was found to be particularly helpful for exam students, as well as those over 65-years old.

Add the herby flavour of rosemary to our rosemary fried potatoes and rosemary balsamic lamb with vegetable mash.

7. Coffee

Coffee may help boost concentration and mood during non-optimal times of the day such as in the early morning. This may be helpful for those stressed by exams and especially so if the exam is scheduled to take place in the morning.

Explore our delicious coffee recipes to make the perfect flat white, cappuccino and more.

8. Dark chocolate

Made from the seeds of the cacao tree, dark chocolate is a rich, bitter-tasting chocolate made from processed cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

Enjoying moderate amounts of high-cocoa (70% or above) dark chocolate appears to improve blood flow, including that to the brain. If you have an interview or a verbal memory test scheduled, you’ll be interested to know that studies suggest the effects benefit verbal memory two hours after consumption.

Reap the benefits with our recipes for healthy chocolate chia pudding and dark chocolate & yogurt bowls.

9. Soya

There is some evidence that including soya in your diet may improve both long-term and short-term memory. The study noted significant improvements in both men and women, this included an improvement in mental flexibility.

Try our black bean tofu & avocado rice bowl or our tofu with stir-fried noodles, pak choi & sugar snap peas.

10. Green tea

A caffeinated drink, green tea may improve alertness, enhance working memory and focus, especially when tasks are of long duration. Green tea is also rich in plant compounds that have a protective antioxidant effect on the brain.

Add a twist to your cup of green tea, try including grapefruit or strawberry and peach.

More on food and the brain

Brain-boosting recipes
How to eat for exams
5 ways the food you eat affects your brain
5 foods to boost your child's brain power

What foods help your memory? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below….

Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.


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