Published:
February 23, 2022
Last Updated:
February 24, 2022

The 10 Best Brain-Supporting Foods and Snacks

The brain is our most complex organ. It serves as the command center and controls all functions in the body, interprets our surroundings, and is the hub of our intelligence. There’s a variety of ways to support your brain health, including physical exercise, mental stimulation, and some lifestyle changes. What you feed your body impacts your brain, too. Supplementation works just fine, but getting nutrients from food is a more delicious way to keep your brain healthy.

10 Brain-Supporting Foods and Snacks

The nutrients that support brain function, cognition, memory, and concentration can be found in many foods. This list of 10 brain-supporting foods provides inspiration for the perfect midmorning snack or afternoon pick-me-up to power your mind during a day of work, study, or play!

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are full of phytonutrients – beneficial plant chemicals, which include anthocyanin ‒ that improve communication between brain cells and fight free radical damage. These small but powerful berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that produces neurotransmitters and prevents and removes the buildup of heavy metals in our brain.

A cup of fresh blueberries or these blueberry coconut balls from IIN graduate Sandra Shields make for a simple snack that the whole family can enjoy!

2. Walnuts

Walnuts contain significant amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha linoleic acid (ALA), which is helpful in the development of the fetal brain and nervous system. The vitamin E in this mighty nut can help reduce clogged blood vessels that can lead to stroke. Once shelled, walnuts even resemble a human brain!

A small handful of raw walnuts is a great snack on its own, but you can take things to the next level with these Snack Girl rosemary roasted walnuts.

3. Green tea

Like coffee, green tea is a natural source of caffeine that can encourage attention and concentration. Green tea is also loaded with various antioxidants, including theanine, a neural cell protector that contradicts caffeine with its calming effect.

While green tea alone may not seem like much of a snack, it can help your body absorb nutrients from other foods. Pair a cup of brewed green tea with any of the snacks on this list ‒ but keep in mind that the caffeine content in this beverage can disrupt sleep if consumed later in the day.

4. Salmon

Salmon is rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which help develop brain tissue and can prevent depression and anxiety. Just one serving of wild salmon contains more than the daily recommended value of vitamin B12, or cobalamin, a vitamin that prevents the loss of neurons in the brain and keeps memory and cognition intact.

One-sheet-pan salmon and veggies from IIN graduate Cameron Linville is an easy, delicious, and nutritious dinner option.

5. Kale

Kale and other leafy greens are high in lutein, a carotenoid pigment that plays a protective role in the health of the brain. Kale also contains kaempferol and quercetin, flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory effects on this vital organ.

Fresh, crisp, and good for your brain, this kale and mango salad with lime dressing from IIN graduate Jenna Duxbury works for weeknight dinners and weekend get-togethers.

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6. Turmeric

This root-derived spice contains polyphenol compounds that are anti-inflammatory and stimulate growth factors to rebuild brain cells. Turmeric’s bioactive compound, called curcumin, improves neuron communication and balances brain chemicals and mood.

Whip up a batch of Natalie Health lemon turmeric energy balls, and you’ll have an easy snack to keep you going all week long.

7. Dark chocolate

The flavonoids in dark chocolate increase blood flow to the brain and can help boost memory and problem-solving and prevent age-related deterioration. Not only does dark chocolate taste good, but it can make you feel good by producing endorphins that bind to receptors in the brain, promoting feelings of euphoria as well as reducing stress and pain.

IIN graduate Carly Paige’s raspberry chia dark chocolate parfait is a sweet treat that’s suitable for breakfast and dessert.

8. Eggs

Egg yolks supply high amounts of choline, an essential micronutrient that aids in methylation, nerve signaling, and the functioning of the anti-aging neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Eggs also contain B vitamins, which synthesize brain chemicals and minimize cognitive decline.

This sweet potato, asparagus, and broccoli egg bake is a brain-boosting and delicious way to start your mornings or cap off a breakfast-for-dinner-themed evening.

9. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain magnesium, a mineral that supports brain development, memory, learning, and the overall functioning of the nervous system. Another essential mineral found in pumpkin seeds is copper, which is necessary for brain-specific enzymes that control neurotransmitters.

Skip the processed granola bars and try your hand at making these pumpkin granola bars from Elizabeth’s Home.

10. Seaweed

Seaweed is a great source of iron, iodine, and zinc, all of which are important minerals for supporting normal cognitive function. In addition, bioactive compounds found in seaweed, like fucoxanthin, help reduce inflammation in the brain and delay the onset of neurodegenerative ailments like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

These seaweed breakfast wraps from IIN graduate and chef Lula Brown are a fun way to incorporate this superfood into your day.

Give Your Brain a Boost

We ask our brains to do so much for us throughout the day. This organ is constantly taking in and storing information, relaying signals throughout the body, and helping us make decisions. Next time you’re feeling peckish, are fighting a bit of brain fog, or are just in need of a boost, support your brain health with a nourishing and nutrient-dense diet.

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Author Biography
Meghan Vestal, MSAN, RYT-500
,
IIN Content Writer

Meghan Vestal is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a Content Writer for the Education Department at IIN. She holds her Master of Science in Applied Nutrition from the University of New England and is a Registered Yoga Teacher, RYT-500.

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