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7 everyday foods that feed your brain

Research shows certain nutrients are linked to good brain health and may help us stay sharper for longer. Include in your diet these seven science-backed, everyday foods to help increase your memory and brainpower.

1 Eggs

Why? They contain choline, which is important for the synthesis of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin.

1 serving = 1 egg

2 Dark green leafy vegetables

Why? They contain magnesium. People who get recurrent migraines are often low in magnesium, and supplementation is sometimes used (under the guidance of a doctor) for the prevention of them. Migraines 
can leave you tired for days after an episode and with reduced ability to concentrate and focus.

1 serving = 2 heaped tbsp cooked spinach

3 Brazil nuts

Why? They contain selenium. In a small randomised controlled trial of 31 adults with mild cognitive impairment, it was found that the group who consumed just 1 brazil nut a day had increased selenium levels and improvements in 
two markers of cognitive impairment. Have 1 portion of unsalted brazil nuts a day.

1 serving = 30g (around 3–4 nuts)

4 Grapes

Why? They contain substantial amounts of leutein and zeaxanthin, which have been found to benefit brain function in a small trial. Sweetcorn, kiwi, spinach, orange juice and courgettes also provide good amounts of both lutein and zeaxanthin. Have two portions of fruit a day as part of your five-a-day.

1 serving = a handful (around 12–15 grapes)

5 Salmon

Why? Oily fish contains omega-3, which research has proved is important for brain development and function. Have 1 x 140g portion of oily fish each week (such as salmon, mackerel or sardines).

1 serving = 1 steak (the size of a deck of playing cards)

6 Sourdough bread

Why? It has a low glycaemic index, which means you won’t get the sugar high and low associated with white and standard breads… helping you stay more alert through the afternoon.

1 serving = 2 slices

7 Kefir

Why? Kefir is a fermented drink that contains probiotics, which are thought to influence your gut microbiome. An unbalanced microbiome has been related to anxiety and major depressive disorders. So including a natural probiotic food each day might help keep your mind functioning optimally (although more studies are needed before we can say that with certainty).

1 serving = 150ml glass

Article sources and references

  • Rita Cardoso, B., Apolinário, D., da Silva Bandeira, V. et al. Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial. Eur J Nutr 55, 107–116 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-014-0829-2
  • Megan Clapp,, et al. Gut microbiota’s effect on mental health: The gut-brain axis. Clin Pract. 2017 Sep 15; 7(4): 987. Published online 2017 Sep 15. doi: 10.4081/cp.2017.987
  • Robert K.McNamara, et al. Role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and function: Potential implications for the pathogenesis and prevention of psychopathology. Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, Volume 75, Issues 4–5, 2006, Pages 329-349, ISSN 0952-3278, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.plefa.2006.07.010.
  • Lisa M. Renzi-Hammond,, et al. Effects of a Lutein and Zeaxanthin Intervention on Cognitive Function: A Randomized, Double-Masked, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Younger Healthy Adults. Nutrients. 2017 Nov; 9(11): 1246. Published online 2017 Nov 14. doi: 10.3390/nu9111246

Date modified: 28 February 2023
First published: November 2020


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