Best Brain Foods And Why

The brain is an organ that is known to be the most complex part of the human body. The human brain weighs at least three pounds and is responsible for various functions within the human body.1 Structurally, the brain can be separated into three basic parts: the forebrainmidbrain, and hindbrain. Each part of the brain has its unique responsibilities and functions.2

The brain consists of different areas that are accountable for your cognition, emotions, and motor functions.3 Therefore, it is important to keep your brain healthy! We can do this by consuming healthy foods that improve our brain function.

It has been demonstrated that dietary factors can affect neuronal function and synaptic plasticity. These are crucial mechanisms that provide healthy brain function and mental fitness.4

This article will explore the best brain foods that help with brain function and cognitive function.

Best brain foods:

Omega-3 fatty acids: 

Omega-3 fatty acids (such as docosahexaenoic acid) - have been identified to have a positive impact on the improvement in cognitive decline in an elderly client group.5 It is also considered a good foundation treatment for people with mood disorders.6  Evidence has also shown that eating fish, which is rich in omega-3, is good for your brain health. For example, reports are stating that it can reduce the risk of developing dementia.7  However, more research needs to be carried out on the direct impact of Omega-3 fatty acids and health conditions such as dementia. Similarly, Omega-3 was demonstrated to improve the cognitive decay present in mice with Alzheimer’s disease.9 Omega-3 fatty acids were displayed to be effective in the progress of cognitive function when rodents had experienced brain injuries.8   

The foods that have been identified to be rich in this nutrient are oily fish such as trout, salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. All these fish contain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D.10 Other foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids are flax seeds, chia, Krill, kiwi fruit, butternut squash, walnuts, and soybeans.11


Curcumin is a primary bioactive substance in turmeric. This nutrient contains anti-inflammatory properties that may ease the effect of health conditions such as chronic pain and depression.12  Curcumin is effective in the improvement of cognitive decline which was identified in mice models of Alzheimer’s disease.13 This was also shown to be prominent in the improvement of brain injury in various rodents.14 


Flavonoids are a diverse range of compounds present naturally in fruits and vegetables. These nutrients can also be found in wines, teas, and chocolate. Flavonoids play a vital role in expelling bad toxins present in your body. They are filled with antioxidants and are an excellent way to keep your body healthy. Flavonoids have also been known to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions.15  Flavonoids are known to increase cognitive enhancement alongside exercise in rodents.16  Flavonoids have also been proven to improve cognitive function in elderly people.17  

Foods containing flavonoids are berries, red cabbage, onions, kale, parsley, tea, red wine, dark chocolate, citrus fruits, and soybeans.18

Saturated Fats:

Saturated fats are fats commonly found in animal-based foods such as meats, dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut and palm.19  Too much consumption of saturated fats can increase the risk of heart disease. Alongside this, saturated fats increase the risk of cognitive decline found in rodents.20  Saturated fats can also enhance cognitive impairment within rodents and exacerbate the cognitive decline in humans.21 

Saturated fats also known as solid fats are usually found in butter, ghee, dairy products, and meat.

B vitamins:

There are a variety of B vitamins present such as Thiamin (vitamin B1); riboflavin (vitamin B2); niacin(vitamin B3); pantothenic acid; vitamin B6; biotin (vitamin B7); folate and folic acid and vitamin B12.22  B vitamins, in general, are beneficial to the nervous system. Supplements that contain B6 and B12 vitamins have been shown to have a positive effect on memory in women.23 Vitamin B12 is available in meat sources.

Vitamin D:

Vitamin D has been shown to help preserve cognition in the elderly client groups. Vitamin D can be found in fatty fish, fish liver, mushrooms, soy milk and cereal grains.

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E has been shown to prevent cognitive decay in the elderly and facilitate the improvement of brain trauma in rodents. Vitamin E can be found in nuts, spinach, wheat germ, olives, and asparagus


Walnuts are identified as a strong source of protein and healthy fats. Research has shown that walnut consumption was directly associated with increased cognitive performance and an improvement in memory in comparison to the initial adult baseline.24


Choline is a nutrient similar to B vitamins. It is produced in the liver. Foods may also contain this nutrient such as meats, nuts, fish, eggs, and vegetables. Choline is an important nutrient that is utilised in many chemical reactions that take place in the body. It is vital for the development of normal brain function and the nervous system.25

Nutrients such as:

  • Zinc which is known to play a vital part in nerve signalling. Zinc deficiencies have also been linked to neurological conditions such as depression,26 Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.27

- Magnesium is crucial for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to neurological diseases such as migraines, depression, and epilepsy.28

- Copper helps the brain to control nerve signals. Neurodivergent diseases can occur if the levels of copper are affected. Similarly, a lack of iron can cause brain fog and impaired brain function.28

To remember

Many foods can keep the brain healthy. However, foods that are rich in antioxidants, omega-3, and foods that contain various nutrients can protect the brain and keep it healthy.


Taking care of your brain fitness is important. This can be done by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet. Your diet plays an important role in the development of your brain and cognitive function. Each nutrient listed in the article is effective in keeping your body and brain healthy. That being said, more evidence is needed to demonstrate that only one factor has a direct impact on brain health. However, we know that few foods play an important role in maintaining and protecting the brain.


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  6. Freeman MP, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence basis for treatment and future research in psychiatry. J Clin Psychiatry. 2006;67:1954–1967.
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  8. Wu A, Ying Z, Gómez-Pinilla F. Dietary Omega-3 fatty acids normalize BDNF levels, reduce oxidative damage, and counteract learning disability after traumatic brain injury in rats. J Neurotrauma. 2004;21:1457–1467.
  9. Calon F, et al. Docosahexaenoic acid protects from dendritic pathology in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Neuron. 2004;43:633–645
  10. Fish oils and omega-3 oils: Benefits, foods, and risks [Internet]. 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  11. 12 foods that are very high in omega-3 [Internet]. Healthline. 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  12. Antonis Damianou Ms. Curcumin research analysis. 2022 Sep 28 [cited 2022 Dec 16]; Available from:
  13. Frautschy SA, et al. Phenolic anti-inflammatory antioxidant reversal of Aβ-induced cognitive deficits and neuropathology. Neurobiol Aging. 2001;22:993–1005.
  14. Wu A, Ying Z, Gómez-Pinilla F. Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Exp Neurol. 2006;197:309–317.
  15. Everything you need to know about flavonoids [Internet]. Healthline. 2019 [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  16. van Praag H, et al. Plant-derived flavanol (−) epicatechin enhances angiogenesis and retention of spatial memory in mice. J Neurosci. 2007;27:5869–5878.
  17. Letenneur L, Proust-Lima C, Le Gouge A, Dartigues JF, Barberger-Gateau P. Flavonoid intake and cognitive decline over a 10-year period. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;165:1364–1371.
  18. Contributors WE. Top foods high in flavonoids [Internet]. WebMD. [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  19. Saturated fat [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  20. Molteni R, Barnard JR, Ying Z, Roberts CK, Gomez-Pinilla F. A high-fat, refined sugar diet reduces hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor, neuronal plasticity, and learning. Neuroscience. 2002;112:803–814.
  21. Greenwood CE, Winocur G. High-fat diets, insulin resistance and declining cognitive function. Neurobiol Aging. 2005;26 (Suppl 1):42–45.
  22. Vitamins and minerals - B vitamins and folic acid [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  23. Bryan J, Calvaresi E, Hughes D. Short-term folate, vitamin B-12 or vitamin B-6 supplementation slightly affects memory performance but not mood in women of various ages. J Nutr. 2002;132:1345–1356.
  24. Chauhan A, Chauhan V. Beneficial effects of walnuts on cognition and brain health. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Feb [cited 2022 Dec 16];12(2). Available from:
  25. Choline: overview, uses, side effects, precautions, interactions, dosing and reviews [Internet]. [cited 2022 Dec 16]. Available from:
  26. Petrilli MA, Kranz TM, Kleinhaus K, Joe P, Getz M, Johnson P, et al. The emerging role for zinc in depression and psychosis. Front Pharmacol [Internet]. 2017 Jun 30 [cited 2022 Dec 16];8:414. Available from:
  27. Portbury SD, Adlard PA. Zinc signal in brain diseases. Int J Mol Sci [Internet]. 2017 Nov 23 [cited 2022 Dec 16];18(12):2506. Available from:
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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Jolanda Roberts

Masters of Science- MSc Psychological Therapies in Mental Health, Queen Mary University of London
Bachelor of Science- BSc Psychology with Neuroscience

Jolanda is currently an Assistant Psychologist within the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. She has built a plethora of skills within research, hospitals and community settings. She is dedicated to spreading Mental Health Awareness among people from all backgrounds and is knowledgeable in applying theoretical concepts to real-life scenarios. In the future, Jolanda aspires to qualify as a Clinical Psychologist and provide the best holistic care to meet individual needs in a compassion-driven way.

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