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The 11 best foods to improve your brain power and memory

Die 11 besten Nahrungsmittel zur Verbesserung Deiner Gehirnleistung und Deines Gedächtnisses

As the control center of your body, your brain is responsible for keeping your heart beating, your lungs breathing and allowing you to move, feel and think. For this reason, it's a good idea to keep your brain healthy and in optimal condition.

The foods you eat play an important role in keeping your brain healthy and can improve specific mental tasks such as memory and concentration.

This article will introduce you to 11 foods that can have a positive impact on your brain's health and performance.

1. fatty fish

When people talk about brain foods, fatty fish is at the top of the list. This type of fish includes the likes of salmon, trout and sardines, which are all rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids (1).

Around 60% of your brain is made up of fat and half of this is omega-3 fatty acids (2). Your brain uses omega-3 fatty acids to build brain and nerve cells and these fats are also essential for learning and memory (2, 3).

However, omega-3 fatty acids have a few other benefits for your brain. For one, they may slow down age-related decline in mental abilities and help protect against Alzheimer's disease (4, 5, 6, 7). On the other hand, an insufficient intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with impaired learning ability and depression (3, 8).

In general, eating fish appears to have health benefits. One study found that people who regularly ate baked or boiled fish had more gray matter in their brains. The gray matter contains most of the nerve cells that control decision-making, memory and emotions (9).

All in all, fish is an excellent food choice for brain health.

Summary: Fatty fish is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are an important building block of the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in improving memory and mood, as well as protecting the brain from age-related decline.

2. coffee

If coffee is the highlight of your morning, then you'll be happy to hear that it's good for you too. Two of the main components of coffee - caffeine and antioxidants - are good for your brain.

The caffeine in coffee has a number of positive effects on your brain, including the following (9):

  • Increased alertness: caffeine keeps your brain alert by blocking adenosine - a chemical messenger that makes you sleepy (10, 11, 12).
  • Improved mood: Caffeine can also increase levels of some of your 'feel-good' neurotransmitters such as serotonin (13).
  • Improved concentration: One study found that when subjects drank a large coffee in the morning or smaller amounts of coffee throughout the day, they were more effective at tasks that required greater concentration (14).

In the long term, regular coffee consumption is also associated with a reduced risk of neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's (9). This could be at least partly due to the high antioxidant content (15).

Summary: Coffee may help improve alertness and mood. It may also protect against Alzheimer's thanks to its caffeine and antioxidant content.

3. blueberries

Blueberries have many health benefits, including some that are specific to the brain. Blueberries and other dark-colored berries provide anthocyanins - a group of plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (16).

Antioxidants counteract oxidative stress and inflammation - two factors that can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases (16). Some of the antioxidants in blueberries accumulate in the brain and help to improve communication between brain cells (16, 17).

Studies conducted on animals have shown that blueberries can help improve memory and may even delay short-term memory loss (18, 19, 20).

Summary: Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that may delay brain aging and improve memory.

4. turmeric

Turmeric has been getting a lot of attention lately. This deep yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry powder and has a whole host of benefits for the brain.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier and thus enter the brain directly to exert its benefits in brain cells (21).

Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects and is associated with the following benefits for the brain:

  • Memory improvement: curcumin may help improve memory in Alzheimer's patients. It may also help remove amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark of the disease (21, 22).
  • Relieving depression: Curcumin can increase serotonin and dopamine levels, which can improve mood. One study found that curcumin was as effective as a pharmaceutical antidepressant in relieving symptoms of depression over 6 weeks (23, 24)
  • Supporting the growth of new brain cells: Curcumin increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that promotes the growth of brain cells. It may also help to delay age-related mental decline, but further studies are needed for definitive conclusions (25).

To reap the benefits of curcumin, you can cook with curry powder, add turmeric to potato dishes or drink turmeric tea.

Summary: Turmeric and its active ingredient curcumin have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits that can have a positive effect on brain health and performance. Studies have shown that turmeric can alleviate symptoms of depression and Alzheimer's disease.

5. broccoli

Broccoli is packed with powerful plant compounds including antioxidants (26). Broccoli is also very rich in vitamin K and provides around 100% of the recommended daily intake of this vitamin per 100 grams (27).

This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for the formation of sphingolipids - a type of fat that is densely packed in brain cells (28). Some studies conducted with older adults have linked higher vitamin K intake to better memory performance (29, 30).

In addition to vitamin K, broccoli contains a number of compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and may help protect the brain from damage (31).

Summary: Broccoli contains a number of compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects including vitamin K.

6 Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free radical damage (31). They are also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper (32). Each of these nutrients is important for brain health:

  • Zinc: This element is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency is associated with many neurological diseases including Alzheimer's, depression and Parkinson's (33, 34, 35).
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels have been linked to many neurological disorders including migraines, depression and epilepsy (36, 37).
  • Copper: Your brain uses copper to help control nerve signals. And when copper levels are outside the optimal range, you're at higher risk for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease (38, 39).
  • Iron: Iron deficiency is often characterized by impaired concentration and impaired brain function (40).

Scientific research focuses mainly on these micronutrients and less on pumpkin seeds themselves. However, since pumpkin seeds are rich in all of these micronutrients, you can likely benefit from all of these benefits by including pumpkin seeds in your diet.

Summary: Pumpkin seeds are rich in many micronutrients including copper, iron, magnesium and zinc, which are important for brain function.

7. dark chocolate

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are packed with a number of compounds such as flavonoids, caffeine and antioxidants that can boost brain function.

Flavonoids are a group of antioxidant plant compounds. The flavonoids in chocolate accumulate in areas of the brain that are responsible for learning and memory. Scientists believe that these compounds improve memory performance and may help prevent age-related decline in mental performance (41, 43, 43, 44).

This is supported by a number of studies (45, 46, 47). In a study of over 900 participants, those who ate dark chocolate more frequently performed better on a range of mental tasks than those who rarely ate chocolate (45).

Chocolate is also a legitimate mood enhancer, according to scientific research. One study found that subjects who ate chocolate experienced an increased sense of well-being compared to subjects who ate crackers (48). However, it is not yet clear whether this is due to compounds contained in chocolate or simply because the delicious taste of chocolate makes you happy (48).

Summary: The flavonoids in chocolate help to protect the brain. Studies suggest that eating chocolate can improve memory and mood.

8. nuts

Scientific research has shown that eating nuts can improve markers of heart health, and a healthy heart is associated with a healthy brain (49, 50).

A study published in 2014 showed that nuts can improve cognitive abilities and help prevent neurodegenerative diseases (51).

Another large-scale study found that women who ate nuts regularly over several years had better memory performance compared to women who did not eat nuts (49).

Several nutrients found in nuts, such as healthy fats, antioxidants and vitamin E, could explain their positive effects on brain health (52, 53). Vitamin E protects cell membranes from free radical damage, which may help slow mental decline (54, 55, 56).

Although all nuts are good for your brain, walnuts may have an additional benefit as they provide omega-3 fatty acids (57).

Summary: Nuts contain a range of brain-boosting nutrients including vitamin E, healthy fats and plant compounds.

9. oranges

You can get all the vitamin C you need in a day by eating a medium-sized orange (58). Doing this is important for brain health, as vitamin C is a key factor in preventing a decline in mental performance (59).

Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin C-rich foods can protect against age-related mental decline and Alzheimer's disease (60). Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight free radicals that can damage your brain cells. In addition, vitamin C supports brain health as we age (61).

Other excellent sources of vitamin C include bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes and strawberries (62).

Summary: Oranges and other foods rich in vitamin C can help protect your brain from free radical damage.

10 Eggs

Eggs are a good source of several nutrients including vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate and choline that are linked to brain health (63).

Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory (64, 65). Two studies have shown that a higher intake of choline can be associated with better memory and mental function (66, 67).

However, most people do not get enough choline from their diet. Eating eggs is an easy way to get choline, as egg yolks are one of the most concentrated sources of this nutrient. An adequate intake is 425 mg of choline per day for women and 550 mg of choline per day for men, with a single egg yolk providing 112 mg of choline (64).

The B vitamins contained in egg yolk also play an important role in the brain. Among other things, they can help to slow down the progression of declining mental function in older people (68). In addition, a deficiency of two types of B vitamins - folate and vitamin B12 - is associated with depression (69).

Folate deficiency is common in older people suffering from dementia and studies show that folic acid supplementation can help minimize age-related decline in mental abilities (70, 71). Vitamin B12 is also involved in the production of certain brain chemicals and the regulation of sugar levels in the brain (69).

It is worth noting that there is very little research on the direct link between egg consumption and brain health. However, there is plenty of research supporting the brain benefits of the nutrients found in eggs.

Summary: Eggs are a rich source of several B vitamins and choline, which are needed for proper brain function and development as well as mood regulation.

11. green tea

Just like coffee, the caffeine contained in green tea can also boost brain function. In fact, green tea has been shown to improve attention, performance, memory and focus (72).

However,green tea contains other compounds that make it a good beverage for promoting brain health. One of these compounds is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps to reduce anxiety and agitation and make you feel more relaxed (73, 74, 75).

L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which helps you relax without making you tired (76). One study review concluded that the L-theanine contained in green tea can help you relax by counteracting the stimulating effects of caffeine (72).

In addition, green tea is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, which can protect the brain from declining mental function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease (77, 78). Green tea has also been shown to improve memory performance (79).

Summary: Green tea is an excellent drink to support the brain, its caffeine content improves alertness, while the antioxidants it contains protect the brain and the theanine it contains helps to relax.


Many foods can help keep your brain healthy. Some foods such as fruit and vegetables, as well as tea and coffee, contain antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage. Other foods such as nuts and eggs contain nutrients that support memory and brain development.

You can support your brain's health and support alertness, memory and mood by strategically including these foods in your diet.




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