The A-Z of the Top 20 Foods for Increased Brain Power

If you haven’t noticed I am a bit of a health nut. I read and study and work in the health field and I have a huge passion for it. Every day I am continuously trying to live a healthier and more productive life.

A more recent passion of mine has been the brain, how it works, and how to look after it. Unlike kidneys, fingers, toes, and lungs, you only have one brain so we need to look after it. Research has shown that there are ways that we can improve our brain function and even delay the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other dementias. One of the ways is food.  The food we eat plays a vital part in the quality of our health and fitness, our ability to fight of illness and disease, as well as our ability to think, reflect, ponder, and make decisions.   The food we eat is literally the energy our brain needs to work.

Today I want to share with you the top 20 foods you can eat for increased brain power. Eating these foods will increase your energy, provide clarity of thought and help sustain a good memory.

Almonds and other nuts

Almonds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high in antioxidants, especially vitamin E. Raw almonds are best but dry roasted still give you the benefits. Almonds are a great pick-me-up at any time and also a good source of protein, also necessary for brain function, for vegetarians or people on the run.


As well as being a good plant source of protein, avocado is rich in vitamin E. Research has shown that people who eat vitamin E rich foods can lower their risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 67%. 

Berries and blackcurrants

Berries, particularly blueberries, are a powerhouse of antioxidants like vitamin C that are so necessary to fight off free radicals that make you sick. The antioxidants, including anthocyanin, are thought to protect the brain, possibly by maintaining strong connections between the cells of the brain. Research has shown that blueberry extract can improve short-term loss of memory. The flavonoids in blueberries also enhance learning.

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables

Broccoli is a powerhouse in the vegetable world. As well as being high in antioxidants that protect the brain cells, broccoli has vitamin K which has been shown to improve brainpower and cognitive function. Other cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, bokchoy and other Asian greens. These are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants as well as containing carotenoids, which are strong brain protectors. One Harvard Medical School study found that women who ate more of these vegetables actually lowered their brain age.


To be beneficial, you need to eat chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa solids.Cocoacontains flavonoids, a rich antioxidant that is linked to brain health and function. 


Recently researchers found that Alzheimer’s patients consumed less caffeine than those without the disease. Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the brain, increases brain activity and blocks substances that occur in dementia. Coffee appears to have lasting effects on the memory, especially in women.


Curries contain curcumin, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to prevent amyloid plaques from forming on the brain, a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. 


The brain is partly composed of fat and so needs good fats to function efficiently. These are the Essential Fatty Acids or EFAs which have to be obtained through food because the body cannot make them. EFAs are necessary for the formation of the synapses that control the memory. Eggs are also high in protein, vitamin E, B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. The B vitamins help prevent inflammation and assist new brain cells develop.

Gingko biloba

This herb has been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries and has become a popular ‘memory’ herb for the 21st century. Gingko increases the blood flow to the brain, thus increasing the supply of oxygen. It also has antioxidant properties. 

Green tea

Green tea is high in antioxidants as well as containing caffeine. Recent studies show that tea has similar effects as drugs designed to combat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. It appears that green tea prevents the breakdown of the substance acetylcholine, which is necessary for memory.


As well as being protein foods, both chicken and red meat contain L-Carsonine which appears to protect plaque formation on the brain.

Red wine

Red wine contains the antioxidant flavonoids, as well as resveretrol, which has been shown to slow the aging process and improve mental clarity.


This is another herb that has long been associated with memory. It has been shown to improve the memory and mental clarity; also to help with mental fatigue.


This is one of the best known herbs for increased brain power; recent research has proven what the ancient Greeks knew all along; it improves the memory. It is believed that sage contains a chemical which assists neurotransmitters in the brain.

Salmon and other oily fish

Sardines, herring, mackerel, trout and some varieties of tuna, as well as salmon, are classed as oily fish and have been shown to contain the highest levels of essential fatty acids, the same type of fat found in the brain, of all varieties of fish. These fish contain high amounts of DHA, which is necessary for brain and nervous system health and has been shown to be low in Alzheimer’s patients. One study in Chicago found that eating just one fish meal a week could reduce the cognitive decline of participants by over 10%. Sardines also contain choline which is a brain chemical responsible for memory.

Spinach and other dark green leafy vegetables

The darker the green, the more protective antioxidants are present. These protect cells in the brain from damage and decline. Spinach also contains folic acid which research has shown can protect against Alzheimer’s. Folic acid also assists the information processing and memory recall functions of the brain. 


Many varieties of seeds contain good quantities of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA, which are essential for brain health, memory, mental clarity and cognitive function. Pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds are especially rich in essential fatty acids as well as zinc.

Soy and other beans

Soy and other beans are a good source of protein which assists neurotransmitters necessary for memory and quick thinking. Beans also contain B vitamins, the anti-inflammatory vitamins.


Tomatoes contain the powerful antioxidant, lycopene, which helps to protect against damage to brain cells by free radicals. This occurs in dementia patients. 


Most of the grain foods in the modern diet have been so processed that they contain little nutrition; in fact, many manufacturers add nutrients back in! Whole grains contain the nutritious outer husks or layers of the grain; they include brown rice, wholegrain pasta, oatmeal, wheatgerm and bran. Wholegrains contain B group vitamins and folic acid which help with memory and brain cell development.


All cells in the body need water. Water accelerates brain function and is important for memory. When dehydrated, the brain releases cortisol which affects the ability of the brain to store information. Cortisol also causes the release of adrenalin, which causes the brain to function at a more basic level and interferes with mental function and memory.

Many of the substances in these foods that increase brain power can also be found in supplement form, but it always better to get your complete nutrition naturally, from the food you eat. This is what your body is used to digesting and processing.

So, what did you think of the list? Are there any of your favourites in there? Are you going to try increasing your brain power? 


The A-Z of the Top 20 Foods for Increased Brain Power — 48 Comments

  1. Okay, now I have the perfect excuses to eat pecan pie (eggs and nuts) and drink 5 cups of coffee every day: your post told me to 🙂

    I am happy to see some of my favorite veggies and fishes on here. Helpful post!

  2. Good post. So really, just more reasons to subscribe to a diet consisting of whole foods. With all the information out there these days about the benefits of whole foods over processed foods, why do people still choose to eat crap.

    • I think it is because they are addicted. When you eat a diet high in sugar, fat, and salt, your body actually starts to crave it. It is like smoking cigarettes and nicotine. Food in a lot of ways can be just as much of a drug than any other substance. The cool thing about eating healthy though is that eventually your body starts to crave the nutrients and energy it gets from healthy food so the addiction can work for the good too.

  3. I’m happy to say that I eat and enjoy just about everything on this list (except Meat and Gingko). My faves are avocado, coffee, and broccoli. I’m not a huge fan of spinach, but I do enjoy kale and chard a whole lot more.

    • Probably just as long if not longer. Remember these are just foods good for your brain. There are other foods that have other health benefits.

      Sadly there are a ton of processed foods that could be on a list of things that are bad for you. My rule of thumb is to eat anything that can be grown as much as possible and things that stay as close to their natural state as possible. This way, you tend to eat whole foods which are full of nutrients.

  4. Coffee, chocolate and red wine! This is approaching my idea of paradise and since my husband has been rationing my coffee intake (high blood pressure) I’ll have to show him this article. Thanks, Miss T, you have just helped me continue to enjoy the things I do and feel that I lead a healthy, brain power preserving life as well.

    • That’s great. Glad I could put a smile on your face. Remember to use moderation though. Too much of anything isn’t good. How about this- one cup of coffee in the morning, a bite of chocolate after your lunch at work, and a glass of red wine with dinner? That would be a pretty good day.

  5. Weird fact. Coffee effects are so powerful that it is a banned substance for Olympic athletes.

    Caffeine is on the International Olympic Committee list of prohibited substances. Athletes who test positive for more than 12 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of urine may be banned from the Olympic Games. This level may be reached after drinking about 5 cups of coffee.

    Drink 5 cups of coffee and become amazing! 🙂

    • lol. 5 cups seems like a lot to me. Most people I think drink 1 or 2 on a daily basis which keeps them out of the banning risk. Interesting though that 5 cups can alter performance. I always found that if I drank too much coffee I would feel shaky and weak.

  6. I love Avocado. My husband hates them though 🙂 Among the grains, we eat a lot of Quinoa. I can’t have rice for health reasons, so Quinoa is a great substitute. If you have not had quinoa give it a try. They are great.

  7. We eat all of these & love them! We add flax seed to a cottage cheese fruit salad & it’s awesome! Studies have shown keeping the brain active helps also, like doing crossword puzzles. How about being active on the internet? I bet that helps too!

    • Maggie are you saying blogging is good for my brain? lol. I am sure it does something good- at least I hope. You are right though about the games. Word searches, puzzles, etc. are very good for working a certain part of your brain and keeping it active. They say that puzzles and such can actually prevent Alzheimers.

      We use flax oil in our smoothies every morning. It makes them thick and creamy.

  8. Great list, I eat many of these regularly. I especially like avocados and berries moreso in recent years. The avocados give me an excuse to have guacamole:) The berries are added to a typical breakfast of oatmeal, ground flaxseed, and cinnamon.

    • Glad to hear you are not a stranger to these foods. That’s great. And yes, maybe you do need more of certain ones. You body may just be lacking a certain nutrient. Or you could just be tired and worn out like the rest of us which requires more change than just that of diet.

  9. Miss T., I’ve become more educated about food and food choices over the last 5-8 years. I plan to write something on my blog in the near future. Although your list above pertains to “brain food” there’s a general theme, which is to eat whole foods, natural, not processed, etc. Because I already subscribe to such food choices, some of this seems obvious, granted I don’t always know the benefits of some food choices. However, I did want to say that you’re doing a good service by educating people about food. Sometimes we take for granted what we know and assume it’s common knowledge, which in many cases it’s not. Thanks for spreading the word. Hopefully it reaches people to whom it will make a difference.

    • Thanks so much. I really appreciate it. I really do try to help people with the articles I put on this site. I have a huge passion for living healthy and I like to try to instill that passion in others. You are right- eating whole, natural, and unprocessed is the best way to go. This is what I try to do.

      I am hoping this article gets picked up by someone where it will have a large reach because I really believe in how much help this list can provide.

      PS: I really appreciate your new readership. It is great to get to know you better.

    • Haha. Yes, many would like to hear that wouldn’t they. There is wine though.

      I always like stuff like this because it lays out clearly where I can improve and what I need to do. Keeps it simple.

      Glad you found the resource so helpful. I am hoping it gets picked up by many as I really believe it is good information.

  10. This is so great. My dc has a book like this for young kids. I was embarrassed the first time I read it because there were some fruits/veggies I couldn’t even pronounce. The good news is that this time around I know exactly what you’re talking about!

    • That’s great. Educating yourself is important when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. Don’t feel embarrassed. There are a lot of people out there who don’t know what foods are good for them or even what some things are. I am glad you have made nutrition a priority for you and your family.

  11. Great list Miss T. I’m actually drinking a glass of green tea while reading this article 😉 I’m also a health nut. Here’s to a healthy 2012!

  12. I always knew chocolate has power! lol Actually, a long time ago when I was in the high school, someone gave me an advice to eat a piece of chocolate before a test. I always thought it was because of the caffeine in it. But I have to say, it works like a charm!

  13. I absolutely love this list. I’ve been meaning to do a cleanse in the near future. Now I can just print this article and have the ideal grocery list!

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