How Does Diet Effect Brain Function?

Have you ever heard that fish is brain food? The Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish may benefit your brain’s health. In addition, other foods also help keep both your body and mind healthy.

We previously published an article on The Best Foods For Your Heart, foods also help keep your brain healthy. The following information is for general education and does not serve as a substitute for medical advice.

Top Foods for Ideal Brain Function

Essential Fatty Acids

Essential fatty acids are good for the brain as well as the heart. The EPA and DHA fatty acids found in fish oil are especially effective.

“Low DHA levels have been linked to an increased risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss whilst having sufficient levels of both EPA and DHA is thought to help us manage stress and helps make the good mood brain chemical, serotonin.” (Source BBC Goodfood)

There are also vegetable sources of essential fatty acids such a walnuts and flaxseeds. Be sure to talk with your doctor about appropriate essential fatty acid consumption as excessive fish consumption may lead to mercury poisoning.

Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

  • Oily fish like salmon, trout, and mackerel
  • Flaxseed
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds

Fresh Produce

Fresh produce is a nutritional staple that is good for every aspect of health including brain health. Fiber, antioxidants, and key nutrients all assist with brain function. Some fruits and vegetables that offer special brain health benefits include:

  • Berries, especially blueberries. A 2012 “Annals of Neurology” study found women who ate a couple weekly servings of blueberries and strawberries slowed memory loss by 2 and a half years. Blueberries contain a higher concentration of brain healthy antioxidants than most other foods. A Tufts University study indicated that rats coordination and memory improved with daily blueberry consumption.
  • Tomatoes also contain antioxidants that are good for the brain. Studies indicate tomatoes show promise to help people slow dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  
  • Vitamin C rich produce like broccoli, oranges and red bell peppers may help manage anxiety and stress. They also may help slow oxidative stress that may lead to  age-related brain disease like dementia.
  • Broccoli also is rich in compounds called glucosinolates that may slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitters  we need for the central nervous system to function well.
  • Green, leafy vegetables including kale, collards, and spinach are good sources of brain-healthy nutrients like folate, vitamin K, lutein, and beta carotene.
  • Beets contains nitrates that increase blood flow to the brain and help boost mental performance.

Whole Grains and Complex Carbs

The brain needs energy just like the body does. According to Scientific American, your brain uses approximately 20% of your resting calorie burn. This is notable considering the brain only takes about 2% of your total bodyweight.

Slower absorbing complex carbohydrates keep your brain energizes without the crash. You may have experienced drowsiness after a meal. This tends to hit harder if the meal contained processed simple carbohydrates.

Whole grains have a lower GI index than highly-processed grains. Therefore, they release glucose more slowly into your bloodstream. This results in sustained energy with minimal crash.

In addition to fresh produce, other low GI foods include complex carbs like steel-cut oatmeal, quinoa, whole grain rice, and whole wheat products.

A healthy diet benefits all aspects of your health in addition to your brain. Over time, a healthy diet may also keep your heart healthier and you may see improved heart rate variability and an improved resting heart rate.

Sources and Resources

Jump to...

Scroll to Top