Blueberries provide numerous health benefits, including some that are specifically for your brain.
Blueberries and other deeply colored berries deliver anthocyanins, a group of plant compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (17Trusted Source).
Antioxidants act against both oxidative stress and inflammation, conditions that can contribute to brain aging and neurodegenerative diseases (18Trusted Source).
Some of the antioxidants in blueberries have been found to accumulate in the brain and help improve communication between brain cells (17Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source).
According to one review of 11 studies, blueberries could help improve memory and certain cognitive processes in children and older adults (20Trusted Source).
Try sprinkling them over your breakfast cereal, adding them to a smoothie, or enjoying as is for a simple snack.
SUMMARYBlueberries are packed with antioxidants that may delay brain aging and improve memory.
Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz recently.
This deep-yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry powder and has a number of benefits for the brain.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there (21Trusted Source).
It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the following brain benefits:
- May benefit memory. Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease (21Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
- Eases depression. Curcumin boosts serotonin and dopamine, both of which improve mood. One review found that curcumin could improve symptoms of depression and anxiety when used alongside standard treatments in people diagnosed with depression (23Trusted Source, 24Trusted Source).
- Helps new brain cells grow. Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, but more research is needed (25Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source).
Keep in mind that most studies use highly concentrated curcumin supplements in doses ranging from 500–2,000 mg per day, which is much more curcumin than most people typically consume when using turmeric as a spice. This is because turmeric is only made up of around 3–6% curcumin (27Trusted Source).
Therefore, while adding turmeric to your food may be beneficial, you may need to use a curcumin supplement under a doctor’s guidance to obtain the results reported in these studies.
Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which help the brain. In research, it has reduced symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.
Broccoli is packed with powerful plant compounds, including antioxidants (28Trusted Source).
It’s also very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (160-gram) serving of cooked broccoli (29Trusted Source).
This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells (30Trusted Source).
A few studies in older adults have linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory and cognitive status (31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source).
Beyond vitamin K, broccoli contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage (33Trusted Source).
Broccoli contains a number of compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, including vitamin K.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free-radical damage (34).
They’re also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper (35Trusted Source).
Each of these nutrients is important for brain health:
- Zinc. This element is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and Parkinson’s disease (36Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
- Magnesium. Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to many neurological diseases, including migraine, depression, and epilepsy (39Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
- Copper. Your brain uses copper to help control nerve signals. And when copper levels are out of whack, there’s a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s (41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source.
- Iron. Iron deficiency is often characterized by brain fog and impaired brain function (43Trusted Source).
The research focuses mostly on these micronutrients, rather than pumpkin seeds themselves. However, since pumpkin seeds are high in these micronutrients, you can likely reap their benefits by adding pumpkin seeds to your diet.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in many micronutrients that are important for brain function, including copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
7. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate and cocoa powder are packed with a few brain-boosting compounds, including flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants.
Dark chocolate has a 70% or greater cocoa content. These benefits are not seen with regular milk chocolate, which contains between 10–50% cocoa.
Flavonoids are a group of antioxidant plant compounds.
The flavonoids in chocolate gather in the areas of the brain that deal with learning and memory. Researchers believe that these compounds may enhance memory and also help slow down age-related mental decline (44, 45Trusted Source, 46)Trusted Source.
In fact, a number of studies back this up (47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source).
According to one study in over 900 people, those who ate chocolate more frequently performed better in a series of mental tasks, including some involving memory, compared with those who rarely ate it (50Trusted Source).
Chocolate is also a legitimate mood booster, according to research.
One study found that participants who ate chocolate experienced increased positive feelings compared to those who ate crackers (51Trusted Source).
However, it’s still not clear whether that’s because of compounds in the chocolate or simply because the tasty flavor makes people happy.
The flavonoids in chocolate may help protect the brain. Studies have suggested that eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, could boost both memory and mood.
Research has shown that eating nuts can improve heart-health markers, and having a healthy heart is linked to having a healthy brain (52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source).
One study found that regular consumption of nuts could be linked to a lower risk of cognitive decline in older adults (54Trusted Source).
Also, another 2014 study found that women who ate nuts regularly over the course of several years had a sharper memory compared with those who did not eat nuts (55Trusted Source).
Several nutrients in nuts, such as healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E, may explain their beneficial effects on brain health (56Trusted Source, 57Trusted Source).
Vitamin E protects cells against free-radical damage to help slow mental decline (58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).
While all nuts are good for your brain, walnuts may have an extra edge, since they also deliver anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (57Trusted Source).
Nuts contain a host of brain-boosting nutrients, including vitamin E, healthy fats, and plant compounds.
You can get almost all the vitamin C you need in a day by eating one medium orange (60Trusted Source).
Doing so is important for brain health since vitamin C is a key factor in preventing mental decline (61Trusted Source).
According to one study, having higher levels of vitamin C in the blood was associated with improvements in tasks involving focus, memory, attention, and decision speed (62Trusted Source).
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight off the free radicals that can damage brain cells. Plus, vitamin C supports brain health as you age and may protect against conditions like major depressive disorder, anxiety, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease (63Trusted Source).
You can also get high amounts of vitamin C from other foods like bell peppers, guava, kiwi, tomatoes, and strawberries.
Oranges and other foods that are high in vitamin C can help defend your brain against damage from free radicals.
Eggs are a good source of several nutrients tied to brain health, including vitamins B6 and B12, folate, and choline (64Trusted Source).
Choline is an important micronutrient that your body uses to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood and memory (65Trusted Source, 66Trusted Source, 67Trusted Source).
Two older studies found that higher intakes of choline were linked to better memory and mental function (68Trusted Source, 69Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, many people do not get enough choline in their diet.
Eating eggs is an easy way to get choline, given that egg yolks are among the most concentrated sources of this nutrient.
Adequate intake of choline is 425 mg per day for most women and 550 mg per day for men, with just a single egg yolk containing 112 mg (Trusted Source65Trusted Source).
Furthermore, the B vitamins found in eggs also have several roles in brain health.
To start, they may help slow the progression of mental decline in older adults by lowering levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that could be linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (70Trusted Source, 71Trusted Source).
Also, being deficient in two types of B vitamins — folate and B12 — has been linked to depression (72Trusted Source).
Folate deficiency is common in older people with dementia, and studies show that folic acid supplements can help minimize age-related mental decline (73Trusted Source, 74Trusted Source).
Vitamin B12 is also involved in synthesizing brain chemicals and regulating sugar levels in the brain (72Trusted Source).
It’s worth noting that there’s very little direct research on the link between eating eggs and brain health. However, there is research to support the brain-boosting benefits of the specific nutrients found in eggs.
Eggs are a rich source of several B vitamins and choline, which are important for regulating mood and promoting proper brain function and development.
11. Green tea
As is the case with coffee, the caffeine in green tea boosts brain function.
In fact, it has been found to improve alertness, performance, memory, and focus (75Trusted Source).
But green tea also has other components that make it a brain-healthy beverage.
One of them is L-theanine, an amino acid that can cross the blood-brain barrier and increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which helps reduce anxiety and makes you feel more relaxed (76Trusted Source, 77Trusted Source).
L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves in the brain, which helps you relax without making you feel tired (78Trusted Source).
One review found that the L-theanine in green tea can help you relax by counteracting the stimulating effects of caffeine (79Trusted Source).
It’s also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants that could protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (80Trusted Source, 81Trusted Source).
Plus, some studies have shown green tea helps improve memory (82Trusted Source, 83Trusted Source).
Green tea is an excellent beverage to support your brain. Its caffeine content boosts alertness, its antioxidants protect the brain, and L-theanine helps you relax.
Many foods can help keep your brain healthy.
Some foods, such as the fruits and vegetables in this list, as well as tea and coffee, have antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage.
Others, such as nuts and eggs, contain nutrients that support memory and brain development.
You can help support your brain health and boost your alertness, memory, and mood by strategically including these foods in your diet.
Just one thing. Try this today: Just as important as including these brain-boosting foods in your diet is steering clear of foods that can negatively impact brain health.