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Complete Guide to the Best Foods for Brain Health!

Best Foods for Brain Health (1)

I’ve got the best foods for brain health in a handy-dandy list for easy consumption! Wann feel better fast? Eat well, my friends. 

Food and wellness have been intertwined since the beginning of time. It’s impossible to address mental health issues without first assessing what you eat. It’s a conundrum that western doctors seriously underestimate.

The facts are staggering – healthy eating is not emphasized in medical school.

The result? Over the years, we’ve become an increasingly pharmaceutical driven society. If you have high blood pressure you can take Lisinopril, if you have high cholesterol you might be offered Lipitor…

…pain in your joints maybe some Advil? You get the picture.

All too often, general practitioners don’t even bring up lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise and if they do its typically very superficial advice.

Don’t get me wrong, medical advances absolutely help us live longer and happier lives. There is no doubt about it so you won’t see me questioning science-based medicine here….BUT

Holistic Healing Is Possible With More Education

…Looking at a person holistically works miracles.  

Without shifting diet and lifestyle habits, medical interventions are seriously limited.  

Over the past 10 years, I’ve seen clients who have radically altered their circumstances to achieve personal goals they never thought possible.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine once said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I could not agree more.

When a client comes into my office, one of the first things I do is review their food intake.

Did you know eating the wrong foods can cause depression and anxiety? Unfortunately, sugar and trans fats create a perfect storm. If you want to live a life free of anxiety and achieve a state of mental clarity, eating the right foods should be an essential part of your plan.

There are foods that will help you protect, stimulate and repair your brain function. Wouldn’t it be great to become a happier, healthier person without a prescription!?

Best Foods for Brain Health Drugs

 On average, U.S. medical schools offer only 19.6 hours of nutrition education across four years of medical school, according to a 2010 report in Academic Medicine. In a 2016 study, researchers at Case Western Reserve University examined data from 25 family medicine, internal medicine and OB-GYN medical residency programs throughout Ohio: What they found is that these programs averaged 2.8 hours of instruction on obesity, nutrition and physical activity counseling, and only 42 percent of them taught the residents techniques for how to perform health behavior counseling. How Much Do Doctors Learn About Nutrition, US News


1. Fish: Wild Salmo​n, Tun​a & Mackerel

Best foods for brain health fish

Fatty fish is a great source of Omega 3s, which have been connected a decrease in cognitive and signs of dementia. This is good news for people who enjoy fish.

The thing is, you don’t need a lot to enjoy the benefits. According to studies those who had fish once per week received the same benefits as those who consumed fish more frequently. 

Understanding the effects of fish consumption on brain structure is critical for the determination of modifiable factors that can decrease the risk of cognitive deficits and dementia,” Dr. Cyrus Raji, resident radiologist UCLA, This is Your Brain on Fish

2. Berries: Strawberries, Blueberries & Blackberries

best foods for brain health berries

Berries are a fantastic source of antioxidants, which protect cells from damage from harmful free radicals. Studies have also shown that berries alter the way the neurons in the brain interact. This is thought to prevent inflammation in the brain, which improves motor control and cognition.  

To be frank, there is a lot that researchers don’t know about the positive effects berries have on brain health. Stay tuned for more insight! The Benefits of Berries to the Brain 

3. Nuts Especially Walnuts

Best Foods for Brain Health Walnuts

A study completed by Harvard University determined that people who eat nuts daily have a 20% lower death rate compared to those who don’t! Wow now if that’s not incentive to go to your local health store and pick some up, I’m not sure what is! 

Walnuts are also an excellent source of vitamin E and DHA which has been connected to improved cognitive performance. Remember moderation is key, you don’t have to overdo it!  A quarter cup of walnuts gives you your daily recommended intake of DHA.

Note: Almonds and Hazelnuts are no slouches either! They’re fantastic sources of concentrated vitamin E.  A handful provides about 50% of your daily recommended intake.

4. Kale

Best Foods for Brain Health Kale

Kale is one of the most nourishing foods on the planet containing vitamins B, C & K, Omega 3s, and iron! It’s also high in phytonutrients (powerful antioxidants) which quell inflammation.

Kale also contains 45 different flavonoids which may reduce the risk of stroke. If this isn’t enough of a reason to eat more kale, you should be aware that it’s part of the cruciferous vegetable family and is known to fight cancer. Wow, now that’s a vegetable that packs a powerful punch. 

5. Dark Chocolate

Best Foods for Brain Health Dark Chocolate

If you love to snack on dark chocolate there are scientific reasons that support your habit. Dark chocolate boosts the production of endorphins which make you feel good. Yep! The benefits don’t end there. Dark chocolate is also a source of tryptophan, anandamide, phenethylamine & theobromine all of which are mood enhancing! After I read through 12 Proven Benefits of Dark Chocolate, I don’t any further encouragement to eat dark chocolate! It’s good stuff. 

Endorphins bind with opiate receptors in the brain leading to feelings of euphoria, like the kind joggers get from “runner’s high.” They also reduce pain and diminish the negative effects of stress. How to Increase Endorphins Naturally


6. Turmeric

Best Foods for Brain Health Turmeric

Practitioners of Ayurveda are ahead of the game. They have been using turmeric for thousands of years. Curcuma longa is a root with a rich history of medicinal use. One of the most important benefits is its ability to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s. With over 300 bioactive components turmeric is an amazingly versatile ingredient that helps the body in more ways than we even know. Turmeric contains curcuminoid and other powerful antioxidants that protect the brain from damaging free radicals. If you like curries this is a great way to incorporate turmeric into your diet.

Research to date suggests that chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and most chronic diseases are closely linked, and the antioxidant properties of curcumin can play a key role in the prevention and treatment of chronic inflammation diseases. Key Health Benefit of Turmeric: Improved Brain Health


7. Coconut Oil

Best Foods for Brain Health Coconut

Coconut oil is a great source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). The brain uses glucose for fuel, but when that is not available your liver breaks down stored fat into ketones, which the brain uses as a backup plan. Recent studies have shown that for people who have neurological disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, seizure or stroke – the extra fuel provided by coconut oil can really help. The jury is still out of whether the ketones provided by coconut oil work in healthy people. There is some doubt that the brain uses the extra fuel when glucose is readily available. How MCT Oil benefits brain health

8. Dandelion Greens

Best Foods for Brain Health Dandelion Greens

Dandelion greens contain more lutein than almost any other food.  Increased levels of lutein in the blood have been connected to higher intelligence in a recent study. While these are early days, dandelion greens are a wonderful source of healthy “leafies” to add to your diet. After it’s ingested, lutein accumulates in the brain, where it likely plays a neuroprotective role


the study’s authors said. The nutrient is stockpiled in the brain over an entire lifespan ― suggesting it may contribute to lifelong brain health. How Leafy Greens May Protect the Brain from Aging


9. Eggs

Best Foods for Brain Health eggs

Start out your day right with eggs. They are a good source of choline which is believed to aid memory and communication between brain cells. Over easy, over hard or scrambled – make sure they are organic and free range to get the most bang for your buck. Mass produced eggs don’t offer the same health benefits.

Boston University researchers tracked the eating habits of nearly 1,400 healthy adults for 10 years and found that choline intake correlated positively with better performance on certain types of memory tests. The Best Brain Foods You Should be Eating, Readers Digest


10. Avocados

Best Foods for Brain Health Avocado

Avocados are a wonderful source of monounsaturated fat which helps to increase circulation. This, of course, is good for your brain! Avocados also contain folates, Vitamins B, C & E, potassium & copper. If you have anxiety B vitamins are known to help alleviate stress. What more could you want? Guacamole is yummy without all the perks. Dig in!

A diet high in monounsaturated fats can also increase production of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in learning and memory. Eating This Can Make You Smarter 


11. Sea Vegetables

Best Foods for Brain Health Seaweed

Sea vegetables are one of the best sources of iodine around. If your diet is lacking iodine thyroid function is impaired. A hypoactive thyroid can create fatigue, depression, decreased memory and a whole host of other physical and mental issues. Looking for more reasons to add them to your diet? Sea vegetables provide:

…vitamin K, a great source of folate and magnesium and a good source of iron, calcium, riboflavin and pantothenic acid. In addition, seaweeds contain beta carotene, niacin, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, vitamins A and C and 18 different amino acids. Sea vegetables also contain lignans, phytonutrients that inhibit cancer tumor growth and estrogen synthesis in fat cells that are linked to breast cancer. Simplifying Sea Vegetables 

12. Olive Oil

Best Foods for Brain Health Olive Oil

If you want to increase cognitive function or improve your memory and focus, your diet should include olive oil. Numerous studies have been done on the Mediterranean diet and olive oil is a big component.

So, what’s so great about olive oil?


Olive oil is the main source of dietary fat in the Mediterranean diet. There appears to be a lower death rate from cardiovascular diseases in the Mediterranean area, compared with other parts of the world. A review of studies carried out in Barcelona, Spain, looked at the biological and clinical effects of olive oil. Results suggested that people who regularly consume olive oil are less likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke, and hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels). What are the health benefits of olive oil? Medical News Today 

13. Fermented Foods Such as Sauerkraut and Kimchi

Best Foods for Brain Health Fermented

The health of your gut affects everything including your mood.

Probiotics are a natural antidepressant. So, make sure your gut is in top form and add fermented foods to your diet. They are invaluable and you can easily and cheaply make them at home. Not to mention if you have kids this “science experiment” is fun! 


In a study in Nutrition Research, participants ate regular, unfermented kimchi (a traditional Korean pickled cabbage dish, pictured above) for four weeks and then switched to fermented kimchi for another four weeks. During the fermented phase, participants showed improvements in cholesterol and carbohydrate metabolism in addition to increased weight loss compared to when they consumed unfermented kimchi. It appears that either the bacteria that causes fermentation, the changes in foods as a result of fermentation, or both are required for the health perks. More Fermented Foods to My Diet?, Shape.com 


14. Pumpkin Seeds

Best Foods for Brain Health Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are a nutritional powerhouse. They are rich in Zinc which is great for your immune system, skin & brain. They also contain magnesium which is calming.

What more could you ask from a tasty snack?


They are a true brain food containing Omega 3 and Omega 6, making them a smart snack for you and your kids. The Omega 3 fatty acids are known for their role in improving mental health, aiding memory and supporting healthy brain development. Super Seeds 5 Brain Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds 

15. Black Rice

Best Foods for Brain Health Black Rice

Whole grains are good for you for the most part, but black rice truly stands out! Not to mention the fact that it is a really delicious addition to your menu. 

Black rice is fantastic source the antioxidant-anthocyanin.


Anthocyanin can help prevent cardiovascular disease, restricting free radical movements which can cause variety of diseases like diabetes and even cancer. It can also help improve brain function and reduce inflammation. 7 Incredible Benefits of the Forbidden Rice – The Black Rice 

16. Beans 

Best Food for Brain Health Beans

Beans are terrific for your heart healthy! If your blood circulates better, then your brain is happier. They are also a good source of magnesium and folate which have been linked to the reversal of some of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in mice.

To top it all off, beans are a good source of B vitamins which are known to lower stress levels.


Legumes are not a major part of the American diet, but they’re good for you in so many ways,  says Dr. Powell. They help you maintain good health but can also provide more fiber if you need it, and can lower your blood sugar and cholesterol. Packed with B, Beans Can Boost Your Brain Power 

17. Red Wine

Best Foods for Brain Health Wine

Who doesn’t love a glass or red wine? The good news is it may also be good for your brain. Red wine has been found to contain an array of polyphenols than include resveratrol and quercetin which are thought to protect against coronary heart disease. Have a drink on us (in moderation of course)!


In addition, there is evidence that moderate red wine consumption may also have benefits which protect neurons or other brain cells against cerebral ischemia, macular degeneration, Alzheimer’s disease, and possibly Parkinson’s disease. Quercetin and resveratrol have also been shown to have protective effects in neurotoxicity. Now, a recent study done at McGill University provides new evidence that moderate wine consumption may protect against certain neurological disorders, especially age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as memory loss and dementia. Polyphenols in Red Wine Protect the Heart and Brain


18. Spinach

Best Foods for Brain Health Spinach

Spinach boosts brain health and is an excellent source of vitamins e & k, folate and lutein and beta-carotene. So what does that mean to you? These nutrients are connected to the prevention of dementia. 

Looks like Popeye was ahead of the game!

Maybe that’s why a 2006 Neurology study reveals that eating three servings of leafy green, yellow and cruciferous vegetables a day can delay cognitive decline by 40 percent. 10 Foods to Help Boost Your Brain Power 


19. Broccoli

Best foods for brain health broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is rich in vitamins c, e, k, folate, antioxidants, and carotenoids. As if this was not good enough news broccoli contains sulforaphane, which is an anti-cancer compound found in cruciferous vegetables

If you are looking to maximize these benefits, broccoli sprouts are an even better source of sulforaphane and they’re delicious!

everyday broccoli—along with its botanical cousins Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and collard greens—might be one of the keys to healthier brains. According to a new study reported in the scientific journal Genesis and relayed in GreenMedInfo, crucifer-derived sulforaphane can effectively promote cell growth, indicating its possible beneficial effect on the treatment and prevention of diseases like Alzheimer’s.” Boost Your Brain with Broccoli, Huffington Post


20. Coffee

Best foods for brain health coffee

I know there is a lot of negative press attached to coffee but there are some positives too!

Harvard University has determined that a healthy diet and caffeine may boost memory and your cognitive abilities! If you enjoy your cuppa joe this is something to celebrate! 

If a study published in this month’s Journal of Nutrition is any indication, the caffeine in coffee might offer not just a momentary mental boost but also longer-term effects on thinking skills. The study also looked at the connection between diet and mental performance. People who ate foods with plenty of healthful nutrients had better attention and memory than participant with poorer diets. A healthy diet was also linked to good thinking skills in women and participants under age 70. In particular, foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet—fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, olive oil, and whole grains—show promise for preserving memory and preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  Caffeine and a healthy diet may boost memory, thinking skills; alcohol’s effect uncertain

The Choice Is Yours - Best Foods for Brain Health 

In a nutshell, you have a lot of control over your physical and mental wellbeing!

I think for far too long we have been fed a line of malarkey. That you get what you get and you have to learn how to deal with it. Over the past decade, this has been proven to be completely false. 

Yes, people’s genetics and circumstances play a role when it comes to brain health, but our choices are really what make the difference. If you want a better life make it happen! 

Cut out refined sugar, trans fats, and processed foods. Reduce your consumption of red meat and dairy and follow a Mediterranean style diet and you will find your life will turn around. You can live a longer, happier and healthier life if you follow these guidelines. 

Don’t leave it to prescriptions and doctors alone. The choice is yours. 

Dr. Lynn Fraley Founder Fraley & Associates (1)

Telephone: 509-710-8171 

Fax: 208-247-9247 

Email: lynn@fraleyandassociates.com

Fraley & Associates Counseling

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