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Brain Power

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Written by Sarah Hansen
A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur
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Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into your golden years. There are certain foods that improve memory, work wonders in reducing inflammation in the brain, and increase focus.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter. But first, check out Lifehack’s free guide for focus: End Distraction and Find Your Focus. It will help you learn how to focus on what’s important, which you’ll need once the following foods help your brain develop a longer attention span.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts and Seeds

One stud was able to link higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

If you want to up your intake of vitamin E, Nuts like walnuts and almonds are good sources. Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

2. Blueberries

When it comes to foods that improve memory, blueberries have been shown to offer great brain benefits and are great memory-enhancing foods. One study on older adults found that those who drank blueberry juice showed improvement in paired associate learning and word list recall[2].

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When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits that can offer improved cognition.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients. Tomatoes are also great because you can sneak them into just about anything, including sauces, salads, and meat dishes as a side.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage, and antioxidants help eliminate this threat, so many foods that improve memory include these antioxidants.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter, and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function[3]. Specifically, vitamin K is “involved in sphingolipids metabolism, a class of lipids that participate in the proliferation, differentiation, and survival of brain cells.”

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattiest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory[4].

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The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids, so we must get them in our diet.

Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory. Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants, which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging, making it one of the tastiest foods that improve memory.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid, and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark, leafy greens.

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B6, B12, and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and those with a high risk of stroke.

Studies showed that when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[5]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils, and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down, and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking, so foods that improve memory will often include this important element. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory[6].

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Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Ginkgo Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in Eastern culture and is best known for its memory-boosting brawn. It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply, and removing free radicals[7].

However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Research suggests that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients[8]. This makes them great foods that improve memory.

Both teas appear to have the same effect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its effects last a full week, versus black tea, which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here.

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in various studies[9]. Pair some of the above foods that stimulate the brain with these amazing herbs in soups, salads, or even in teas!

The Bottom Line

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating foods that improve memory as part of a healthy diet really can do wonders. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients to improve your brain health, memory, and focus.

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More Tips on Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Ravi Sharma via unsplash.com


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