Healthy Eating

12 Brain-Boosting Superfoods That Will Keep Your Mind Sharp

Snack your way to better brain health!

By: Lexy Parsons

With the rise in anti-aging diets, lifestyle hacks that support mental and cognitive health, and natural methods to reverse cellular aging, the pursuit of longevity is a primal focus. And this isn’t just the newest fad — these up-and-coming wellness topics are substantiated by science, with strong evidence linking our dietary choices and cognitive health, particularly focusing on foods and diets that not only improve mental and cognitive health but also have the potential to slow the aging process. As we delve into the latest research, it becomes increasingly evident that the foods we consume play a crucial role in nurturing not just our bodies but also our minds, offering a promising path to supporting our brain health, maintaining cognitive resilience, and preventing age-related cognitive decline. With that, we’re sharing the latest research on the best brain-boosting superfoods that are delicious, nutritious, and key to maintaining a sharp and agile mind.

Feed Your Mind With These 12 Superfoods For Better Brain Health

#1 Spinach

While spinach contains many compounds that support both our mind and body (such as folate, vitamin E, and vitamin K), its concentration of zeaxanthin and lutein — two brain-boosting carotenoids — can’t be ignored. These naturally occurring antioxidants, abundant in various plant foods, particularly dark leafy greens, have shown promising effects in their ability to improve memory and learning and help protect against age-related cognitive decline.

For maximum health benefits, aim for one cup of chopped spinach (or about 3 cups of raw spinach) per day. And don’t forget to mix up your greens! Foods like kale, swiss chard, and watercress are great sources, too.

RELATED: The Healthiest Dark Leafy Greens You Should Add to Your Diet

#2 Wild Blueberries

Renowned as an antioxidant powerhouse, recent studies have highlighted the cognitive benefits of blueberries, particularly the wild variety, a smaller and sweeter berry rich in anthocyanins. However, when it comes to brain health, don’t discriminate between varieties! Both wild and cultivated blueberries contain notable levels of flavonoids, rich antioxidants known for their cognitive benefits. In fact, According to research, just a half-cup serving of daily blueberries proved to not only improve cognitive performance and metabolic function for those at risk for dementia, but also increase mitochondrial uncoupling, a process linked to increased longevity and reduced oxidative stress.

As for wild blueberries, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, incorporating a mere handful per day may lower blood pressure, improve memory, and benefit brain cognition. 

Whether you add them to a smoothie, mix them into your breakfast bowl, or enjoy them fresh as a snack, incorporating a handful into your daily diet is an ideal way to benefit your brain!

RELATED: The Healthiest Low-Sugar Fruits to Add to Your Diet

#3 Fatty Fish

Salmon, mackerel, and sardines are among the top fatty fish rich in omega-3s, essential fatty acids that are crucial for brain health. Their benefits come from their high levels of DHA and EPA fatty acids — the biologically active forms of omega-3 fatty acids (which differ from ALA fatty acids found in plant-based foods). Linked to reduced inflammation, improved cognitive function, and enhanced mood, memory, and concentration, fatty fish contribute significantly to cognitive sharpness and overall mental vitality.

According to the American Heart Association, aim for at least two 3-oz servings of fatty fish per week to reap the full spectrum of brain-boosting benefits.

#4 Broccoli

This cruciferous green is known for its abundance of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, making it one of the most sought-after superfoods for brain health. Rich in antioxidants and compounds like sulforaphane, lutein, folate, and vitamins C and K, it’s no wonder broccoli consistently tops the charts when it comes to foods for cognitive health. Essential for protecting the brain against oxidative stress, synthesizing neurotransmitters needed for mood and memory, and maintaining healthy brain tissue, including broccoli in your diet is a smart way to keep your mind sharp. 

#5 Turmeric

This golden spice has gained global recognition as a top-trending superfood. However, the real spotlight should be on curcumin, turmeric’s bioactive compound! Renowned for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, curcumin has been linked to reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain, with studies suggesting its potential role in enhancing neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Even more impressive is the data showing its ability to enhance brain levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). 

#6 Pumpkin Seeds

According to new Harvard research, magnesium-rich foods may be the secret to boosting brain health. The study found that increased consumption of magnesium (550 milligrams or more each day) may result in younger brain ages compared to those eating magnesium amounts of about 350 mg, suggesting neuroprotective and anti-aging benefits. And the good news is that pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of magnesium, with a 1-oz serving containing 40% of your daily needs. Magnesium aside, pumpkin seeds are rich in many important nutrients, including zinc, copper, iron, and fiber.

RELATED: Protein Meets Pumpkin: 5 High-Protein Pumpkin Recipes

#7 Green Tea

Green tea shines as a brain-boosting beverage known for its impressive ability to enhance cognitive function and support mental health. Because its caffeine content is paired with rich levels of L-theanine, a calming amino acid, green tea has the unique ability to promote alertness and focus without the jittery side effects often associated with coffee or other caffeinated beverages. 

Plus, it contains EGCG, a particular catechin that’s rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that offer neuroprotective benefits and have been shown to protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation. Thus, it’s unsurprising that research suggests that regular consumption of green tea may be associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline and improved cognitive function! 

#8 Walnuts

Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenol antioxidants, and vitamin E, walnuts are one of the best brain-boosting superfoods to consume — they even resemble a brain! Research suggests that regular walnut consumption may help to improve cognitive performance and lower the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Add them to salads and smoothies, sneak them into baked goods, or enjoy a handful as a nutritious, brain-boosting snack.

#9 Dark Chocolate

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be happy to know this antioxidant-rich superfood is one of the best foods for cognitive health. Rich in flavonoids that have been linked to increased blood flow to the brain, consumption of unsweetened (70% or darker) dark chocolate may lead to improved cognitive performance and enhanced memory and attention. 

However, keep in mind that not all chocolate is created equal! Aim for unsweetened dark chocolate or cacao, and enjoy this superfood in moderation. Think: adding a spoonful of cacao powder to your smoothie or overnight oats, making a rich and creamy healthy hot cocoa, or enjoying a serving of your favorite pure dark chocolate bar as a tasty topper for breakfast bowls or snacks.

RELATED: Chocolate Avocado Pudding: The Ultimate Low-Sugar, Guilt-Free Dessert

#10 Avocado 

We couldn’t talk about brain-boosting superfoods without mentioning avocado, a staple in many longevity diets like the Blue Zones and Mediterranean Diet. This creamy fruit is one of the most nutrient-dense foods, packed with monounsaturated fats, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin E, folate, and potassium. 

Studies have suggested that the monounsaturated fatty acids in avocados might play a role in reducing the risk of cognitive decline associated with aging, with other research suggesting that the antioxidants found in avocados may contribute to enhanced cognitive function and reduced inflammation. Not to mention its benefits on skin, cardiovascular, and digestive health!

RELATED: 4 Ways The Mediterranean Diet Affects Brain Health

#11 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 Full of monounsaturated healthy fats, phytonutrients, and antioxidants such as phenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanidins, extra virgin olive oil proves to be beneficial for cognitive performance, blood sugar control, and reduced inflammation. No wonder it’s a Mediterranean diet and lifestyle staple!

#12 Eggs

While eggs have gotten a bad rap in recent years, recent data suggests they’re an important food for cognitive function and brain health! This may be due to their rich choline levels, a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for mood and memory regulation. In fact, according to recent 2023 data, people who eat more eggs have better cognitive function than those who eat fewer eggs. 

Fueling Your Brain: Superfoods For Your Mind

As research continues to uncover the powerful benefits of superfoods in supporting mental and cognitive health, we’re living in an exciting era where our understanding of nutrition’s impact on mental well-being is seemingly just scratching the surface. Superfoods like fatty fish, broccoli, turmeric, green tea, walnuts, dark chocolate, avocado, and eggs are not just delicious; they’ve also proven to be essential in enhancing cognitive function and promoting brain health. Sprinkle these nutrient-rich choices onto your plate whenever possible, and look to the many recipes in FitOn PRO for endless meal inspiration!