21 Brain-Boosting Superfoods

Now this is how you give your memory and brain health a serious boost.

August 23, 2016

As you will soon discover, these foods are delicious, readily available, and worth the minimal effort it takes to include them in your diet. And the rewards are great. Include at least five of these foods in your daily diet and feel free to add more than that, if you would like. The more you enjoy these brain foods, the greater the brain boost you'll receive.

More: 12 Tricks to Boost Your Brain & Memory Power

Choose at least five brain superfoods and eat them for bigger and better brain power and reap the memory rewards. 

Appreciate pomegranates for a power-packed brain

Enjoying pomegranates and pomegranate juice gives your brain a potent antioxidant boost. And thanks to its plentiful amounts of antioxidants, pomegranate is one of the best foods to eat when it comes to boosting your brain health. 

One study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that pomegranate's high level of antioxidants was beneficial in the treatment of animals with Alzheimer's disease. Another study in the journal Current Alzheimer's Research found that pomegranate juice consumption prevented the formation of the amyloid plaques involved in Alzheimer's disease.

More: Five Ways to Clear Brain Fog

Still not convinced about the health benefits of pomegranate? In addition to protecting your brain, enjoying pomegranates on a regular basis can protect your kidneys and liver, boost your immune system, help reduce allergic responses, regulate blood sugar, fight infections, and protect against prostate, breast, and skin cancer. 

Eat cherries to power up your brain protection

Who doesn't love cherries? They're like nature's own all-natural candy, but without the guilt. And now there's more reason than ever to enjoy cherries: They help to protect your brain from harmful toxins and even give your body a boost of antioxidants that quell inflammation and prevent brain damage. 

Almost daily, scientists discover new phytochemicals (natural substances found in plants) that fight aging and disease. The best way to obtain these thousands of varied substances is to eat a variety and plentiful amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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Enjoy fresh cherries instead of your usual dessert. Pit them and add them to smoothies, salads, and even meat dishes. They add a delightful flavor to balsamic vinegar. Of course cherry pie is an option, but most cherry pies contain trans fats in their less-than-healthy crusts, as well as excessive amounts of sugar. You can also enjoy fresh or bottled cherry juice, but make sure that if you choose the latter, it isn't primarily made up of sugar or diluted with apple juice, as so many bottled juices are. You can also take 2 tablespoons daily of concentrated cherry juice, which is available in most health food stores.

Become a wise sage for a savvy brain

When it comes to brain health and mental acuity, you probably don't give herbs much consideration, yet they are among the most powerful brain boosters you can use. They show tremendous promise in the prevention of brain diseases and in maintaining great brain health. Research by a British scientific team led them to conclude that sage may also be helpful for those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. 

Sage has a proven history of balancing menopausal and PMS symptoms, but perhaps the most exciting benefit of sage essential oil is that it may actually protect genetic material from damage.

More: Common Foods That Damage Your DNA

According to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists found that compounds in sage may protect cellular DNA from damage and may even stimulate DNA repair in already damaged cells. While the research is new and has not been tested on humans, this exciting advancement could help in the prevention and treatment of genetic diseases, as well as diseases with a genetic component, including cancer, heart disease, and others.

Fresh sage is an excellent addition to soups, stews, and chicken dishes. Sautéed in a little olive oil, it is a great accompaniment to pasta dishes, as well. 

Eat blueberries for a brilliant brain

When it comes to "brain food," grapes get all the attention. And while grapes are powerful brain protectors, it's time for blueberries to share in the acclaim. These delicious berries are brain-healing powerhouses that work to protect your brain from disease in several different ways and increasing amounts of research show that blueberries can prevent or reverse age-related memory loss. 

First, blueberries contain a group of plant nutrients called flavonoids, which protect both the watery and the fatty parts of your brain against free radical damage. Second, blueberries contain salicylic acid—the natural version of aspirin— which helps prevent arterial clogging linked to stroke

More: 6 Easy Blueberry Pancakes You Can Make for Every Meal

Third, other as-yet-unidentified compounds in blueberries help to increase levels of heat shock proteins in your body.  There is a fourth mechanism by which blueberries improve brain health: Consuming blueberries on a regular basis increases your body’s production of the feel-good brain chemical messenger called dopamine. Dopamine helps to control your brain’s reward and pleasure center, and levels tend to be low in people with brain diseases such as Parkinson's.

Eat at least 1/2 cup of blueberries daily, at least five days a week. They can be fresh or frozen but should not be canned or sweetened. It's easy to add blueberries to smoothies or to blend them and make ice pops in freezer molds.

Chomp on celery to prevent memory lapses

Celery might just be the most overlooked brain health superfood. Perhaps it is because affordable, readily available celery is just too commonplace to even be considered. But when it comes to your brain, you'll want to give celery a second thought. It is definitely a brain superfood. 

James Duke, PhD, author of The Green Pharmacy and world-renowned botanist, discovered that both celery and celery seeds contain more than 20 natural anti-inflammatory compounds, including an extremely potent one known as apigenin. These anti-inflammatories help reduce brain inflammation that can occur as you age and make you more vulnerable to memory lapses and brain decline.

turmeric curry powder
Consider the curry factor for a brain boost

Taste isn't the only reason to enjoy your favorite Indian curry dishes: They typically contain the yellow-colored spice known as turmeric—a powerful food that helps protect your brain from disease.

Research conducted by Greg Cole, PhD, associate director of the Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA, showed that curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its signature yellow color, is also a potent weapon against inflammation and plaque buildup in the brain. Inflammation and plaque have been linked to serious brain diseases, including Alzheimer's. 

The easiest way to enjoy the benefits of curcumin is to add turmeric to your favorite curry soup or stew

Drink tea for two hemispheres

Perhaps the Queen of England's afternoon tea break has helped to keep her mind sharp as she has aged? Black, green, and white tea all have significant amounts of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds called catechins, which makes them a great choice for a healthy brain. These natural phytochemicals have shown great promise as brain protectors in recent studies.

More: How to Grow Your Own Tea

In other research, scientists found that people who drank two or more cups of tea each day were less likely to develop Parkinson's disease. Green tea extract reduced neuron loss in the area of the brain that is damaged in Parkinson's disease.

Eat more fiber for fabulous mental functions

While fiber certainly helps keep your bowels regular, it is also critical to the health of your brain in multiple ways. First, it helps prevent the backup of waste materials in your intestines, which would otherwise lead to toxins moving through your intestinal walls and into your blood, and ultimately to your brain. Second, fiber also helps your intestines eliminate bacterial or yeast overgrowth, the by-products of which can transfer into your blood. Third, fiber binds to specific toxins in your body to escort them out. Fourth, fiber also helps to regulate the release of glucose by preventing rapid blood sugar spikes. This helps to ensure that your brain has a steady supply of energy. 

More: 6 Essential Nutrients For Strong Mental Health

Legumes are some of the greatest sources of fiber. It is easy to add chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, or other beans to your diet to reap the nutritional benefits they offer. Whole grains are also excellent sources of fiber. Most fruits and vegetables contain beneficial amounts of fiber, giving you one more reason to consume them.

beans fiber
Eat more beans to boost cognition

Beans could just be the most underrated food in your diet. Most types of beans have high levels of vitamin B6 and folate, both of which help to lessen levels of homocysteine in your body. High homocysteine levels often indicate an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and accelerated aging. The beans that are highest in vitamin B6 and folate are kidney beans and black beans.

Beans are usually high in the B vitamin thiamin, which is integral to energy production and brain cell and cognitive function. Also known as vitamin B1, thiamin is needed to make an important brain messenger substance called acetylcholine, making this vitamin imperative to healthy memory function.

Enjoy an apple a day to keep dementia at bay

We've all heard the old adage "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," and provided that the apple is an organic one, it may actually be true, when it comes to brain health.

While apples and apple juice work directly on reducing free radical damage and maintaining optimal brain levels of acetylcholine, they also work to maintain a powerful brain by keeping cholesterol levels healthy and preventing stroke. 

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Not only are apples and apple juice able to help boost brain health, new research also shows that the addition of apple cider vinegar to your diet will help lower high cholesterol levels that can increase stroke risk. In a study published in the Journal of Membrane Biology, researchers studied the effects of a high-cholesterol diet on animals fed apple cider vinegar versus animals that only ate the high-cholesterol diet. They found that the apple cider vinegar exerted a protective effect against the high-cholesterol diet.

Enjoy ginger to take down inflammation

Not just great in stir-fries, ginger is one herb that can do more than add flavor and spice to just about any dish; it also exhibits antioxidant effects and the ability to lessen the formation of inflammation in the brain, and is one of the best foods that can boost your sex life. Ginger contains gingerols—potent anti-inflammatory compounds that are responsible for the herb's magic. A study in the journal Life Sciences found that ginger offers protection against free radicals, which have the potential to be a serious threat to brain health.

Give your brain an oil change

To maintain proper brain health, you need to get adequate fat from your diet. But not just any fat will do. Some fats damage your brain. The Standard American Diet, high in trans and hydrogenated fats, worsens inflammation in your body, and this inflammation can damage delicate brain tissues. These unhealthy fats are found in fried foods, shortening, lard, margarine, baked goods, and processed and prepared foods. 

Healthy fats help keep the lining of brain cells flexible so that memories and other brain messages can pass easily between cells. Both omega-6 and omega-3 fats are important to brain health and should be eaten in a 1-to-2 to a 2-to-1 ratio to each other. 

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, walnuts and walnut oil, some types of algae, krill oil, and fatty cold-water fish, particularly wild salmon. 

Go nuts to boost your memory

For better brain health, it's time to go nuts—walnuts, that is. Walnuts offer numerous brain health benefits. To start, they are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that help protect the fatty portion of your brain and quell brain inflammation, too.

Walnuts are such powerful brain protectors that new research published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that eating only 1 to 1 1/2 ounces of walnuts daily improves memory and learning, while also decreasing anxiety. The researchers indicated that walnuts are a possible preventive remedy against Alzheimer's disease.

Make like Popeye for a powerful brain

Do you remember episodes of the popular cartoon Popeye? The show's writers obviously knew that spinach was a serious nutritional superpower. Today's research shows that spinach doesn't just boost muscle function, it also powers up brain health.

Polyphenols (a type of naturally occurring substance in spinach) prevent oxidative damage in your brain. That means they prevent free radicals from damaging brain cells and the spaces between them. 

While spinach contains particularly high levels of polyphenols, it isn't the only green vegetable with high amounts of this phytonutrient group. Other green veggies also contain high levels and are excellent choices for protecting your brain against disease.

Opt for olives to protect your brain

The exotic names of olives—Moroccan, kalamata, niçoise, picholine, and Manzanilla—sound almost as good as these varieties of olives taste. But taste is only one of the reasons to enjoy them. Olives are an excellent source of healthy monounsaturated fats and vitamin E. Monounsaturated fats have a beneficial role to play in maintaining the outer membranes of brain cells and protecting your body's genetic material and the energy-producing cellular components (mitochondria) that help fuel your brain.

Reap rosemary for brain health rewards

Not just great for meat dishes, now there are more reasons than ever before to enjoy rosemary and the brain health benefits this fragrant herb offers. Rosemary's reputation for enhancing memory likely stems from its research-proven ability to increase blood flow to the brain, thereby improving concentration. 

Other research shows that rosemary has anti-inflammatory effects and holds promise as a natural remedy for atherosclerosis—a chronic inflammatory condition that leads to stroke. Based on their positive findings, the scientists anticipate that rosemary has the potential to be developed into a natural anti-atherosclerosis medication or functional food.

Regularly enjoy tomatoes for a sharper memory

If you're only enjoying tomatoes as part of an occasional pasta dinner, you might want to expand your tomato repertoire. That's because more and more research is showing that tomatoes are great for your health, including the health of your brain.

Lycopene, one of the naturally present compounds in tomatoes, is a powerful antioxidant that helps destroy brain-damaging free radicals. Lycopene even protects your genetic material against damage and the resulting disease. 

Rev up your brain with resveratrol

The compound known as resveratrol, which is found in purple and red grapes, offers this impressive brain protection. Produced by grapevines, resveratrol appears to be the plants' first line of defense against stress, injury, and infection. Once we eat these delightful fruits, they confer their beneficial healing effects on us, and yes, that means red wine comes with many health benefits.

Resveratrol also appears to work in other ways to improve brain health. Resveratrol has been found to protect the heart and blood vessels against heart disease and therefore may play a protective role in the prevention of stroke. High doses of resveratrol boost blood flow to the brain and slow the effects of aging. Additionally, resveratrol has also been found to reduce inflammation. When it comes to brain health, resveratrol is proving itself invaluable.

Take a coffee break to maximize your brain power

If you've been feeling guilty about that cup of java, don't. When it comes to brain health, research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that regular coffee consumption lowers your risk of developing Parkinson's disease. And that's not all. In a Florida-based study, researchers found that women who drank three cups of coffee daily had a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease.

So how does coffee work to prevent brain diseases? According to an animal study, researchers found that caffeine supplementation, combined with moderate swimming, reduced inflammation. And further research supports the caffeine-inflammation reduction hypothesis. A study at the University of Illinois found that caffeine may block brain inflammation linked with brain diseases.

apricots peaches plums
Take a pit stop on the road to brain health

Take a pit stop for brain health—by eating fruits with pits, that is. Research shows that fruits that contain pits are among those with the highest concentrations of nutritional compounds called flavonoids, which protect and heal your brain. That includes apricots, peaches, cherries, and plums

Fruits that are blue, red, or purple contain a special group of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins, which protect both the watery and fatty parts of your brain against free radical damage. They seem to stop free radicals in their tracks, making these foods especially valuable in the prevention of brain disease. Plums and cherries are among the foods with the highest concentrations of these potent antioxidants. 

onions garlic
Get teary-eyed to transform your brain health

General Ulysses S. Grant once stated, "I will not move my army without onions." Perhaps he understood onions' potent medicinal properties. Regular consumption of onions, which is described as two or more times per week, has been associated with lower cholesterol levels and reduced blood pressure (when it is high), both of which help reduce your risk of stroke, among other diseases.

Both onions and garlic contain compounds that inhibit lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase (the enzymes that generate inflammatory substances) and reduce inflammation.

Adapted from Boost Your Brain Power in 60 Seconds

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