10 Brain Foods to Help Improve Memory, Concentration and Cognitive Health

By Paula Cookson LCSW

The foods we eat and the nutrients within them have a significant impact on our wellness and the way our minds and bodies function. For example, foods that are high in simple carbohydrates, such as processed foods, cause blood sugar fluctuations and affect energy levels.

Foods and nutrients also play an important role in influencing mood and cognitive functioning. For the best results, we should try to consume a combination of complex carbohydrates, protein and other nutrients that offer optimal fuel sources for health. For boosted brain function, more energy and better health overall, start including these 10 brain foods in your daily diet — you might be surprised by just how quickly the benefits can appear.

1. Leafy Green Vegetables

Foods like spinach, kale and swiss chard provide us with healthy doses of vitamin K, beta carotene and folate. These nutrients help slow the brain’s aging process and act as a natural antidepressant.

2. Walnuts and Flaxseeds

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the key ingredient in foods like walnuts and flaxseeds. EFAs offer the brain nutrients that aid concentration and focus, and they also act as building blocks for the brain’s development.

3. Whole-Grain Foods

Eating whole-grain foods and other dopamine-inducing nutrients can help reduce cravings for people in recovery and aid with low energy and depressive symptoms. The vital nutrient that helps with this process is tyrosine, which can also be found in bananas, sunflower seeds and lean beef.

4. Berries

Eating plenty of berries and other fruits and vegetables contributes to a greater sense of optimism, self-confidence and lower stress levels. One study recommends a minimum of five servings per day for best results.

5. Legumes

There are many different types of legumes that offer high levels of zinc and copper — two minerals that help decrease anxiety. Whether you prefer navy, lima, black or other kinds of beans, legumes can provide many benefits for the mind and body.

6. Seafood

Studies show that eating a moderate amount of seafood offers protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The fatty acids and vitamin D in seafood offer brain protection and also decrease levels of depression.

7. Dark Chocolate

Fans of dark chocolate will appreciate the brain benefits that this treat offers. Neuroplasticity, mental processing and improved learning ability are a few of the benefits you can enjoy by eating dark chocolate (70% cacao). The source of these benefits is flavonoids, a powerful antioxidant.

8. Coffee

According to one study, consuming 2.5 to five cups of coffee per day reduces cognitive decline, reduces likelihood of stroke and helps with well-being and focus. Coffee is also helpful for migraines and can offer protection from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Eggs

The vitamin B-12, choline and protein in eggs help with learning and memory retention. Additionally, the tryptophan found in eggs boosts serotonin production, which can help reduce feelings of depression.

10. Fermented Foods

Fermented foods have a powerful positive impact on your gut microbiome, which is closely associated with physical and emotional health. Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir increase levels of norepinephrine, dopamine and dozens of other neurotransmitters that affect mood and decision-making ability.

Learn More About How Diet Impacts Your Mental Health

The foods we consume have a direct impact on the way our minds and bodies function. When we choose foods with high nutritional value, such as vegetables, fruits and protein-packed meats and legumes, it can decrease depression and anxiety. A healthy variety of nutrients also assists with memory, focus and energy levels.

If you want to learn more about the best foods to eat for your mental health, consider using the Brain Food journey on the Nobu App. Through this free-to-use resource, you can learn about mindful eating, get advice from a nutritionist and find out how your dietary choices can affect your life.

Edited by – Jonathan Strum

Jonathan Strum graduated from the University of Nebraska Omaha with a Bachelor’s in Communication in 2017 and has been writing professionally ever since. He has written, edited and published content for health care professionals, educators, real estate agents, lawyers and high-level university faculty… Read more.

Written by – Paula Cookson, LCSW

Paula H. Cookson is a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist and freelance writer who lives and works in midcoast Maine. She received her master’s degree in Social Work in 2008 from the University of Maine. With over a decade of experience in the field of mental health, she is always amazed at the strength, beauty, and resilience of the human spirit… Read more.

dr angela phillips

Medically Reviewed by – Dr. Angela Phillips

Angela is a licensed therapist and clinical researcher, and has worked in public, private, government, and not-for-profit organizations, across clinical and research-oriented roles. Angela’s clinical and research experience has included suicide prevention, cognitive behavioral… Read more.