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Good Brain Foods

Updated on September 9, 2014

Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidants

For sure, there are many other foods that are good for the brain. It is not possible to list them all here. In general, foods with anti-inflammatory or anti-oxidant properties are good for the brain. Many are saying that Alzheimer's is an inflammation of the brain.

Certain beans for example have anti-oxidant capabilities that is as good as or even exceed that of blueberries. Also foods that are good for the heart and arteries are typically good for the brain as well. Afterall, the brain is filled with arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the brain cells.

Vegetables and fruits contains a whole array of flavonoids and phytonutrients that have been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These flavonoids are what gives the vegetables and fruits their bright colors.

Blueberries for example contain anthocyanins that are able to cross the blood brain barrier and reduce inflammation.

A study abstract says ...

"Anthocyanins, a large subgroup of flavonoids present in many vegetables and fruits, are safe and potent antioxidants. They exhibit diverse potential health benefits including cardioprotection, anti-atherosclerotic activity, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and anti-inflammation properties. Anthocyanins can cross the blood-brain barrier and distribute in the CNS."

CNS refers to the central nervous system.

Read about other anti-inflammatory foods here.

Foods that boost BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor)

BDNF is Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor and is like fertilizer for your brain. How to increase BDNF? As mentioned in my other article, 5 Ways to Maintain Brain Health, exercise is the best way to increase BDNF.

However, BDNF can also be affected by diet. As written in the book The Happiness Diet, ...

"Eat more processed, high-sugar foods and BDNF levels go down. Eat foods with plenty of folate, vitamin B12, or omega-3 and your BDNF levels go up." [page 11]

Book: "You: The Owner's Manual"

Part of the source of the information for this article about good brain foods comes primarily from the book "You: The Owner's Manual" by Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz. The book has a section titled "Your Brain: The Live Younger Action Plan" where it give several action plan. The subject of action plan #3 is "Some food for thought".

As many may know, Dr. Oz is also the host of the popular Dr. Oz Show.

The rest of the information is gathered from other sources including articles included in the references below.

Diet Cured Her Multiple Sclerosis

Other source of the information comes from the TEDxTalks video by Dr. Terry Wahls who cured herself of multiple sclerosis through diet. Watch her video or read her book "Minding My Mitochondria" on the right.

One point that you will realize from the video is that B vitamins are extremely important to the brain. That is easy to remember: B vitamins are brain vitamins.

You get B vitamins from leafy green vegetables. I wrote more about how B vitamins are vital to brain health in another article.

B vitamins (especially B1, B9, and B12) along with omega-3 fatty acids and iodine are needed in order to make myelin which insulates the axon of the neurons. In order to make nuerotransmitter, the brain needs sulfur and vitamin B6.

Mitochrondria are like tiny powerplants inside your cells that produces cellular energy ATP. The are particularly abundant in brain cells which require a lot of energy. To support the mitochronia, you need B vitamins, sulfur, and antioxidants.

The diet that she came up with that eventually cured her multiple sclerosis consists of a lot of ...

  • green leafy vegetables (kale, parsley)
  • sulfur rich vegetables (cabbage, rutabaga, broccoli, brussels sprouts, radishes, collards, turnips, cauliflower, kale, onions, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, chives, asparagus)
  • bright colors for antioxidants (beets, carrots, red cabbage, berries, peaches, oranges)
  • grass fed meats and organ meats (wild fish, salmon, herring, liver, heart, tongue)
  • seaweeds for iodine and selenium


Brain foods

Blueberries: Blueberries have anthocyanins that give blueberries their high antioxidant capability to mop up free radicals that can damage cells. Heat also reduces their anti-oxidant capabilities. So eat them fresh and ripe, not processed or in cans. Ripe ones have more antioxidants. Blueberries also reduces inflammation in the central nervous system.

When Dr. Andrew Weil came onto The Dr. Oz Show to talk about how to keep the brain healthy, Dr. Weil recommended black cod and blueberries.

Strawberries: Like blueberries they are high in antioxidant. Mice given strawberry and blueberry extracts showed reversal of age-related deficits. These fruits provide protection against oxidative stress on the brain. Blackberries too have polyphenols that help reduce inflammation. It is best to get organic strawberries and blueberries whenever possible.

Nuts: They contain healthy fats which are good for the arteries (there are a lot of arteries in your brain). The book recommends one ounce a day where one ounce is about 12 walnuts or 24 almonds. Walnuts are especially good; they contain an essential omega-3 fatty acid in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). A study found that when walnuts were given to older rats, it reversed some parameters of their age-related cognitive deficits.

Fish: Good source of omega-3. The book recommends 3 servings a week where each serving is the size of your fist. Black cod (sablefish), salmon, sardines are some good choices.

Olive oil, avocados, flaxseed: This contain healthy monounsaturated omega-3 and omega-9 fats. 25% of your calories should be healthy fats. Best to get extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil. They help fight against ADDLs (amyloid-beta derived diffusible ligands that are toxic to the brain).

Spinach: Rich in vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B, magnesium, and other, spinach is classified as a dark leafy green cruciferous vegetablewhich helps promote brain health.

Curry: Curcumin in curry fights inflammation and help prevent the formation of beta amyloid plaques.

Cocoa chocolate: Cocoa contains flavonoids for artery health and increases dopamine release. One ounce a day is good. Make sure the chocolate contains 70% or higher amounts of cocoa. Read article Dark Chocolate Good for the Brain.

Green Tea: Polyphenols in green tea can make dopamine more readily available where it is needed. Polyphenols also influences glucose metabolism by improving insulin sensitivity.

Coffee: Coffee has anti-oxidant properties. And its caffeine help keep the blood-brain barrier intact. Page 92 of "You: The Owner's Manual" says ...

"There have been enough studies performed that we can say that drinking 24 ounces of coffee a day decreases your risk of Parkinson's disease by 40 percent and your risk of Alzheimer's disease by 20 percent."

Also see article Coffee May Reduce Chances of Getting Alzheimer.

Brain Vitamins and supplements

Although not exactly food, vitamins and supplements that are good for the brain were also mentioned in the "You: The Owners Manual" book. It lists the following...

  • Folate, B6, and B12
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid and L-Carnitine
  • Resveratrol

In the below video, Christa Orecchio of The Whole Journey tells of the five foods for protecting the brain: turmeric, coconut oil, ashwagandha, liver, and gelatin.


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