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Brain-Boosting Foods Slideshow

Brain-Boosting Foods Slideshow

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Wheatgrass, and other foods like broccoli, berries, and spinach, contain antioxidants that, as Kelly Aronica explains, are essential for brain health because they protect it from free radical damage. Note that to obtain the nutrients from wheatgrass, it must be consumed as a juice.

1. Wheatgrass


Wheatgrass, and other foods like broccoli, berries, and spinach, contain antioxidants that, as Kelly Aronica explains, are essential for brain health because they protect it from free radical damage. Note that to obtain the nutrients from wheatgrass, it must be consumed as a juice.

2. Avocados


Foods like avocados or olive oil, which contain monounsaturated fats, can help minimize memory loss. Aronica notes an interesting study on the relationship between olive oil and memory in older adults.

3. Salmon


Salmon seems to be the super fish these days, with its oft-touted heart-healthy benefits, but studies have also shown that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon, can help improve learning and memory functions in the brain. As Aronica explains, fats make up 60 percent of the gray matter of the brain, particularly DHA, an omega-3 fat. "Eating fish just once a week may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease, and salmon has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids." For vegetarians, she notes that vegetable oils like flaxseed, soy, and canola are also rich sources of the fatty acids.

4. Blueberries


Because of the big push behind blueberries a few years ago, it’s a known fact that blueberries are high in antioxidants, which are essential for overall brain health.

5. Carrots


Also found in spinach, red peppers, and summer squashes, B vitamins, according to Aronica, help manufacture and release chemicals in the brain known as neurotransmitters. "The nervous system relies on neurotransmitters to communicate messages within the brain, such as those that regulate mood, hunger, and sleep."

6. Yogurt


Vitamin B12, often referred to as the "memory vitamin," is only found naturally in animal foods, so Aronica suggests vegans should be careful to use supplements. As she explains, its integrally involved in nerve function and found in yogurts, cheeses, salmon, shrimp, and beef.

7. Spinach or Kale


"I'd list dark leafy greens (spinach is probably my top choice, or kale) as one of the top foods for brain health," says Aronica. She explains that the huge antioxidant punch is the main benefit for the brain, but they are also powerhouses overall in terms of vitamin and mineral content.

8. Green Tea

Green tea is not only a great source of antioxidants, but it also provides a hefty amount of caffeine, which is good for coffee-turned-tea drinkers. Aronica adds that research has shown caffeine to improve cognitive function, focus, and concentration. Coffee and chocolate also have antioxidants, but probably aren't as strong of a source as green tea.

9. Eggs

Top Photo Group/ThinkStock

With the conflicting evidence about egg yolks (Good for you? Bad for you?), Aronica says that for brain functions, they're not to be ignored. Choline, a building block from the brain neurotransmitter acetylcholine, is involved in memory and is found in eggs, specifically the yolk.

Keep Your Mind Sharp With These Brain-Boosting Foods

Did you know that eating the right foods can help stave off age-related declines in memory and cognition? The brain-boosting MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is rich in fruits and veggies, whole grains, and healthy oils. In clinical studies, this plant-forward eating pattern has been shown to significantly reduce risk for Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than five million Americans over the age of 65.

Follow these simple tips to help your brain remain at its best:

1. Pump up the Produce

Fruits and veggies are rich in nutrients like folate, flavonoids, carotenoids, and antioxidants that can keep your brain and blood vessels healthy. One study found that people who ate 2.8 servings of vegetables daily reduced their rate of cognitive decline by approximately 40 percent compared with those who had less than one serving per day. Sound good? There’s more! Another study of more than 900 seniors revealed that those who followed the MIND diet recommendations closely reduced their risk for developing dementia by more than 50 percent.

What to do: Aim for at least one serving per day of dark, leafy greens one serving of another type of veggie and berries at least twice a week.

2. Enjoy Red Wine

Here’s one many people will love: A glass of wine daily may lower your risk for dementia. One study reported in JAMA found that among nearly 6,000 adult participants, those who reported drinking one to six drinks per week had a 54% reduction in risk for developing dementia compared to teetotalers. The key is to drink light to moderate amounts, as excessive alcohol consumption increases risk for alcohol-related brain damage.

What to do: Enjoy up to one glass of wine per day (red has more beneficial polyphenols than white). For those with a family history of breast cancer, speak with your doctor before drinking alcohol for its health benefits.

3. Be Fat Savvy

Despite the recent trends emphasizing butter and coconut oil, the artery-clogging saturated fats found in these foods are not only harmful to your heart – they’re bad for your brain and may increase risk for neurological declines. In fact, one study found that older people who ate the most saturated fat had more than twice the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that healthy fats – such as those from fish, avocados, nuts and most vegetable oils – can help reduced the risk of dementia.

What to do: The MIND diet recommends at least one serving a week of fish per week – but more may be even better. Choose plant-based oils low in saturated fat, like canola, olive, and sunflower, and limit full-fat dairy, butter, and fatty cuts of red meat.

4. Boost Your Choline

Not familiar with choline? You should be if you want to keep your brain sharp. Choline is an essential nutrient that acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is critical for memory. Cholinergic neurons comprise a significant part of your brain and nervous system. According to studies, those with higher intakes of choline have better memory and cognition. Data show that about 9 in 10 Americans aren’t meeting the recommended RDI of 550 milligrams choline per day.

What to do: Bump up the choline in your diet by incorporating foods abundant in choline such as fatty fish, whole eggs (the choline is in the yolk), beef, poultry, mushrooms, milk, and yogurt.

5. Be Carb-Smart

Whole grains, fruits and non-starchy vegetables should be the primary sources of carbohydrates in your diet. Limit added sugars like those found in baked goods and other sweet treats. Added sugars can increase your risk for weight gain and type 2 diabetes, which, research indicates, may increase the risk for developing dementia later in life.

What to do: Make at least half of your grain servings whole grains, and limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of your total calories, or about 200 calories a day for women, 250 for men.

Katherine Brooking is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition education from Columbia University. She is dedicated to helping people have better health and live richer lives through sound nutrition and good lifestyle choices.

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The Top 5 Brain-Boosting Foods You Should Be Eating

A well-fed brain is one of your greatest assets when it comes to your career. Creating work you’re proud of, thinking with a clear head, and communicating effectively are crucial to carving out your path and building your network. Not surprisingly, diet plays a starring role.

In her new book, Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power (Avery/ Penguin Random House), Dr. Lisa Mosconi, PhD, INHC, Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College, highlights the connection between diet and brain function and shares approachable, actionable tips to put that research into practice.

Dr. Lisa Mosconi, PhD, INHC, author of BRAIN FOOD: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive . [+] Power

She speaks from professional and personal experience. When she first moved to the United States from Italy at age 24 she was struck by how shifting from the Mediterranean-style diet she grew up on to a standard American diet negatively impacted her physical health and work performance. The experience led her to more closely study nutrition and the link between diet and brain health. In this excerpt from a longer interview, she discusses the brain foods you should be eating.

Jessica Cording: How is diet important for your career?

Dr. Lisa Mosconi: The research makes it clear: Diet plays a clear and determinant role in every aspect of brain function, literally shaping our thoughts, actions, emotions, and behaviors. If your job depends on your brain, it depends on your diet.

Next generation medical imaging and genomic sequencing studies, including my own work, have helped reveal that some foods are neuro-protective, literally shielding the brain from harm and supporting cognitive fitness over the course of a lifetime. Conversely, other foods are harmful for the brain, slowing us down in general, making us feel sluggish and tired, while at the same time increasing our risk of dementia.

Cording: In your book, you talk about foods that boost our cognitive function. What are the top brain foods people should incorporate into their diet?

Dr. Mosconi: Here are my top brain foods:

-Caviar contains a unique blend of nutrients that are perfect for the brain, including omega-3 fats (a brain-must), choline (a B vitamin needed to make memories), vitamin B6 and B12 (needed to support the nervous system), minerals like iron and magnesium (needed for healthy blood and tissues) and a good amount of protein combined with potent antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, and selenium. [Because] caviar [can be] expensive, fatty fish would be my recommended alternative, especially Alaskan salmon [and] mackerel, bluefish, sardines [and] anchovies [to get the] omega-3’s your brain needs.

- Dark leafy greens [like] spinach, Swiss chard, dandelion greens [and] kale [are] full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and disease-fighting nutrients needed for a healthy nervous system.

- Berries (especially blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries but also dark cherries, goji berries and mulberries) are packed with antioxidants that help keep memory sharp as you age. [They also provide] glucose, the main energy source for the brain. but have a low glycemic index [and] help regulate sugar levels.

-Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and flaxseed oil are loaded with anti-aging nutrients like omega-3’s and vitamin E. EVOO is also rich in monounsaturated fat, a kind that is good for the heart—and what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.

- Raw cacao is rich in theobromine, a powerful antioxidant known to support cellular aging and reduce the risk of heart disease. Its effects are similar to those of caffeine, as they both are vasodilators and improve blood flow to the brain [except cacao won’t give you jitters]. You can use raw cacao to make cacao tea, or in your smoothies. Dark chocolate with cocoa content of 80% or higher is also rich in theobromine and natural antioxidants. Besides, chocolate makes you happy. I have a small piece of high-quality dark chocolate, like 85% or 90% dark, every day.

-Water [is also important]. Over 80% of the brain’s content is water. Every chemical reaction that takes place in the brain needs water, especially energy production. The brain is so sensitive to dehydration that even a minimal loss of water can cause symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, dizziness, confusion and, more importantly, brain shrinkage. The longevity and well-being of your brain are critically dependent upon consuming hard water. This refers to plain water that is high in minerals and natural electrolytes. Most people don’t realize that the water they’re drinking is not actually “water”.

Cording: What’s your favorite brain-boosting snack?

Dr. Mosconi: I love apples. When I’m at the office though, I’ll bring homemade trail mix [made with] higher quality dried fruit, nuts and seeds. [It's] packed with brain-essential nutrients that come from goji berries, Brazil nuts, walnuts, cacao nibs, pistachios, hemp hearts and more. Plus, I drink plenty of rose water throughout the day, which is very anti-inflammatory.

7 of 11

Peanuts and peanut butter

Although both are high in fat, peanuts and peanut butter tend to be a source of healthy fats. And they are also packed with vitamin E.

Both foods may help keep the heart and brain healthy and functioning properly. Other good choices are almonds and hazelnuts.

&ldquoThere has been some very good research that diets that are high in healthy fats, low in saturated fat and trans fats, and rich in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and nuts are good for the brain and the heart,&rdquo says Maria C. Carrillo, PhD, senior director of medical and scientific relations at the Chicago-based Alzheimer&rsquos Association.

12 foods to boost brain function

The foods we eat can have a big impact on the structure and health of our brains. Eating a brain-boosting diet can support both short- and long-term brain function.

The brain is an energy-intensive organ, using around 20 percent of the body’s calories , so it needs plenty of good fuel to maintain concentration throughout the day.

The brain also requires certain nutrients to stay healthy. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, help build and repair brain cells, and antioxidants reduce cellular stress and inflammation, which are linked to brain aging and neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

This article explores the scientific evidence behind 12 of the best brain foods.

Share on Pinterest Oily fish contains omega-3 that can help boost brain health.

Oily fish are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help build membranes around each cell in the body, including the brain cells. They can, therefore, improve the structure of brain cells called neurons.

A 2017 study found that people with high levels of omega-3s had increased blood flow in the brain. The researchers also identified a connection between omega-3 levels and better cognition, or thinking abilities.

These results suggest that eating foods rich in omega-3s, such as oily fish, may boost brain function.

Examples of oily fish that contain high levels of omega-3s include:

People can also get omega-3s from soybeans, nuts, flaxseed, and other seeds.

Dark chocolate contains cocoa, also known as cacao. Cacao contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

Antioxidants are especially important for brain health, as the brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline and brain diseases.

Cacao flavonoids seem to be good for the brain. According to a 2013 review , they may encourage neuron and blood vessel growth in parts of the brain involved in memory and learning. They may also stimulate blood flow in the brain.

Some research also suggests that the flavonoid component of chocolate may reverse memory problems in snails. Scientists have yet to test this in humans.

However, a 2018 study in humans also supports the brain-boosting effects of dark chocolate. The researchers used imaging methods to look at activity in the brain after participants ate chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao.

The researchers concluded that eating this type of dark chocolate may improve brain plasticity, which is crucial for learning, and may also provide other brain-related benefits.

Like dark chocolate, many berries contain flavonoid antioxidants. Research suggests that these may make the berries good food for the brain.

Antioxidants help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. The antioxidants in berries include anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, and quercetin.

A 2014 review notes that the antioxidant compounds in berries have many positive effects on the brain, including:

  • improving communication between brain cells
  • reducing inflammation throughout the body
  • increasing plasticity, which helps brain cells form new connections, boosting learning and memory
  • reducing or delaying age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline

Antioxidant-rich berries that can boot brain health include:

Eating more nuts and seeds may be good for the brain, as these foods contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

A 2014 study found that a higher overall nut intake was linked to better brain function in older age.

Nuts and seeds are also rich sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals.

As a person ages, their brain may be exposed to this form of oxidative stress, and vitamin E may therefore support brain health in older age.

A 2014 review found that vitamin E may also contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The nuts and seeds with the highest amounts of vitamin E include:

Fully exploring vitamin E’s effects on the brain will require further research.

Brain-boosting recipes

Packed with nutrients to help you feel more focused, refreshed and alert, Good Food's brain-boosting recipes will give your grey matter some TLC.

Herby broccoli

Jazz up a plate of broccoli with a couple of Italian ingredients

Tortellini with pesto & broccoli

A speedy pasta salad with Mediterranean flavours - perfect for packed lunches

Spanish spinach omelette

The leftovers of this tasty tortilla are perfect for tomorrow's lunch - for the office or the kids' lunchbox

Baked eggs with spinach & tomato

A rustic dish with a delicious combination of flavours and just four ingredients, try whipping it up for brunch

Asparagus soup

A super-green and super-tasty vegetable soup with a few simple ingredients, including spinach and shallots

Griddled asparagus

A special, quick and easy to prepare veg for a roast chicken dinner

Vanilla-almond chia breakfast bowl

This fibre-packed oat pot is similar to a bircher. The combination of porridge oats, blueberries, yogurt, seeds and nuts will keep you fuller for longer

Berry Bircher

Overnight oats that are low in fat and take 5 minutes to prepare. Pack your breakfast with frozen raspberries, bio yogurt and golden linseeds for a delicious and healthy start to the day

Squash, orange & barley salad

This full-of-flavour autumnal salad has a zesty kick and is best eaten straight away

Brain-Smart Dessert Recipes

There are healthy ways to appease a sweet tooth and nourish your brain.

These recipes avoid sugar and use healthier sweeteners like honey, stevia, and maple syrup in moderation.

When you start with delicious basic ingredients like fresh berries, dark chocolate, and coconut milk, you don’t need much added sweetener to make desserts that are enjoyable and satisfying.

41. Fresh Blueberry Crumble

blueberries, almond flour, walnuts, coconut oil

42. Chocolate and Raspberry Pot de Creme

dark chocolate, eggs, coconut milk, raspberries

43. Blueberry Rosemary Ice Cream

coconut milk, blueberries, rosemary, eggs

44. Jaden’s Flan

45. Chocolate Coconut Milk Mousse

coconut milk, cocoa powder, dark chocolate

46. Raw Walnut Fudge

cocoa powder, coconut oil, walnuts, almond butter

47. Coconut Chocolate Cake

almond flour, almonds, dark chocolate, shredded coconut, coconut milk, eggs

48. Avocado Banana Chocolate Cookies

avocado, dark chocolate, cocoa powder, eggs

49. Keto Dark Chocolate Pudding

dark chocolate, coconut milk, cinnamon

15 Brain Foods for Studying and Memory

Think of your brain as the control center of your body. It controls your ability to feel, talk, think, hear, and even breathe.

Since this super organ does so much, it’s no wonder it requires a ton of energy to keep things running smoothly. In fact, according to research from 2011, your brain uses 20 percent of your body’s calories. That’s a pretty big energy budget for an organ that accounts for only 2 percent of your body weight.

Unless your brain is in starvation mode, its main preference of fuel is glucose (a simple sugar and a component of carbohydrates). So what you eat directly provides your brain’s primary energy source.

Plus, there’s scientific evidence of a big connection between your gut and your brain (the gut-brain axis), which affects brain health.

There are several nutrients that positively affect neural pathways:

While there’s no magic food that will suddenly take your brain power from 0 to 60 overnight, some foods may help you focus in the moment. If you’re looking to prep your brain for future tasks, you’ll also want our tips on which foods to add to your regular rotation of eats.

We’ll break down which foods are high in the nutrients listed above and how they can fit into your plan for exam weeks, long-term concentration, and those times when you need a brain boost like, now.

Share on Pinterest Guille Faingold/Stocksy United

Most research on foods for boosting brain power has looked at time periods of several weeks to several months. This means a quick fix might be harder to find.

But if you’re looking for some brain foods for studying, pulling an all-nighter, or working long hours, there’s still hope.

We’ll discuss some nutrients and adaptogens that might help give you a concentration boost to power through that study sesh.

1. Coffee

But first, coffee. Caffeine may seem like a no-brainer (pun intended) before a long study session or workday. Research suggests that moderate amounts (from 75 to 250 milligrams) of caffeine can positively affect alertness and mental focus, even when you’re sleepy.

You’ll want to limit the amount of coffee you drink, though. Studies suggest that consuming too much (4 to 5 cups a day, which is about 400 milligrams) may cause jitteriness, sleep disturbances, and other negative effects.

And if you’re under 18, drop the limit even lower, to 100 milligrams per day, since too much could lead to unpleasant side effects.

Pro tip: If you start to feel jittery, hold off for a few hours and snack on something tasty. Find yourself unable to stop dozing? Try a coffee nap!

2. Green tea

Green tea has two components that could help boost brain power. In addition to caffeine, green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid known to help with stress management and enhance brain performance.

Better still, according to research from 2001, L-theanine’s effects can be felt in as little as 30 minutes.

Pro tip: Go for matcha. It contains about twice as much L-theanine as regular green tea and is also higher in alertness-boosting caffeine. So sipping a matcha latte while you study may help boost your attention.

3. Maca

In Peru, maca is traditionally used in schools to improve students’ performance. A lot of the evidence around this is anecdotal, but hey, the placebo effect can be powerful too!

According to a 2012 review, animal studies have linked maca to improved memory and learning. And some research in humans has suggested that taking maca in the long term may help boost mood and energy levels.

4. Dark chocolate

If your sweet tooth kicks in while you’re studying, reach for chocolate — but make sure it’s dark chocolate. Studies suggest that dark chocolate and cocoa products may have positive effects on brain function. Older research has also found that eating chocolate may help reduce mental fatigue.

Got a week of exams coming up? Working on a project that never seems to end? We hear you, and these foods are there for you.

5. Berries

Berries will be your besties for boosting brain power and memory. Berries are high in flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins, which increase blood flow to the brain.

Flavonoids may also support memory and learning: A 2019 study in 40 younger adults found that drinking a mixed berry smoothie helped boost accuracy and response times on various tests over a 6-hour period. We’ve got 50+ blueberry recipes, if you need the inspiration.

6. Turmeric

Turmeric, the powerful golden anti-inflammatory spice, has been linked to improved memory and brain function. In a 2018 trial, participants who took 90 milligrams of curcumin twice a day for 18 months had a 28 percent improvement in performance on memory tests compared to those who took a placebo.

Pro tip: Curcumin is known to have low bioavailability (meaning your body doesn’t easily absorb much of it), so you may be better off using supplements than relying on the spice for these benefits. If turmeric is already an everyday ingredient for you, remember to add some black pepper, which will help your body absorb the curcumin.

7. Pumpkin seeds

While there haven’t been studies on the direct effects of pumpkin seeds on brain function, they are a rich source of micronutrients that are linked to brain health, learning, and memory. If you’re low in iron, zinc, magnesium, or copper, it may be helpful to snack on pumpkin seeds as you study.

Pumpkin seeds also contain antioxidants, which some animal studies suggest may help with memory enhancement.

8. Citrus

The flavonoids in citrus fruits may help protect your nerve cells from injury. A small 2016 study in young adults found that drinking a flavonoid-rich juice helped enhance blood flow.

Participants who drank the juice also performed significantly better on a test called the Digit Symbol Substitution Test, which assesses cognitive function. No other differences were noted on behavioral tests.

And in a 2015 study, older adults who drink flavanone-rich orange juice for 8 weeks saw an improvement in results in a test of brain function.

Try whipping up one of our favorite citrus smoothies.

9. Eggs

Eggs are all they’re cracked up to be for brain health. They’re rich in vitamin B12, choline, and selenium — all of which support memory and brain health and performance. Start your day with the best scrambled eggs ever.

12 Foods That Will Boost Brain Health and Keep Your Memory Sharp

They've been shown to lower your risk for Alzheimer's and dementia.

If you're truly eating healthy, the foods you choose at mealtime are doing much more than just maintaining your waistline &mdash they're building muscle across the body, including those in your brain. Did you know that the brain actually needs calories to function, too? According to scientific commentary presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the brain alone can use around 20% of the body's total calorie intake for the day. But how does one feed the brain, exactly? It's all about choosing healthy ingredients that have also been shown to improve holistic cognitive functions, including concentration, motor skills, and the ability to recall our memories over time.

You may notice an uptick in your focus and productivity during the work day after adding these 12 foods into regular rotation in your kitchen. But in the long run, nutrient-dense ingredients like these staples do the heavy work of supporting long-term brain function as we age. These staples &mdash which include everything from lean fish to snack-friendly options like almond butter &mdash are chock full of nutrients, including antioxidants that fight inflammation as well as Omega-3 fatty acids that can help foster brain cell growth over time. Their nutritional profiles can help offset stress over time, which is known to increase your risk of neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease.

Follow along as we share 12 powerhouse ingredients that research suggests may keep your whole body, brain included, in tip-top shape as you age.

Nuts and nut butters are the best source of vitamin E, a crucial antioxidant for protection against cell degradation, which is associated with Alzheimer's disease. Plus, since nuts are high in monounsaturated fats and fiber, they're super-filling. Almonds are also high in calcium, magnesium, and potassium, and they help stabilize blood pressure, which is important for boosting brain health.

The fruit is full of monounsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E, both beneficial for brain health. Try adding avocados to your favorite salads or as a secret baking ingredient: You can swap it for butter in a lot of traditional recipes for cakes and breads. Just remember that although avocado is high in healthy fat, it's still higher in calories than other fruits (a quarter of an avocado is about 60 calories).

Most nuts provide a serious punch of plant-based proteins and healthy fats to massage your arteries over time, but walnuts are particularly known for their cognitive boost. Alpha-linolenic acid (known as ALA) is one of the main Omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts and is known for its cardiovascular effects as well as its ability to feed your mind. In fact, a recent study issued by the University of California Los Angeles linked higher walnut consumption to improved cognitive test scores.

Any food that is orange is good for both heart and brain health, mostly due to the antioxidants found in carotenoids (the orange pigment). Since butternut squash is low-calorie but high in fiber, it's also a weight-loss ally. This is especially important since being overweight and obese is considered a risk factor for Alzheimer's and cognitive decline.

Just like brightly colored vegetables, vibrant fruits are also rich in nutrients due to natural plant pigments known as flavonoids. Not only do flavonoids give berries their distinctive hue, but recent research suggests that flavonoid-rich berries can help you maintain (or improve!) cognitive function as you age.

Cruciferous veggies are anti-inflammatory- and antioxidant-rich, and are full of vitamin C, selenium, folate, and potassium &mdash all of which are linked to lowering your risk of cognitive decline. Cauliflower provides us with additional vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and bone-mineral density. Plus, since cruciferous veggies contain a compound called glucosinolates, they can help protect your blood vessels. They eliminate harmful carcinogens from affecting DNA that could ultimately lead to cognitive decline.

It's rich in vitamin D (50% of your daily value), vitamin B12 (20%) and vitamin B6 (25%), which makes it a smart choice when cooking at home or dining out. Plus, B12 (which is important for cognitive function) can only be found in animal products, so eating a lower calorie, heart-healthy choice like fish is typically your best bet for maximum health benefits.

Beans and legumes are rich in important B-vitamins, specifically the neuro-protectors folate and B6. Folate is especially important because it's responsible for the conversion of homocysteine into the amino acid methionine, which helps regulate your liver. High levels of homocysteine have been linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer's, meaning eating enough folate is crucial for lowering your risk.

The main compound in curry &mdash turmeric &mdash has been linked to major protective benefits against cognitive decline. In fact, research published in Stem Cell Research & Therapy has shown that individuals who had only occasionally consumed curry (about once a month) still performed better on standardized tests than those who reported rarely or never ate curry. Need more proof? Older adults in India are much less likely (4.4 times less as of 2008) to develop Alzheimer's than those in the United States.

Whole grains like barley are rich in B-vitamins as well as fiber, which can also help lower cholesterol and improve brain health. Research has linked B-vitamins (like B6, B12, and folate) to reducing risk of cognitive decline due to potential memory boosting benefits.

Choose barley in place of white rice or pasta when choosing grains, or for the gluten-free: Buckwheat is a complete protein (meaning it has all eight essential amino acids) and is also rich in soluble fiber.

Green tea has been consumed for thousands of years, and is known for its cancer-fighting properties. Many of the benefits of green tea come from a specific polyphenol known as EGCG. A recent study published in the journal Phytomedicine also suggests that green tea plays a role in benefitting memory, attention, and brain function.

Coffee packs a two-for-one nutritional punch when it comes to cognition. Previous studies point to the protective effects of moderate caffeine intake on cognitive decline, and general stimulation of the central nervous system. Even more studies have previously illustrated that this is actually a dose response. In other words, the more caffeine you drink the better off you are.

But be careful: Cognitive decline has also been linked to poor sleep habits, so if you're particularly sensitive to caffeine, it's best to make sure you are not drinking coffee too late in the day.

Brain-boosting recipes

Packed with nutrients to help you feel more focused, refreshed and alert, Good Food's brain-boosting recipes will give your grey matter some TLC.

One-pan salmon with roast asparagus

For an easy side dish to complement a spring roast, just cook this recipe without the salmon

Salmon & spinach with tartare cream

Ever-versatile salmon is as popular on our shopping lists as chicken. Make the most of it with this impressive recipe

Basque-style salmon stew

Heart-healthy salmon tops this simple one-pot which will help towards your five-a-day

Sardines & watercress on toast

A low-fat lunch that's high in omega 3. You could use any oily fish if you don't have sardines

Salsa spaghetti with sardines

Storecupboard canned fish is a convenient source of omega-3 oils. Serve with wholewheat pasta, tomatoes, olives, onions and chilli

Spiced lamb kebabs with pea & herb couscous

These peppery paprika lamb skewers are barbecue friendly. Serve with a vegetable couscous flavoured with mint and coriander

Lamb dopiaza with broccoli rice

Simple and delicious, this low-fat curry is full of good-for-you ingredients, including lean lamb, prebiotic onions and fibre-rich lentils

Turmeric smoothie bowl

Full of warming and nourishing ingredients, this creamy breakfast bowl can be ready in just 10 minutes

Turmeric pilau with golden onions

This side dish can be part-cooked in the kitchen, then quickly tossed together in a wok over the coals on the barbie

Tikka-style fish

Perfect for the barbecue - but don't let that stop you using the oven if the typical English weather arrives - use whichever fish you prefer

Chickpeas with tomatoes & spinach

For a great night in, whip up this warming meal, serve with a bit of naan and get comfy on the sofa

Spicy yogurt chicken

Try a spicy twist with your chicken - this dish works well hot or cold - it's also a good source of iron

Lamb cooked with tomatoes & aromatic spices

This is called Kashmiri tamatari ghosht and is a traditional favourite, especially served with Indian bread and basmati rice

Pear & blueberry breakfast bowl

A brunch-friendly oat and fruit bowl with yogurt and crunchy seeds - pack in 2 of your 5-a-day in the morning

Orange & blueberry Bircher

Soaking oats and seeds overnight makes them easily digestible. Add in the fruit and you've got a nutritious start to the day with the right kind of fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals

The best brain-boosting food for kids—and how to get them to eat it

Nutrition is crucial for brain development, but kids aren't clamoring to eat fish and wheat germ. Here's how to close the brain food gap.

Like many parents, I want to raise smart kids who reach their full potential. But as a pediatric nutritionist and mom, I know that parents face a reality that's hard to deny: While certain foods with nutrients like omega-3 DHA, choline and iron help promote brain development, the truth is young children aren't eager to eat these foods.

Why is food important for brain development?

It is well-known that food, and the nutrients it contains, helps the brain develop, grow and function. During infancy and the first 1,000 days, the brain is rapidly growing, laying the scaffolding and blueprint for information transmission, memory and learning.

We can see babies and young toddlers practically morph before our eyes in everyday, simple things like purposeful movement and language development. As kids get older, their social skills blossom in the pre-school years and they engage in formal learning at school. During the teen years, the pruning phase begins, where under-utilized connections in the brain are naturally cut back, allowing the important and frequently used pathways to be honed and refined. It's no surprise the teen years are full of impulse, experimentation and surprises!

From birth to young adulthood, nutrition is a key component in brain growth, development and health.

What is brain food?

Certain nutrients are especially helpful to the developing brain and its functions during childhood. The foods that serve these nutrients in appreciable levels are what I call "brain foods."

For example, breast milk is a brain food for babies—and so is infant formula, as it is formulated to match breast milk as closely as possible. It is rich in fat and supplies many nutrients, such as protein, iron and DHA, required for brain development.

Fatty fish, like salmon, is another example of brain food, as it is a source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein.

Other nutrient-dense foods for the brain include:

  • Blueberries
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Fish
  • Avocado
  • Eggs

As children grow, however, their food choices become central to their brain health and cognitive abilities.

Which nutrients benefit kids' brains?

It's important to take a holistic view of nutrition for the brain, as research suggests focusing on one single nutrient to the exclusion of others may undermine its functioning. The fact is, many nutrients benefit the brain and they actually interact with each other to help the brain function optimally.

That said, we do know certain nutrients in particular are star players in the area of brain development and health in children. Understanding them can help you select a healthy diet for your child.

Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA and EPA, help deliver oxygen to the brain, enhance blood flow, slow aging and may impact brain size. For kids, this may translate to better focus and improved reading skills in the classroom, and for younger children, improved learning ability and impulse control.

Choline helps the memory center in the brain develop, particularly during the first six years of life, which is especially important for learning.

Protein, iron and zinc are needed for brain growth from an early age. Luckily, these nutrients are found together in beef, dark meat poultry, beans and certain grains. A deficiency in iron in infancy, for example, has been associated with a long term cognitive impact on children.

And the list goes on. You can count on folate, iodine and vitamins A, D, E and B complex to be involved in healthy brain development, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, which help your child's visual development and may support cognitive growth.

The brain food gap + what kids really eat

Many of the nutrients important for brain health are found in foods such as fish, avocado, eggs, olives and nuts. Not the starches and sweet treats kids beg to eat.

A child's typical diet may create a nutritional gap for certain nutrients critical for brain health. A "gap" is created when the actual consumption of a nutrient falls short of the recommended intake.

For example, the target intake for DHA in kids between 6 and 10 years old is 200-250 mg per day of EPA and DHA (these are packaged together in food and supplements), yet intake studies suggest kids get less than half of this, averaging about 100 mg DHA per day.

This is due, in part, to children not eating the recommended two servings of fish per week (6-8 ounces per week for children aged 2-6 years 8-12 ounces per week for children 6 years and older).

Solving the brain food gap

While it's simple to say "eat more fish," or "serve more eggs or nuts," the reality is, this isn't easy to execute. Kids can be fussy about food, refuse to eat fish or have a food allergy, preventing them from eating those foods which can be helpful to their brain development.

Of course, families can offer foods rich in brain nutrients to improve their overall diet. Target the following foods to boost brain health:

  • Offer walnuts, seeds, fatty fish, olive and other plant oils to add omega-3 fatty acids to the diet. Remember to crush nuts to avoid a choking hazard.
  • Find ways to offer eggs, meat, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, and high fiber grains to target protein, choline, iron and zinc. Scramble eggs with spinach and top with cheese. Or, use a slow cooker to prepare beef or poultry to maximize tenderness shred meat for easier eating.
  • Dairy products are a good source of protein and vitamins A, D and B12. New food products, like Brainiac Kids yogurt and applesauce, offer nutrients including omega-3 DHA, EPA, ALA, and choline to help close the nutritional gap. Use it as a side for breakfast or lunch, or a morning or afternoon snack option.
  • Nuts, nut butters, avocado, seeds, vegetable oils and wheat germ offer up vitamin E. Spread a thin layer of nut or seed butter onto bread, bagels or crackers. Add wheat germ to oatmeal or smoothies.
  • Fortified foods such as cereals, breads, eggs and milk have enhanced sources of iron, zinc, folate, DHA, EPA and other nutrients. Ready-to-eat cereal is versatile. Serve it for breakfast, as a snack or in a pinch, dinner.

And don't forget positive feeding strategies—they can work magic with young kids, too:

  • Create fun names for fish and seafood, such as "pink fish" for salmon or "looney-tuny" for tuna.
  • Choose colorful foods such as fruits and vegetables, and cut them into bite-size shapes or "fingers" to entice interest in eating.
  • Allow kids to serve themselves and make their plate from the prepared foods for the meal.
  • Don't be bland: Add spices, seasonings and other flavors to foods. Believe it or not, young kids do like flavorful food.
  • Put dressing and dips on the side young children love to experiment with dip!

While there isn't a magic food, single nutrient or specific feeding strategy that will guarantee a superior IQ, making an effort to include a variety of nutrient-rich foods in your child's diet will support brain development and support future learning.