The best foods for your brain

Updated July 11, 2018

Your brain is the most important organ in your body. It’s the grand organiser, interpreting signals coming from your entire body and ensuring that things run smoothly. If your brain isn’t functioning at its optimum level, you’ll become sluggish and lethargic. Your brain cells need twice as much energy as the remainder of the cells in your body. Generally speaking, your brain’s preferred source of fuel is carbohydrates, but many other compounds such as omega 3 are also thought to improve cognitive functioning. Getting your brain the right food can make the difference between lumbering along until the end of the day and functioning at your best.


Blueberries are possibly the most well-known food which increases brain functioning. Several studies have been conducted into the effects of blueberries, and they have been shown to reduce the risk of developing and effects of Alzheimer’s. Studies have also shown that they generally improve cognitive functioning in rats.

Whole grains

Whole grains, found in things like cereals and whole-wheat pasta, do wonders for your cardiovascular functioning and lower your cholesterol level. This might not seem like it has any relevance to brain functioning, but its benefits to blood flow translate to benefits in cognitive function. Your brain, like every other organ in your body, needs blood.

Oily fish

One of the most commonly cited chemicals to improve brain function are omega 3 fatty acids. The cell membranes within your brain are partially made from fatty acids, and these membranes are essential for the transmission of signals. People who eat more foods containing omega 3 have less risk of strokes and dementia, and decline more slowly with old age.


Although tomatoes are eaten so commonly you wouldn’t ascribe any benefits to them, they could have potential for preventing conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. They do this through the link between free radicals and general degradation of the body’s cells. Tomatoes contain an antioxidant, are thought to protect against free radical damage and therefore protect your brain.


Aside from providing beneficial fats, proteins and oodles of fibre, nuts also contain vitamin E – which has been linked to improvements in memory. This supposed link is as a result of their vitamin E content, so seeds, brown rice and leafy green vegetables could also benefit from the same association.


The reason that you perk up after a cup of coffee is because caffeine genuinely improves your concentration. The main issue with using coffee and tea for their brainpower-boosting ability is that the effects don’t last long. Unless you want to turn into a jittering wreck by the end of the day, limit yourself to around three cups.


Avocados help your brain in much the same way as whole grains do; by lowering your cholesterol and thereby increasing blood flow to your brain. They also contain monounsaturated fat, which is known to improve circulation.


Fruits contain complex carbohydrates, which is broken down to get glucose, the brain’s preferred source of food. Ordinary table sugar is also a carbohydrate, but a “simple” one, which is more fast-acting and short-lived. Complex carbohydrates take longer to deconstruct for their fuel, so provide a consistent and long-lasting source of mental energy.

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About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.