The 5 best foods for the brain

From cheese and red wine to oily fish and green tea: Eating the best foods for the brain can improve cognitive health.

The 5 best foods for the brain
5 best foods for the brain

Food and the brain

The food you eat each day not only fuels your body but plays an important role in your cognitive health.
“There is a direct physical connection between the brain and the gut,” says Dr. Kien Vuu, assistant professor of health sciences at UCLA and founder of VuuMD Performance and Longevity. 

"This is the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the gut and surrounding nervous system and sends messages between the two. When you eat poorly or eat foods that irritate the gut, it sends this signal to your brain, which can cause memory problems and brain fog. "

A lot of research has been done on what to eat to nourish your brain. In general, foods that are good for the heart - fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, etc. - are also good for the brain. (Exercise is also known to be particularly good for brain health.)


To conduct the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease study, researchers followed a large sample of subjects over a ten-year period to collect data on diet and cognitive function. The study involved 1,787 UK adults aged 46 to 77 who responded to a touchscreen questionnaire and an intuitive test.

The test measured the ability to solve problems without prior knowledge. Participants took the test two more times, two to three years apart.

"By doing the observational study, we were able to model the ten-year trajectory of cognitive change as an outcome (rather than point values), and thus get a sense of the overall diet of the participants during that period." Says Brandon Klinedinst, doctor of neuroscience at Iowa State University and one of the study's leads investigators.

After looking at the data, the researchers found that eating cheese daily was associated with better performance on the cognitive test. This type of intellectual flexibility - the ability to take information that one already knows and use it in other ways - such as doing crossword puzzles - becomes progressively more difficult with age, especially for those at high risk of. Alzheimer's.

"Cheese is often synonymous with food indulgence because of its saturated fat content," said Auriel Willette, assistant professor of food science and nutrition at Iowa State University and principal investigator of the study.

“But cheese contains healthy nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is particularly high in cows fed on grass or in aged cheeses or which are more oxygenated - like blue cheese, Swiss cheese, strong cheddar, and brie, ”he adds. "Higher levels of CLA are linked to anti-inflammatory properties, weight loss, and better fat management, in part thanks to omega-3 fatty acids."

These types of studies cannot prove cause and effect - another factor could be associated with both cheese consumption and mental performance, such as having a higher income. However, the researchers took other factors, such as socioeconomic status, into account when examining the results.


"Our findings suggested that eating lamb every week appeared to be linked to better fluency of thought, which is consistent with the Mediterranean diet and other diets that suggest eating meat in moderation," explains Willette. "Lamb is very lean meat while being high in protein."

Another reason this meat is better than the rest may be the way it is raised before it hits your plate. “Lamb is generally not industrial meat,” says Dr Vuu. "Pasture-raised meats [like lamb] generally do not contain antibiotics and are also less inflammatory than other red meats."

Fatty fish

“Omega-3s are important nutrients for every cell membrane, but especially for that of our brain,” says Dr. Vuu.

You probably already know that salmon are an important source of omega-3s, but what about other types of fish? There's an easy-to-use acronym for this called SMASH, says Dr. Vuu. It refers to sardines, mackerel, anchovies, salmon, and herring, all oily fish that have great benefits for the brain.

Research published in Neurology suggests that consuming seafood containing omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week may protect against memory loss. This association is even stronger in people who have the variant ApoE4 gene, which is known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Dark chocolate

You have to be careful about the type of chocolate you buy (a Snickers bar won't do much here), but dark chocolate can help improve cognitive health. “The cocoa in dark chocolate contains flavonols, which act as antioxidants and can help protect the brain,” says Dr. Vuu.

Apparently every little detail matters. A review of studies published in Frontiers in Nutrition demonstrated a link between consumption of flavonols and better memory, higher test results, and better blood flow to the brain. Which could indirectly improve memory and cognitive thinking

Green tea

Green tea contains a moderate amount of caffeine - a stimulant that can tone brain function and memory. (Which means you can use your coffee drinking habit as a way to strengthen your brain.)

"Green tea has a few properties that coffee does not have, the most important being theanine," says Dr. Vuu. "It's an amino acid that can get into the brain and make you feel more relaxed and less anxious, which in turn improves your mental function."

Green tea also contains polyphenols similar to those found in red wine, so those who do not drink alcohol can experience the brain benefits of polyphenols by drinking a cup of tea.

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