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Best foods to boost your brain

Do you want to become smarter, happier and healthier? Well – the power to do so lies within the food you consume.

Research has shown that foods have the ability to improve one’s overall brain health and function. We will be discussing 10 of the healthiest “brain foods” in detail. In this blog we will be referring to the New York Times bestseller “Genius Foods” written by Max Lugavare.

1) Olive oil is rich in polyunsaturated fats in the form of omega-3s. Humans consuming the standard Westernized diet have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of approximately 20:1. Research has shown that the optimal ratio is somewhere between 4:1 to 1:1. Oils such as canola and vegetable contain a vast amount of omega-6s, which are highly oxidizable once in the body. This is a driving force for inflammation, impaired cognition and worsening symptoms of depression (Lugavare, 2018). For reference, store bought salad dressings have a ratio of nearly 2000:1. Most processed foods contain these highly processed oils because they are inexpensive and increase shelf life.

*Most olive oils are good to cook up to 400°C. For cooking at high temperatures, avocado oil is a good alternative. For salad dressings, use an oil to vinegar ratio of 3:1, then add any spices you want. The nutrients from the salad will not be absorbed effectively unless consumed with a fat.

2) Dark leafy greens are very beneficial for our health, helping to reduce one’s cognitive decline, risk of obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. They are an excellent source of fiber, folate, antioxidants and carotenoids, while also containing vitamin C and K, and minerals such as iron and calcium. Dark leafy greens include spinach, kale, collards, and lettuces. A recent study revealed that people who consumed 2 or more servings of leafy greens per day were found to have brain scans that appeared 11 years younger (Lugavare, 2018).

*Dark leafy greens are great for a base in salads. They also add well to tomato sauce, stir frys, pesto, soups, stews, sandwiches/wraps, and are easy to sneak into smoothies! Make sure to wash your greens well before eating them.

3) Broccoli contains a powerful antioxidant called sulforaphane, which is formed from two compounds that reside in different plant cells. When you chew your broccoli, the two compounds combine to form sulforaphane. This antioxidant has been found to reduce inflammation, slow down degenerative disorders, improve cognitive function, and improve our immune system (Lugavare, 2018). Broccoli is an excellent source of fibre, protein, iron, folate, potassium and a variety of vitamins.

*High-heat cooking can destroy one of the two compounds in broccoli that combine to form sulforaphane. Fortunately, adding mustard seed powder to your broccoli and other crucifers after cooking will restore the ability to create sulforaphane.

4) Blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants out of all of the fruits and vegetables. Our body uses antioxidants to prevent or slow damage to our cells. They are also very dense with essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K and folate. Blueberries are a great fruit to eat due to their low fructose and glycemic levels. Research has found blueberries to be correlated with protecting the brain from cognitive loss, while also improving memory and mood (Lugavare, 2018).

*Blueberries are great as a snack or on your oatmeal in the morning. A half-cup is considered a serving size for adults so don’t be shy. Blueberries are one of the more expensive fruits, so if you are on a tight budget try buying them frozen.

5) Avocados help to protect and enhance your brain since they are full of healthy omega-3 fats and help to protect the brain from oxidation. Avocados are a fruit with a large amount of healthy monounsaturated fat, potassium and fiber, while low in sugar. They are a great source of vitamins C, E, K and B-6, and are dense with riboflavin, folate and magnesium. Even though most of the calories in avocados come from fats, don’t shy away because these are very beneficial fats that keep us satiated. When we consume healthy fats, our brain receives a signal to turn off our appetite. Additionally, consuming healthy fats slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates, and this helps to keep our blood sugar levels stable.

*Avocados are tasty on toast and are a great addition to your salads and smoothies! The creamy, soft texture of avocados are a perfect food for babies.

6) Almonds are a natural source of prebiotics and antioxidants, which supports brain and gut health. They are rich in healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Almonds can help to lower blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, and can even promote weight loss. Almonds are high in protein and fiber, and low in carbohydrates.

*Almonds are a great snack to substitute for unhealthy ones like chips. However, nuts contain a lot of calories due to their fat content and therefore are easy to overeat. Try to stick to no more than a quarter-cup of almonds per day.

7) Grass-fed beef is one of the most nutrient-rich proteins we can eat. It is a rich source of essential minerals like iron and zinc, as well as omega-3 fats, vitamins B12 and vitamin E. Deficiencies in any of these micronutrients have been correlated with brain-related disorders including dementia, low IQ, autism, and depression(Lugavare, 2018). Grass-fed beef is more nutritious than grain-fed beef since it contains up to six times more healthy fats and a large amount of electrolytes. It has also been shown to decrease one’s risk of heart disease, can help to fight cancer and can drastically improve blood glucose levels if you’re insulin resistant (Lugavare, 2018).

*Look for 100% grass-fed beef when buying. Furthermore, ground grass-fed beef is usually more affordable and therefore can be a good alternative.

8) Wild salmon is one of the most nutritious types of fish because it offers numerous health benefits. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and many other essential nutrients. Consumers of wild fish demonstrate superior cognitive aging, better memory function and have been shown to even possess larger brains (Lugavare, 2018). Additionally, this particular type of wild fish has been associated with a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. The amount of vitamins and minerals in wild salmon often make up for our body’s deficiency if we continue to make it a part of our diet.

*It is recommended that we consume wild salmon two times per week. To reap the most health benefits for salmon, ensure you are baking, steaming or grilling with a healthy oil.

9) Free range eggs improve cognitive function and cardiovascular health, while providing nearly every vitamin and mineral required by the human body (Lugavare, 2018). Free-range eggs are more beneficial to us than conventional eggs because the free-range chickens are able to roam as they please and eat a healthy, natural diet. Eggs from free-range hens have twice as much vitamin E and omega-3 fats.

*Whether the eggs are free-range or conventional, eggs are always a great, nutritious option for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

10) Dark chocolate has been found to reverse signs of cognitive aging and improve vascular function, blood flow to the brain and athletic ability. Habitual chocolate eaters have also been shown to have better memory functions (Lugavare, 2018). Dark chocolate is loaded with various nutrients, including an abundant amount of antioxidants, fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese.

*Dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation. Opt for a higher percentage of 85% dark or more. Try putting small chunks of dark chocolate in a raspberry for a delicious treat.

Follow this link for more information or pick up the book at the bookstore! Trust me, you won’t regret reading it!

Reference list

LUGAVERE, M. (2018). Genius foods: Become smarter, happier, and more productive while protecting your brain health for life. HARPERWAVE.

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