12 Delicious Recipes for Better Brain Health

These recipes from Daniel Amen, MD, deliver brain-healthy nutrients to keep your mind sharp.

Updated on May 31, 2023

blueberry smoothie
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Energizing Antioxidant Smoothie

This quick, simple smoothie recipe is filled with antioxidant-rich blueberries and kale. “A number of studies have shown that dietary intake of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables significantly reduces the risk of developing cognitive impairment,” says Daniel Amen, MD.

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breakfast burrito, orange juice, eggs
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Feed-Your-Brain Breakfast Burrito

This delicious breakfast burrito is filled with lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and brain-healthy fats. “Having protein at each meal helps to balance blood sugar levels. Adding lean meat, eggs, cheese, soy, or nuts to a snack or meal limits the fast absorption of carbohydrates and prevents the brain fog that goes with eating simple carbohydrates, such as donuts,” says Dr. Amen.

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3 / 12
Hummus with Parsley

Hummus isn’t just a great appetizer—it’s also a great food to boost your brain health. Olive oil is a top source of oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that helps keep brain cells healthy. Chickpeas are smart carbohydrates that help boost serotonin levels. “Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps soothe the brain. It is intimately involved in sleep, mood regulation, appetite, and social engagement,” says Amen.

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spinach and strawberry salad
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Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Pecans

This simple salad is a powerhouse for your brain. It’s made with antioxidant-rich spinach and strawberries. Antioxidants counter the development of free radicals in the brain, which contribute to cognitive deterioration and memory problems as you age. Pecans are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are vital for a healthy brain and may reduce the risk of neural degeneration. “Eating fruit is one of the keys to good brain and body health,” says Amen.

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5 / 12
Peaceful Asian Pear Salad

Skip the iceberg lettuce the next time you make a salad. This delicious recipe calls for arugula, which is high in vitamins K and C—powerful antioxidants known to rid the body of free radicals. Vitamin C also helps your body make certain neurotransmitters, the natural chemicals that help your brain cells communicate with each other.

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tomato soup
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Healthy Veggie Chili

Hold the beef the next time you make this yummy comfort food. Beans are high-protein powerhouses that contain nutritional compounds that strengthen your immune system and give your brain cells a boost. This recipe is also filled with lots of brain-healthy vegetables, including celery, which may help cool off inflammation in the brain’s memory center.

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chicken, tomatoes, tomato sauce
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Italian-Style Chicken

At less than 300 calories, this isn’t just a great dish for your waistline, but also your brain. Since the brain can’t store amino acids, it needs an ongoing daily supply from the food we eat. Eating too little protein affects the ability of the neurons in your brain to communicate. Having lean protein, like chicken, feeds your brain so that it works at its optimal level.

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blackened tuna steaks
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Hawaiian Blackened Tuna with Mango Salsa

Skip the expensive sushi restaurant and cook up this blackened tuna recipe instead. “DHA, one form of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, such as tuna, makes up a large portion of the gray matter of the brain,” says Amen. “The fat in your brain forms cell membranes and plays a vital role in how our cells function.”

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9 / 12
Brain Fit Fajitas

These fajitas are packed with brain-healthy vegetables. One study by the Chicago Health and Aging Project found that older adults who eat at least three servings of vegetables a day maintain their mental abilities 40 percent longer than those who eat less than one serving a day. The recipe also calls for garlic, which some research shows may help fend off brain enemies like heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

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salmon, lemon, spinach
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Salmon with Spinach

Your brain will love this recipe. Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. These “good fats” are beneficial for the brain because they help keep your arteries clear. “Research in the last few years has revealed that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help promote a healthy emotional balance and positive mood in later years, possibly because DHA is a main component of the brain’s synapses,” says Amen. Spinach, which contains one of the best dietary antioxidants, helps counter the development of free radicals in the brain.

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gelato, banana, avocado, chocolate, ice cream
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Amazing Avocado Gelato

This twist on the classic Italian gelato is the perfect brain-boosting dessert. It’s low in sugar and lighter in calories than typical gelato. Plus, avocado is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin B6. Symptoms of a vitamin B6 deficiency may include impaired memory and trouble concentrating. Vitamin B6 is also involved in systems that keep homocysteine in check. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.

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12 / 12
Chocolate Covered Strawberry Mousse

This dessert recipe replaces traditional chocolate with carob, a healthier option that tastes similar to chocolate, but has fewer calories and less fat and caffeine. It also calls for silken tofu, which is high in omega-3 fats. Omega-3s ensure normal brain function, lower the risk of dementia, and provide the building blocks for brain cell renewal.

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