What is good brain food?

Eating a sensible, well-balanced Mediterranean diet (including omega-3s) that's good for the heart, and maintaining a healthy weight are key to brain health. Watch brain health expert Cynthia Green, PhD, discuss foods that can promote a sharp brain.
Gayatri Devi, MD
Foods that are beneficial for heart health are also good for the brain; antioxidant-rich vegetables and good fats are key. In this video, neurologist Gayatri Devi, MD, discusses foods to embrace for brain health, and which foods to avoid. 
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Follow these diet tips to improve your brain health:
  • Opt for healthy fats. Choosing monounsaturated "good" fats instead of "bad" saturated fats offers you the most protection against brain damage from silent strokes, so spread peanut butter (or the more sophisticated walnut, macadamia, almond, or cashew butter) instead of cream cheese on your whole-grain bagel; olive oil and vinegar instead of Ranch dressing; and a small handful (6 to 12 halves) of walnuts plus a crunchy apple instead of snacking on chips or ice cream.
  • Catch some omega-3s, even if you don't love fish. Three 3-ounce servings a week of non-fried fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout, haddock, or sardines, can make your RealAge younger. Not into fin food? Take omega-3 capsules. I like the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) form of omega-3s (and prefer algae-based supplements to fish oil) and recommend 600 to 900 milligrams a day.
  • Buy brain-boosting foods, especially produce and whole grains. Drive-through dining with a multivitamin chaser won't cut it. Aim to eat a rainbow of brightly colored produce for vitamin C. Get vitamin B6 from baked potatoes, roasted skinless chicken breast, and chickpeas; vitamin B12 from seafood, yogurt, or nutritional yeast; and folate (yep, it's in the B family) from spinach, lentils, papayas, and asparagus. Add almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, or hazelnuts for your dose of mixed tocopherols (the active component of vitamin E). Top it off with a vitamin D supplement (1,000 IU of vitamin D before age 60; 1,200 after). On the bright side, spending 10 to 20 minutes a day in the sun can boost your body's production of vitamin D by between 3,000 and 20,000 IU, depending on your skin type.
  • Go easy on (or eliminate) meats, sweets, and white carbs. Limiting these also helps protect your brain's thinking ability. Choose fish, nuts, or beans instead of beef; fruit, veggies, or nonfat/no-sugar-added yogurt instead of sweets; and 100% whole grains in place of white bread, white rice, and white pasta.
Believe it or not, the foods that are best for your brain health and immune system contain...fat! In this video, neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, discusses how pure, natural sources of fat and cholesterol are actually ideal for a healthy brain.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

Nuts of all kinds are an excellent brain food.

Walnuts are made up of 15 to 20 percent protein and contain linoleic (omega-6 fatty acids) and alpha-linoleic acids (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamin E and vitamin B6, making them an excellent source of nourishment for your nervous system.

Cashews are an excellent source of magnesium, which can increase the diameter of blood vessels, reducing hypertension and providing a healthy blood flow.

Almonds are rich in phenylalanine, which is associated with cognitive and neurological health. This chemical easily passes the blood-brain barrier and stimulates the brain to produce the natural pain-killing and mood-stabilizing hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine. There is some evidence to suggest that phenylalanine can assist in treating the debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

One of the all-time best foods for your brain is Fish.

Two great examples are...

  • Salmon
  • Tuna

Fish body oil is the only major source of polyunsaturated Omega-3's EPA and DHA.


For the best quality stay away from farm raised fish and go for the fish caught in the deep waters of the oceans.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
While physics would dictate that your food travels down after you eat it, a certain amount travels up to your brain (via arteries after it's been through the digestive process, of course). Among the best nutrients to help keep your cerebral power lines strong are omega-3 fatty acids—the kinds of fat found in fish like salmon and mahi-mahi. These healthy fats, which have been shown to slow cognitive decline in people who are at risk, not only help keep your arteries clear but improve the function of your message-sending neurotransmitters.

Aim for 13 ounces of fish a week, or, if you prefer supplements, take 2 grams of fish oil a day (metabolically distilled), or DHA from algae (where fish get their omega-3s), or an ounce of walnuts a day. DHA is the omega-3 that seems best for the brain.

Also load up on salad. The veggies, not the fat-laden dressing. It's been shown that vegetables—any kind, any place—slow cognitive decline even more than fruits. Eating two or more servings a day (just two!) decreases the decline in thinking by 35 percent over six years. Pass the sprouts, please.
You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

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You: Staying Young: The Owner's Manual for Extending Your Warranty

International bestselling authors of YOU: The Owner's Manual and YOU: On a Diet give you all the tools and know-how to stay young and defy the ageing process. Drawing lively parallels between your...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.