That Boost Memory & Intelligence
Biohacking Your Brain
You Can Absolutely Biohack Your Brain!
Brain Foods Can Make You Smarter
Food for the mind - Literally!
These 15 Brain Foods can keep your intellectual stimulation and focus at peak condition.
Using sound nutritional principles you can give yourself every advantage to perform at your highest possible cognitive level.
Poor nutrition and lack of dietary knowledge can inhibit your ability to reach maximum cerebral power, so here we are, setting out to find the best foods to complement a smarter lifestyle.
Before we begin
Everyone's diet is different - Not every person may have access to every single food item on this list and that's okay. Biohacking is very powerful when you make small changes on a regular basis.
Even replacing some of that less nutritious food you consume with these science-based brain foods could make a significant difference to your brainpower.
Can Brain Foods Make A Real Difference?
Biohacking Your Brain With Nutrition
A Closer Look
Sometimes you need to be at your absolute sharpest. It could be for a number of reasons, such as a test at school, a new job interview, or even just doing a tricky crossword puzzle. You don't need a reason to want to have more brainpower.
Whatever your reasons (or none at all) for needing to boost your levels of acuity, these science-based foods for the brain could help.
Peak brain performance
Using sound nutritional principles and giving the brain everything it needs for optimal performance, you can give yourself every advantage, and hopefully, you'll really see a difference.
For better or worse
The right food has a marked effect on intellectual ability this can be both positive and negative.
Positive if the foods you consume add to your cognitive power and of course, negative if you eat food that diminishes mental acuity.
Your Diet Matters
The Big Picture
Help or hinder
As previously stated, poor nutrition and lack of dietary knowledge can inhibit your ability to reach maximum cerebral efficiency.
The nutrient from food can play a massive role in assisting your brain to perform better but some of those nasty compounds found in unhealthy food may do more damage than you realize.
Literal cerebral destruction
A bad diet can not only leave you without the nutrients you need to function properly but may rob you of good health, affect your mood, tax your energy levels, and can even destroy neural tissue.
For that reason alone, whether or not you want to boost your brainpower, staying away from the very worst foods is important.
Sound nutrition for your brain can not make up for self-abusing factors such as alcohol, cigarettes, and junk food so take care of your body and diet.
Read on to find out how to supplement with the very best brain foods.
1. Wild Salmon
Exceptional Omega 3s
EPA & DHA
The best source of essential omega 3 fatty acids, wild salmon contains healthy doses of both omega 3 including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which can play a major role in helping keep your brain sharp and focused. (1)
Eat wild salmon when you can because it contains far less exposure to pollutants and endocrine disruptors found in the farmed variety.
When you can't acquire wild-caught salmon, it's okay to buy farmed salmon and consume 2-3 times per week.
Unfortunately farmed salmon is far less nutritious and may have differing omega 3 profiles to that of the far superior wild-caught variety.
Tasty & healthy
Definitely one of the most effective brain foods ever, but also very versatile and delicious too.
Salmon can be used in place of chicken and turkey in many dishes, but unlike many poultry, goes really well with cheese sauces. Because salmon has a higher fat content than some meat, it's wiser to account for this if calories are of concern for you.
How to consume
Salmon is most palatable when it's not cooked too thoroughly as it can get a little dry, like most fish. You could be an absolute boss like the Japanese and try some salmon sashimi style (raw) as long as you can procure salmon of the right quality.
Whatever your preference, the good fats in salmon can really help your memory, concentration, and focus.
Plant-Based Omega 3s
Good fat & good fiber
Depending on where you originate from, you may know these tiny little seeds as linseeds.
An excellent source of omega 3 fats which in the previous section was shown to have measurable effects on brain function, and in addition to its brain-boosting benefits, flax seeds contain high levels of soluble fiber as a bonus which has the added benefit of helping with digestive health and speeding up your metabolism.
According to a 2018 study, flaxseed may help to prevent colorectal cancer. (2)
Sneaking a little extra flaxseed into your diet
Add flaxseed meal to your breakfast cereals and muffins or perhaps use flaxseed oil in homemade dressing on salads.
Many paleo diet followers create crackers out of flaxseed meal, chia seeds, and water which make a wonderful crispbread that is full of good fats.
Keep your flax seed cold in the refrigerator and only purchase the variety that comes in a dark bottle to protect it from the light as it is photo-sensitive.
The good news is flaxseeds (linseeds) and flax-sourced oil are very easy to find in supermarkets and health food stores.
Don't Sweat It
But food, AJ?
Yes, this is a "foods" list, but to clarify, eat foods that have adequate electrolytes.
A lack of sodium and potassium electrolytes can reduce critical brain function as well as playing a role in behavior through their brain chemistry interpositions of mood-improving chemical reactions.
A 2008 study on the effects on electrolytes showed considerable effects on the test subject's moods due to the connection between exogenous electrolytes and cortisol, a stress hormone and marker of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. (3)
Striking a balance
The balancing of electrolytes is also important with potassium being needed in larger quantities.
Eat plenty of potassium-rich foods for the brain, such as bananas and sweet potatoes. Be sure to keep your table salt to a minimum, you will most likely get all the sodium you need from bread and condiments.
Make sure your brain food diet has plenty of high potassium foods for maximum effectiveness.
For active folks
People who are active and likely sweat a fair bit more than the sedentary masses need more electrolytes because said electrolytes are lost during the sweating process.
There are low salt alternatives like potassium-based salt substitutes which can have a decent balance of sodium and potassium.
Biohacking and working out
Many biohackers are active and supplement with these aforementioned potassium salts for improved athletic performance and enhanced focus and cognitive ability during training sessions.
One word of caution for those with renal issues such as kidney infections or diabetes, high potassium could be a risk of complications, so be sure to take this into account if those issues are present.
4. Low Glycemic Carbohydrates
Controlling Glucose's Impact
Steady energy = better focus
High glycemic carbohydrates create fluctuations in blood sugar levels and may create brain cell damage.
Low glycemic index foods help to sustain a steady, even blood sugar.
They (carbs) supply the brain with constant energy. It's food for the brain. but when spiked too high can have negative side effects.
Sugar-like spikes can affect brain chemistry through a process called glycation which can interfere with cell surface receptors and result in brain tissue inflammation. (4)
Controlling blood sugar by consuming lower glycemic carbohydrates can limit the impact of sugar spiking and create a more hospitable environment for optimal brain function.
Good low glycemic foods include:
High-fiber & Protein Pasta
Very low glycemic foods may include such foods as:
Lentils really are the best of the best.
Eat low g.i (glycemic index) brain foods and biohack your brain the right way.
5. Vitamin C Rich Foods
Optimal cerebral function
The body and the mind need adequate levels of essential nutrients to sustain proper function.
Vitamin C can help to protect the brain from the damage that occurs through many catabolic chemical reactions in the body that leave the brain exposed to potential dangers.
A 2021 study concluded that Vitamin C had measurable effects on improving the biomarkers of neuroprotection and functional outcomes. (5)
Vitamin C rich foods
If you're looking to consume foods high in Vitamin C then try some of these:
Citrus fruits such as oranges, limes, and grapefruit.
Kiwifruit (Chinese Gooseberries)
Berries, especially strawberries and blueberries
Getting it right
Eating a wide array of fruit and vegetables is a good way to ensure you receive many high-quality micro-nutrients in your diet, however, a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement can act as a sound solution for nutritional insurance.
Well, They Look Like A Brain
Walnuts are a good brain food because they contain high levels of essential fats, protein, B6, and E vitamins.
It seems that walnuts are particularly good because they contain the good fat omega 3 in alpha-linolenic form.
Omega 3 conversion
While it's true that the body can only produce a certain amount of digestive enzymes that can convert alpha-linolenic acid into DHA and EPA (the best omega 3's) in the body, it's still an excellent food source whether you're after foods that are good for the brain or not.
Sneaking them into your diet
Consume walnuts every day with breakfast cereals such as muesli or oatmeal.
Even dessert can be enhanced with walnuts and the maple walnut combination is a favorite of many. (Including this author)
7. Cacao Beans
These amazing chocolate ingredients contain especially high levels of antioxidants which can help destroy harmful free radicals in the bloodstream, the same free radical oxidants that can cause micro-damage to the brain. (6)
In a recent article asking ïs "dark chocolate is good for you", we discovered that many of the properties of dark chocolate (which can be found in cacao beans and powder) are very healthy, indeed.
Antioxidants have recently been touted as the fountain of youth that prevents wrinkles, aging, and many other fanciful ideas, but regardless of some exaggerated claims, antioxidants can protect the brain from free radical damage and that means cacao beans are very much worthy of a spot on this top brain foods list.
Adding brain-boosting cacao to your diet
Raw cacao powder is excellent for use in cooking, protein shakes, on cereals, or as a more natural alternative to hot chocolate. It's fairly common in biohacking circles to hear chocolate itself considered to be a health food.
8. Green Tea
Another excellent antioxidant food, green tea is a fantastic solution for protecting the brain. Green tea contains an amazingly powerful substance called epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG) which according to studies, may play a considerable role in protecting endothelial progenitor cells (EPC) and normal endothelial cells (NEC) from harmful damage. (7)
Buying green tea
The best green tea is a ceremonial grade matcha the high-grade green tea powder. The process of turning the leaves into a very fine powder ensure more nutrients will be absorbed than using teal leaves that would be discarded after infusing the tea solution.
Some people opt for the decaffeinated varieties of green tea so they can drink a bit more without the jittery effects of the caffeine which is not ideal for everybody.
Healthful teas like green tea and Oolong make great drinks on the side to a tasty meal and provide many beneficial nutrients and polyphenols worthy of making them brain foods.
9. Dark Berries
Healthy, Tasty, & Neuroprotective
All berries are delicious and nutritious but the darker berries are higher in antioxidants and are some of the best brain foods available.
Blueberries have a beautiful blue and purple suede color that tempts the eye because of their high anthocyanins, another excellent berry (though hard to find) is the acai berry.
The phytochemicals such as anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin, quercetin, kaempferol, and tannin that are found in berries have been shown in clinical studies to improve cognitive and motor functions as well as being so powerful as to demonstrate an ability to prevent some neurodegenerative diseases. (8)
Blueberries can be considered not only foods good for your brain, but good for your entire health.
The rise in popularity of the smoothie bowl in western culture has seen an increase in demand for berries and has also made them highly available for consumers. Finally, Instagram has contributed something positive.
An acai bowl can offer an entire punnet of frozen blueberries and acai berries in one serve dishing up an antioxidant hit that is not only super healthy but exceedingly tasty as well.
10. Lean Red Meat
The Need For Iron
Beneficial brain boon
You need iron in your diet for healthy brain function and many other uses in the body. One of the single most beneficial sources of iron is the brain food, red meat, - Nice and lean red meat that is of course.
There's nothing wrong with fatty cuts of red meat but there's little-to-no iron in the fat, so, lean red meat has a superior nutritional density.
One of many studies on the role of iron in neuroprocessing show that higher hemoglobin levels correlate with improved CNS (central nervous system) and brain functions. (9)
One solution to help absorb the iron in red meat is to consume a quality source of Vitamin C with the meat such as broccoli or a glass of orange juice.
Some Vitamin C supplements contain up to 500mg per serve, so that is an easy way if there are no high VC vegetables or accompaniments for whatever your red meat choice is.
Treasure trove of nutrients
High in calcium, Vitamin C, B5, B6, B2, betacarotene, phosphorus, folate, and iron, broccoli is a veritable buffet of goodness and micronutrients.
Having previously mentioned the importance of Vitamin C and iron in brain function, especially in relation to cognitive modulation, it would appear wise to add some broccoli to your diet with the knowledge that it contains both these important brain-boosting compounds.
Super - Really super
Broccoli is not just one of the best types of food for the brain, but also one of the world's best superfoods (unlike many overhyped varieties), so be sure to consume it at least twice per week and don't overcook it or you may find yourself destroying much of the nutritional value.
Many people aren't aware that broccoli leaf is also edible and makes a great addition to salads as well as in savory dishes.
Broccoli is also a source of diindolylmethane (DIM) which may help prevent prostate cancer in men.
This herb pack a one-two punch for stopping memory degradation and associated problems.
Rosemary also contains carnosic acid, which can protect the brain from vicious, tissue-damaging free radicals.
Use rosemary and sage in roast meals, casseroles, or with vegetable bakes.
Carnosic acid may prevent the rapid oxidation of important fatty acids in the brain which may result in improved memory, concentration, and focus. (10)
Rosemary may even assist those who wish to lower their stress levels.
Fresh herbs always require thorough washing because some insects may be present, though these herbs have the added benefit of acting as a repellent for many varieties of garden bugs.
That being said, washing is still a must unless you want a little extra bug protein in your diet.
The Omega Boss
The Australian ALA champion
Native to Australia (yes that's correct, not Hawaii), the macadamia is considered to be the absolute king of plant-based omega 3's. Macadamia nuts and macadamia oil have a much superior omega fatty acid profile than many other plant-sourced fats.
Macadamia oil has less than half the undesirable and in some cases downright unhealthy polyunsaturated fats of olive oil and while olive oil is still a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, the lower polyunsaturated fat count of macadamias makes it the better choice if you can obtain some.
There's a good chance you've never heard of omega 7 and that's because it's a very rare type of unsaturated fat that only exists in a couple of sources. Macadamias contain the excellent palmitoleic acid version of Omega 7 which has been shown to have many health benefits including lowered cardiovascular risk factors and improved brain function. (11)
Consuming macadamia products
The easiest way to garner the health benefits of macadamias is to eat a small handful each day. They are high in calories but it is also important to get at least 30% of your calories from fat in order to maximize hormonal efficiency, especially for men.
If you can procure macadamia oil, it's excellent for cooking with a fantastic flavor profile and a high smoke point making it safer than olive or avocado oils.
The Polyphenolic Prodigy
The second herb on this brain foods list, sage is pretty well known for its powerful contribution to mental clarity and cognitive function.
According to this recent 2021 study, consuming sage has been shown to have positive outcomes in the areas of working memory and cognition. (12)
Terpenes and polyphenols
The effectiveness of sage on mental acuity can be attributed to two of its compounds, both polyphenols, and terpenoids both of which are very popular among nature-based biohackers.
These substances appear to have measurable effects on cognitive power.
A few drops of sage oil on your pillow may even help you sleep better.
Sage is easy to find in the supermarket. Fresh organic sage is always best if available.
You can also purchase sage in powdered form which can be added to many meals with ease.
The real OG
Turmeric is known for its powerful anti-inflammatory effects which have gained it a well-earned reputation for being a natural non-prescription inflammation-reducing remedy.
As mentioned in previous paragraphs, inflammation in the brain can significantly reduce optimal cerebral function and prevent the natural acuity most people reading this brain foods guide would be searching for.
Turmeric also has another considerable brain-boosting benefit.
Fatty acid conversion
The truth is that most plant-based omega 3's are inferior to the meat-sourced varieties which offer the exceptionally powerful eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Turmeric helps convert the plant-based omega 3's (alpha-linolenic acid or ALAs) into EPA and DHA.
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is inferior to EPA and DHA, so, this conversion is extremely important if maximizing not only cerebral power but also good health in general.
Consuming turmeric with every meal that contains plant-based fat could be a great way to increase the uptake of essential EPA's and DHA's by biohacking your fat sources.
15 Science-Based Brain Foods
The final verdict
I understand that readers come from all around the world and products that may seem ubiquitous to some people are quite rare to others. The good news is that you need not consume every single one of these brain foods just to gain some benefit.
Your diet, budget, and geographical locale will play a huge role in what you do with this information.
It can be something as simple as having wild-caught salmon once or twice a week. Maybe you'll use sage or rosemary (or both) as a flavoring for regular meals and you may even decide to switch to macadamia oil as your fat macro of choice.
The last word
So, in conclusion, you can swap out a couple of simple items and maybe supplement with one or two to monitor the brain-boosting benefits. Whatever you choose, I wish you well on your journey.
The information contained in this article is offered for informational purposes only. This information is not intended for the purpose of diagnosing or treating ailments and should you wish to seek such advice, please contact an appropriate medical professional.
15 Science-Based Brain Foods
That Boost Memory And Intelligence
By AJ James
Biohacker & Founder
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