7 Foods for Better Brain Health

What foods might make you smarter? Truth be told, there are a lot of foods that may improve learning, understanding, and memory. Intelligence, memory, and learning rely on many factors, including physical activity, sleep, and food.

Here are 7 foods that may strengthen your brain function today, and promote long-term brain health for tomorrow. While the brain-boosting properties associated with these food elements may strengthen your brain function, they have not been proven to do so in controlled studies. Nevertheless, all of these foods add healthy nutritional components to your diet.

Take note of your food allergens and discard them from your personal list of brain-boosting foods---but read about them, because I’ve made a point to list some alternative foods.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Blueberries are chock full of flavonoids, the health-promoting pigments in plants that give them their color. These pigments may help improve memory, learning, and general thinking. Flavonoids can also slow down age-related decreases in mental ability and memory.

Blueberries are incredibly convenient and versatile. Include them on cereal, mixed in salads, quick breads, pancakes, and yogurt parfaits, or just grab a handful. Any form will do: fresh, frozen, dried, or freeze-dried.



black and green olives

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Eating olives regularly (and using olive oil) may lead to less brain deterioration over time. This is due to the mono-unsaturated fat contained in olives. These healthy fats are incorporated into all cells and may promote the transportation of more oxygen to the brain.

Be sure to watch your intake of saturated fats (from meats, dairy sources, and fried foods), which may stiffen cell membranes.

Use olives as a snack food, as a side dish in lunch boxes, or as a pre-dinner appetizer. Include them in casseroles, Mexican fare, salads, atop pizza, and more! Olives are also commonly included in Mediterranean meals and dishes.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

If you aren’t allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, eating nuts may help preserve your brain function. Why? Because nuts are a source of monounsaturated fat and vitamin E, both of which may protect the brain from degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s. How do they do it? They squelch those brain cell-damaging elements called free radicals.

You can include nuts as a cereal or yogurt topper, as a stand-alone snack, or on top of a salad or cooked veggies. If you are allergic to nuts, try using seeds instead. They may offer similar anti-inflammatory, brain-boosting benefits.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Another common food allergen, fish may be off-limits for some individuals, but for those who can eat fish, fatty fish may have some incredible brain benefits. For one, eating fish regularly seems to have an effect on brain size (mass).

Regular consumption of fish may also slow the brain aging process. The oils (omega-3 fatty acids) present in fatty fish may help enhance problem-solving, concentration, and memory.

If you aren’t allergic to fish, try incorporating some delicious fish recipes into your routine and work toward consuming 2 servings per week of fatty fish (salmon, halibut, mackerel, trout). Limit the consumption of mercury-containing tuna to 6 ounces per week. If you’re allergic to fish, try walnuts, microalgae, or sea vegetables high in omega-3s.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Who doesn’t love chocolate? This may be the best news you’ll hear all day: dark chocolate may increase blood flow to the brain, and improve thinking and mood. Why? Those cocoa flavanols (phytonutrients naturally found in the cocoa bean) and caffeine do the trick.

Be picky when it comes to chocolate. Aim to choose dark chocolate (any product that is 60% cacao or higher) to reap the most benefits.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Avocados are naturally rich in lutein—a carotenoid that is related to beta carotene and vitamin A. Lutein may provide certain cognitive benefits, such as improved attention, executive function, and memory.

Mash avocado on sandwiches in lieu of mayonnaise, chop it into cubes as finger food, or serve a halved avocado with a spoon and a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt. You can also use avocado in your baking, such as in avocado-based brownies.




Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Choline is an important nutrient in the development of the memory center, which is a process that occurs during the first 6 years of life. One egg yolk has about 200 milligrams of choline, which meets or nearly meets the needs of children up to 8 years. Men need 550 mg of choline per day, while women need 425 mg of choline per day.

Eggs are one of the richest sources of choline in the diet, in addition to an array of other nutrients. Chicken liver, sockeye salmon, and quinoa are alternative sources of choline should you need to avoid eggs. 

9 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ullah A, Munir S, Badshah SL, et al. Important flavonoids and their role as a therapeutic agentMolecules. 2020;25(22):5243. doi:10.3390/molecules25225243.

  2. Kaddoumi A, Denney TS, Deshpande G, et al. Extra-virgin olive oil enhances the blood-brain barrier function in mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled trialNutrients. 2022;14(23):5102. doi:10.3390/nu14235102.

  3. Theodore LE, Kellow NJ, McNeil EA, Close EO, Coad EG, Cardoso BR. Nut consumption for cognitive performance: a systematic reviewAdv Nutr. 2021;12(3):777-792. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa153.

  4. Gammone M, Riccioni G, Parrinello G, D’Orazio N. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: benefits and endpoints in sportNutrients. 2018;11(1):46. doi:10.3390/nu11010046

  5. Kokubun K, Nemoto K, Yamakawa Y. Fish intake may affect brain structure and improve cognitive ability in healthy peopleFront Aging Neurosci. 2020;12:76. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2020.00076.

  6. Lamport DJ, Christodoulou E, Achilleos C. Beneficial effects of dark chocolate for episodic memory in healthy young adults: a parallel-groups acute intervention with a white chocolate controlNutrients. 2020;12(2):483. doi:10.3390/nu12020483.

  7. Li J, Abdel-Aal ESM. Dietary lutein and cognitive function in adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsMolecules. 2021;26(19):5794. doi:10.3390/molecules26195794

  8. Stringham JM, Johnson EJ, Hammond BR. Lutein across the lifespan: From childhood cognitive performance to the aging eye and brain. Curr Dev Nutr. 2019 Jun 4;3(7):nzz066. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzz066

  9. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Choline: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.

Additional Reading
  • Joneja JV. The Health Professional's Guide to Food Allergies and Intolerances. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013.

  • Zeisel, SH, & Da Costa, KA. Choline: An essential nutrient for public health. Nutr Rev. 2009; 67(11): 615-623. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00246.x.

By Jill Castle, MS, RD
Jill Castle, MS, RD, is a childhood nutrition expert, published book author, consultant, and public speaker who helps parents nourish healthy kids.