Nine foods that improve your brain health –

Nine foods that improve your brain health

The old adage, you are what you eat, applies to both our body and mind. “There’s no doubt that food and mood are really closely connected,” says Dr Federica Amati, the head nutritionist for Zoe, the nutrition science company set up by Prof Tim Spector.

“For example, we know that food and dietary patterns are really important in helping to prevent mental health disorders, but also in improving their symptoms. We also know they can help with sleep and energy levels, both important markers of mental health.”

There is no silver bullet when it comes to food and brain health according to Sarah Berry, an associate professor in nutritional sciences at King’s College London: “Improving brain health is down to overall dietary patterns, rather than single foods. We need to eat a wide variety of nutritional foods, because a diverse diet contains lots of different chemicals that all work together to improve health.”

A recent study published in Nature Mental Health journal backed this up, and found when it comes to brain health, nothing beats a balanced diet. Dr Wei Cheng, one of the study’s authors at Fudan University in China said,

“People who ate a more balanced diet had better ‘fluid intelligence’ [the ability to problem solve] and better processing speed, memory and executive functions [which include things like organisational skills and attention].”

However, says Dr Berry, “there are some magic ingredients in certain foods that really can help our brains.”


Oily fish such as salmon are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of fat your body can’t produce on its own so you have to get it from your diet. They’re important for your heart and immunity, but also your brain health.

One study from the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research found that omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA (two types of omega-3s) improved symptoms of depression and may also help prevent it. Other good sources of omega-3s include herring, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, chia seeds and walnuts.

Nuts and seeds

“Nuts and seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition and packed with polyphenols and nutrients, which impact brain health,” says Dr Berry. Polyphenols are micronutrients occurring naturally in plants, and growing evidence has linked them to cognitive function and brain wellness.

“Walnuts are particularly good,” says Dr Amati. A 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients found that eating walnuts led to improvements in memory and brain functioning. However, all nuts and seeds have been linked to slower cognitive decline, and a 2021 study found people at risk of cognitive decline, such as a family risk of Alzheimer’s, had better outcomes if they ate more nuts – specifically walnuts.


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