Foods for Brain Health - The Produce Moms

With kids back to school either in the classroom or remote learning and adults running in every direction, our brain health is more important than ever. One way to protect our brain is by adding brain-boosting foods to our diets!

This blog is diving into foods for brain health. Studies continue to provide evidence of the impact of nutrition on brain development and improved cognition. We wanted to put together a list of foods to help you and your family keep memories sharp and brains functioning!

What are good foods for brain health?

The Mediterranean diet is often viewed as a dietary pattern that promotes brain health. Whether you are following the Mediterranean diet or another eating approach, the key is consuming a variety of foods and nutrients. We often focus on boosting intake of one specific food or nutrient for health benefits. Especially when it comes to brain health. Instead, let’s focus on enjoying plates filled with a variety of produce and other nutrient-dense foods to prolong cognition.

A plate filled with brightly colored fruits and vegetables and omega-3 rich foods can support brain function and memory!

Vegetables

Vegetables contribute folate, lutein and flavonoids to our diets. All essential nutrients to protect our brain and preserve memory. Aim for a rainbow of deep colors on your plate. More color = more nutrition!

Ways to boost colorful vegetables on your plate: 

  • Mustard greens – use as the base for a salad, swap in place of lettuce on sandwiches, sauté with other veggies for a stir fry
  • Broccoli – bake in the oven, steam in the instant pot or roast on the grill to create a tasty side dish
  • Spinach – blend into smoothies, toss into a salad or mix into a casserole dish
  • Asparagus – roast and top with cheese, grill and season with lemon juice or bake and spice it up with red pepper flakes
  • Beets – roast and add to a salad, soup or sandwich

Recipes to try: Roasted Broccoli with Tahini and Lemon, Strawberry Salad Kabobs with Avocado and SpinachBroccoli Mandarin Orange Salad, Tuscan Spinach Salad, Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Fruits

Fruits provide quercetin, vitamin C, and polyphenols to our diets. These nutrients have been shown to improve memory. Just like veggies, aim to eat a rainbow of colors. Each produce color offers a unique profile of nutrients to keep our memories sharp.

Ways to boost brightly colored fruits on your plate: 

  • Blueberries – add to a fruit salad, mash into guacamole or freeze to use as ice cubes
  • Cherries – enjoy whole as a dessert, blend into a smoothie or chop up for a fruit salsa
  • Oranges – add to a fruit tray, incorporate into a muffin or add to a cocktail/mocktail
  • Pomegranates – toss on top of a salad, add to a yogurt parfait or blend into a drink
  • Apples – add to a charcuterie board, bake into a dessert or dip into a fruit dip

Recipes to try: Cherry and Pork Skewers with Cherry Rosemary Sauce, Easy Blueberry Salsa, Blueberry and Pomegranate Tart, Navel Orange and Beet Salad

Omega-3 Rich Foods

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain health and cognitive function. Essential means that omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made by our bodies – we must add omega-3 rich sources into our diets. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in 3 forms – DHA, EPA and ALA. Fatty fish provides DHA and EPA while plant-based sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts provide ALA. All omega-3 fatty acids provide health benefits so it is important to get these good fats incorporated into your meals.

Ways to boost omega-3 foods on your plate: 

  • Salmon – serve blackened or grilled on top of a salad, rice or roasted vegetables
  • Mackerel – pan fry, grill or smoke to enjoy as a main entree at any meal
  • Sardines – enjoy from the can, add to a fresh salad or add to a sandwich or wrap
  • Seeds – add flax seeds to smoothies, chia seeds to yogurt or pumpkin seeds to salads
  • Walnuts – blend into smoothies, incorporate into a pie crust or make a trail mix

Recipes to try: Baked Salmon and Sesame Glazed Broccoli Sheet Pan, Pear & Salmon Lettuce Wrap Appetizers, Toasted Walnuts & Blackberry Jam Bites

Other Ways To Protect Cognitive Function:

Have additional questions regarding nutrition and brain health? Comment below!

Disclaimer: The health information shared by The Produce Moms is meant for education to inspire you and your family to eat more produce. Before making any lifestyle or diet changes, consult your physician.

Author: Jessica Airola, MBA, RDN, LDN

Jessica Airola is the Nutrition Expert for The Produce Moms. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, she is focused on inspiring consumers to eat more fruits and vegetables. Her passion is to provide nutrition tips, insights and culinary tricks to increase produce consumption. Connect with Jessica on LinkedIN.

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