4 Foods That Can Make Us “Smarter”

Anyone who has ever wished they could improve their memory or concentration, or felt they had a hard time learning something new, might shrug it off as a lack of smarts or as part of getting older. However, poor mental performance is also linked to the foods we eat. We can choose to eat foods that will make us smarter, help us process information faster and help us retain what we learn.

Can food really make us smarter?

Some people are naturally more gifted in certain areas than others. Eating very nutritious food will not suddenly make someone a mathematical genius or a musical prodigy. However, the brain does of course have the potential for learning, and making some specific dietary choices can help a person realize that potential by improving their ability to focus, remember, and make connections.

What foods should we eat?

The mind and body benefit from healthier foods in general, but there are some specific foods that are especially nourishing for our brains. While this is not a full list of all foods that are good for the brain, it’s a good start and could make it easier to make some healthy food choices. These foods help to boost brain power and health:

  • Walnuts: Walnuts are the king of nuts when it comes to brain health. They have very high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve cognitive performance. When someone doesn’t get enough of this nutrient to feed the brain, cognitive function could decline, including memory. Walnuts can also lower overall cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglyceride levels.
  • Fish: Like walnuts, fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids, but that is not its only benefit. Researchers discovered that eating fish consistently, once a week, increased grey matter in the brain. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults eat at least 8 ounces of seafood per week. Oily fish like wild salmon, mackerel, farmed trout and albacore tuna offer the brain a lot of DHA. Try to grill or broil fish, as frying it will add extra unhealthy fat. Eating fish consistently, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is linked to reduced rates of cognitive decline, better memory and improved learning ability.
  • Blueberries: Berries are one of the best foods for brain health. Blueberries and other berries (like blackberries and raspberries) improve the neural pathwaysin the brain, prevent neural cell death, reduce inflammation, and improve cognitive and behavioral function in the brain. And the brain isn’t the only thing that benefits from blueberries, they are also good for the heart and help regulate blood pressure.
  • Leafy greens. Green foods are among the most nutrient dense on the planet. They are packed with vitamins and minerals (especially folic acid) and are strongly linked to sharper memory and reduced cognitive decline. A good rule of thumb is to eat a leafy green salad every day.

Think about it — a delicious salad (not too much dressing) with kale or spinach, walnuts, salmon and blueberries could be the best treat to give your brain!

What foods should we avoid?

Just like some foods give our brains a boost, others push it into a fog. The biggest brain-buster is sugar. Diets high in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup can drastically reduce mental readiness. Researchers discovered that elevated sugar in the diet leads to greater insulin production and resistance in the brain. Exposure to elevated insulin reduces the brain’s response, which could lead to memory loss and slower motor function. Increased insulin resistance also affects how well our cells store energy for later use — the brain might not be able to fire on all cylinders without the right available nutrients.

Our diet affects so much — how well we’ll do on a test, how quickly we respond to drivers on the road, our mood, how we react to others, how quickly we solve a problem and so on. So when it’s time to decide what to make for lunch or dinner, remember to feed your brain.

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Thank you to our friends at Wellness.com for contributing this piece.

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