5 Foods to Support Brain Health

It is common knowledge that food is essential to power bodily functions. Lesser known is the fact that food plays an important role in cognitive function, too, with different foods providing different essential nutrients for the brain. While having a balanced diet consisting of diverse fruits, vegetables and whole grains is generally best practice, some foods contain higher concentrations of essential nutrients.

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are important unsaturated fats. Not only are Omega-3s part of the cell membrane, DHA, specifically, is found in high concentrations in the brain.1 Some research has supported the finding that consuming adequate amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids may be linked with lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, due to lower levels of beta-amyloid in the blood.2

Foods: salmon, cod, pollack, flaxseeds, avocados, walnuts, krill, chia, kiwi fruit

  1. Curcumin

Curcumin, an active polyphenolic compound found in turmeric spice, has been linked to improved cognitive function. Specifically, a study by UCLA found that regular consumption of curcumin improved both mood and memory in people struggling with mild memory loss.3 Additionally, studies done on mice reveal that dietary curcumin may interact with molecular maintenance mechanisms within the brain to counteract some of the effects of traumatic brain injury, as well as potentially offer protection against amyloid-beta-induced damage.4,5

Food: Turmeric

  1. B Vitamins

There are eight B vitamins that collectively impact all aspects of cognitive function. Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 are the most prominent B vitamins involved in homocysteine metabolism, which is the act of degrading homocysteine, a type of amino acid associated with Alzheimer’s disease development, that can be harmful in high quantities.6 Further research is required to examine the effects of the other five B vitamins on brain health, but their interrelationship with Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 suggests that sufficient consumption of Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5 and B7 positively impacts health.6

Foods: Lean meat, poultry, dairy, fruits, vegetables, fortified nutritional yeast

  1. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is both found naturally in foods and produced through vitamin D synthesis in the skin. While it is primarily regarded as important for calcium and phosphorus absorption, which is important for building and maintaining strong bones, Vitamin D may play a role in preserving cognitive function and combating dementia in older adults.7,8,9 A study by Robert J. Przybelski and Neil C. Binkley found that a high concentration of 25(OH)D (a market for Vitamin D levels) was positively correlated with older adults’ Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) test scores.8

Low concentrations of 25(OH)D, on the other hand, have been linked with increased risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.9

Foods: Mushrooms, fish liver, milk, fortified products, salmon, eggs

  1. Vitamin E

The impact of Vitamin E on cognitive health in Alzheimer’s Disease patients and older adults is still being extensively researched by scientists. However, some effects of Vitamin E consumption on cognitive function have been implied through various studies. Suboptimal levels of Vitamin E consumption have been reported among senior citizens — regular Vitamin E consumption, high levels of Vitamin E in diets and Vitamin E supplementation have been correlated with at least a mild delay of functional decline in Alzheimer’s Disease progression.10 Though the results are not definitive, ensuring that your diet contains an adequate amount of Vitamin E is essential for cognitive function and general health.

Foods: Avocados, almonds, peanuts, spinach, asparagus, plant-based oils (sunflower, safflower, soybean)

This list of five essential nutrients is by no means extensive — a well-balanced, varied diet is recommended for supporting wellness and core functions. While there is no perfect solution for ensuring optimal cognitive health, making sure to eat a sufficient amount of Omega-3 fatty acids, curcumin, B vitamins, Vitamin D and Vitamin E can help maintain a healthy body.


  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Office of dietary supplements – omega-3 fatty acids. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved April 2023, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-HealthProfessional/ 
  2. Foods linked to better brainpower. Harvard Health. (2021, March 6). Retrieved April 2023, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/foods-linked-to-better-brainpower#:~:text=Green%2C%20leafy%20vegetables.,may%20help%20slow%20cognitive%20decline 
  3. Hopper, L. (2018, January 22). Curcumin improves memory and mood, new UCLA study says. UCLA. Retrieved April 2023, from https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/curcumin-improves-memory-and-mood-new-ucla-study-says 
  4. Wu, A., Ying, Z., & Gomez-Pinilla, F. (2006). Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Experimental Neurology, 197(2), 309–317. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.expneurol.2005.09.004 
  5. Frautschy, S., Hu, W., & Kim, P. (2001). Phenolic anti-inflammatory antioxidant reversal of aî²-induced cognitive deficits and neuropathology. Neurobiology of Aging, 22(6), 993–1005. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0197-4580(01)00300-1 
  6. Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: Mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068 
  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Vitamin D. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved April 2023, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ 
  8. Przybelski, R. J., & Binkley, N. C. (2007). Is vitamin D important for preserving cognition? A positive correlation of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentration with cognitive function. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, 460(2), 202–205. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.abb.2006.12.018 
  9. Anjum, I., Jaffery, S. S., Fayyaz, M., Samoo, Z., & Anjum, S. (2018). The role of Vitamin D in brain health: A mini literature review. Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.2960 
  10. Fata, G., Weber, P., & Mohajeri, M. H. (2014). Effects of vitamin E on cognitive performance during ageing and in alzheimer’s disease. Nutrients, 6(12), 5453–5472. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu6125453