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Brain Foods That Improve Our Cognitive Health

“Food for thought” takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to counteracting cognitive decline.

Sharpening our minds has a lot to do with our daily diet. Beyond crossword puzzles, what we’re fueling our bodies with can be a bonus for our brains too.

Don’t know if you can relate, but lately I find myself walking into a room on a quest to get something, only to forget what it was. So I figured maybe it was time to find some brain-boosting eats I can integrate into my meal plan. Beginning with do’s and don’ts.

Let’s tap into sources of wellness that give us choices that support our highest and best. Just think subtle lifestyle shift, not “must do” diet plan with a target date.

washing vegetables


  • Colorful fruits and vegetables: Plate a vibrant picture. Multi-colored produce have high levels of flavonoids, natural substances packed with antioxidant-like properties. Types of flavonoids found in fruit and veggies, as well as wine and green tea (tasty components of plants), can help curb memory decline. (A study of 70+ people found that older women who ate more blueberries and strawberries delayed rates of cognitive decline by up to 2.5 years)


  • Leafy greens: Upping your plant game with leafy greens supercharges you with nutrients and fiber linked with slowing age-related cognitive decline.


  • Fish: Seafood, especially fatty fish like salmon, are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, well known for bettering brain health and reducing risks for age-related dementia.


Healthy Mediterranean salad


  • Nuts, whole grains, legumes and olive oil: Nuts and seeds have been repeatedly linked to slower cognitive decline, walnuts in particular. Olive oil has strong links to healthy cognitive aging and is a tasty enhancer to most recipes.


  • Supplements: Bottom line, supplements cannot replace a healthy diet. Better to have access to what comes direct from the earth.



  • Sodas: The high concentration of simple sugars make your favorite bubbly beverage one of the worst foods for brain health — including diet brands whose calorie-free additives stress out the brain, tricking it into consuming more calories by craving real sugars. There’s no escaping simple sugars just aren’t good for us. They damage the blood vessels supplying the brain, starving it from the fuels needed to function. Over time, sugar also activates brain inflammation, irritability, and sleep disturbances.


  • Margarine: Fake butter has loads of trans fats. We already know they’re bad for our heart and blood vessels, so the same applies to the vessels of our brains. Studies from the Journal of Neurology found that older adults who had high levels of trans fat in their blood were more likely to develop dementia. (Olive oil is a great alternative)


  • Cannabis-Infused Foods: In-depth studies are now underway with the legalization of marijuana in most states but tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which produces “the high” also appears to constrict arteries in the brain.


  • Protein Powder: Do a background check before you start scooping for your morning smoothie. The low calorie protein powders promoting weight loss are often packed with artificial sweeteners. According to Neuroscientist Friederike Fabritius, author of “The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier” those additives create havoc on our gastrointestinal microbiome. Since most of our neurotransmitters are produced in the gut, a vigorous internal microbiome is essential to our brain health.


  • Decaf Coffee: Many coffee brands remove the caffeine jolt with toxic chemicals like methylene chloride, the main ingredient in paint stripper. Many solvents are linked to neurological harm and increased risk of cancer, especially with repeated consumption. But chemical free alternatives exist. Find out what’s in your decaf java at checkyourdecaf.org.

French fries

  • French Fries: Fatty foods like French fries can cause cognitive impairment by damaging blood vessels that supply the brain.  Yummy, but they reduce the blood-brain barrier (BBB) integrity which compromises the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning and memory.


I know this is just another way of telling us what we already know… Foods that taste the best are not always the best for us. And, YES, we can make conscious choices about choosing foods that help improve our consciousness.

Why not make it fun, so it’s easy to implement.

I now have a collection of whole walnuts sitting in a funky bowl on my kitchen island. You have to work for them. Somehow it’s become an anchoring space for conversations and cracking nuts. Plus, I can support the local farmers market and my neighborhood squirrels get a bonus too. Sort of simple, and it’s a no brainer.

Woman holding avocado halves to her eyes like glasses

I hope you’ll be saying YES to feeding your brain with foods that keep you “Intentfully FiT” in mind, body and spirit. You’ve got this!