Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
14 Aug

Best Brain Foods

Nourish your noggin. Here are 10 excellent foods that enhance hormone production, brain chemistry, memory, mood, and cognition. Think of these foods as brainiac batteries. (Solutions to Sudoku not included.)

einstein

Einstein’s Brain

10. Omelet

Eggs contain choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. (Studies have linked acetylcholine deficiences to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.)

9. Smart Oils: Olive, Walnut, Avocado, Flax

A no-brainer! Er, wait…

These oils are far superior to canola, corn and soy oils, which contain Omega-6 fats rather than the brainy Omega-3’s. Dunk and drench everything (edible) in sight.

8. Tempeh

Tempeh is a smart protein that helps stabilize your blood sugar. And because it’s fermented, you get an extra health boost! Meatatarians can get a brain boost from grass-fed beef, which provides plenty of energizing and balancing B vitamins.

7. Flax Seeds

So they aren’t exactly truffles, but flax seeds are a true super food. Use them sparingly until you adjust to the taste. It’s worth it to cultivate your taste buds because flax seeds are literally made of nothing but fiber, vitamins, and Omega-3’s. (Flax seeds are a must for vegetarians!)

6. Beans

Beans contain B vitamins, “slow” carbohydrates, and plenty of fiber. Fiber has been shown to improve cognition. Get some in that stomach!

5. Greek Yogurt

Yogurt – the really fattening kind – contains tyrosine. Tyrosine perks you up and improves mental alertness. But avoid those sugary yogurts! Can’t find Greek yogurt? Look for “European style” yogurts (essentially the same thing).

4. Vegetable-Packed Salad

A big, flavorful salad a la Sisson’s daily salad is full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Your brain really loves antioxidants C and E, so pack that puppy with nuts, seeds, olive oil, bell peppers, broccoli and fruit, too.

3. Strawberries and Blueberries

These fruits contain antioxidants that help boost cognition, coordination, and memory. Eat some berries daily if you can! They go great with that yogurt I know you’re already eating. Right this very second. Yes?

2. Nuts

Almonds make a perfect smart snack. Not only will the sensible mix of fiber, protein, and fat stabilize flagging blood sugar, but the vitamins and minerals in nuts (B, E, magnesium, and more) are excellent for your grey matter!

1. Oily fish

This is probably the single most important element required for optimal brain health. The brain is 60% fat, but it doesn’t like processed fats, trans fat, or Omega-6 fats. Your brain needs those Omega-3’s! Oily fish like wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, and tuna contain DHA (docosahexanoic acid), the best form of Omega-3. Increased Omega-3 intake has been linked to alleviation of a spectrum of mental health concerns, from anxiety and irritability to depression and even schizophrenia. Go fish!

From the Brain Food Pyramid: “Essentially, fats build your brain, and proteins unite it. Carbohydrates fuel your brain, and micronutrients defend it.”

Remember: the best source of carbohydrates is produce, not refined starches, sweets, and grains.

How often do you eat these smart foods?

Further reading:

10 Quick Ways to Boost Your Serotonin

How to Eat More Chocolate and Drink More Wine Every Day

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget!

Sources:

11 Steps to a Better Brain (New Scientist)

Brain Foods (Psychology Today)

The Human Brain: Food Pyramid (Franklin Institute)

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Thanks for an awesome list, I am always interested in improving my diet, especially when it comes to the brain. I think that with more information like this people will become more careful about what they put in their bodies, especially when there is the potential to stave off crippling conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia. I would also recommend checking out the Brain Fitness Channel, bfc.positscience.com which has tons of information on brain boosting foods, supplements and activities it would be a great compliment for this awwsome list!

    Ari wrote on August 14th, 2007
  2. Thanks for the nice compliments, Ari. Glad you found MDA helpful. We’ll check out BFC.

    Mark Sisson wrote on August 14th, 2007
    • I thought we weren’t suppose to eat beans?

      Brian wrote on April 16th, 2014
      • My guess is that the general consensus regarding beans has changed between 2007 and 2014. I noticed that beans didn’t belong too.

        Kristi wrote on October 17th, 2014
  3. What an interesting article. I think after reading this I’ll stow away this information for when I go to the store to buy groceries. I so terribly interesting that science can pinpoint these things.

    terry wrote on August 14th, 2007
  4. Blueberries are divine. And if you’re willing to go just a tad synthetic, blueberries with a touch of half & half and some Splenda is a hell of a way to get that brain pumping.

    Mort wrote on August 14th, 2007
  5. That’s pretty much the diet I aim for, because I like it. :) Good to know it’s healthy too. (But I’ve found I like it not just because it’s tasty but also because it helps my alertness levels. I also refer to it as ‘brain food’).

    I can recommend choosing from a variety of Greek and Moroccan dishes, since almost all these ingredients are staple Mediterranean foodstuffs. Oily fish in particular (say, salmon) is great when steamed in a tagine dish, keeping the flavour in that’s often lost when shallow-frying or baking.
    Japanese food is a good source, too, for the tempeh.

    Chopped fruit, a dollop of Greek yoghurt (‘Total’, for example) and a sprinkle of seeds in a bowl for breakfast has a profound effect on my mood and my ability to concentrate. If I’m too busy and skip it, it’s very noticeable, mid-morning…..

    Mikeachim wrote on August 14th, 2007
  6. Mark do you know if they make a vegan Greek or European style yogurt? I eat soy yogurt right now, just the regular silk kind. I was wondering out of all of the non dairy versions if there was one you thought was better then others.

    Mel Practice wrote on August 14th, 2007
  7. Great list. There are a few trade-offs however: almonds contain 10 percent omega-6 fatty acids which is kind of counterproductive for the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio (the ratio is what counts in the end, not the amount of omega-3). Also the effect of the polyphenols in the berries could be greatly diminished by the milk protein casein (as studies with dark chololate and green tea suggest). I would think twice before mixing berries or grapes with yogurt.

    Conny wrote on August 15th, 2007
  8. I am a huge fan of flaxseed. It can be easily forgotten, but you can dang near put it on anything. PB&J, oatmeal (my personal best application), when baking bread, apples, bananas… etc. Flax and wheat germ together tend to keep me pretty regular ;)

    Marshall B wrote on August 15th, 2007
  9. Mark,
    What are your feelings on almonds on a daily basis?
    Here’s a recipe for the greek yogurt which is awesome over salads and many other veggies
    greek yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, fresh ground pepper.

    Tatsujin wrote on August 15th, 2007
  10. Ooops, I, for one, am a big fan of nuts, i eat them every day except peanuts nor pistachios. That’s off limits to Doug’s phase 1.
    (Thanks Doug K!) I know that diet like a book!
    Mark, WHAT is your answer about Almonds, I eat almonds, almond & cashew butters, almond oil.

    Hi Conny, I’ve always thrown berries and nuts into plain organic yogurt and it makes a great breakfast. I’ve always felt like i was getting the best out of eating this.

    Donna wrote on August 15th, 2007
  11. Hi Donna, no doubt about yogurt with berries being a tasty meal. But Mark was talking about the antioxidants and their effect on brain funktion. The antioxidants in berries (as well as in dark chocolate, green tea, grapes and whine) are polyphenols. And there have been studies (for example http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2007-01/esoc-rwm010707.php)
    that show that eating dairy products can wipe out the positive effects of those antioxidants.

    Conny wrote on August 15th, 2007
  12. Thanks Conny!
    I appreciate your information. Now i’ll definitely not mix my berries with yogurt anymore.
    I’m a big fan of green tea and 70-85% dark chocolate, love it. Conny, your info. has given me a clearer understanding, Thanks So Much!

    Donna wrote on August 16th, 2007
  13. hi nice post, i enjoyed it

    Caiden wrote on August 18th, 2007
  14. What do you know about Piima a Scandanavian yogurt ?
    I make my own with organic milk, it does not require a yogurt maker just a jar on your kitchen counter. Couldn’t be easier, now I just hope it is as healthy as other yogurt.

    Elsa wrote on October 24th, 2007
  15. Hi, my name is disman-kl, i like your site and i ll be back ;)

    Ivan wrote on November 29th, 2007
  16. wow this is a nice site.. I think this will help me improve my grades.. hehehe

    Nico wrote on February 4th, 2008
  17. Just want to say thank you for the information.

    Mira wrote on February 7th, 2008
  18. In the egg part, you word it to sound like you need eggs or you will build up a deficiency, your body doesn’t need eggs, most likely there are several other sources of the “choline” nutrient

    Ben wrote on May 28th, 2008
  19. I don’t think the wording is misleading…

    “Eggs contain choline, one of the superstar brain nutrients. Choline is necessary to produce acetylcholine, which plays a critical role in memory. (Studies have linked acetylcholine deficiences to memory loss and Alzheimer’s.)”

    Nowhere does it say that eggs are the only source of choline. It just happens that eggs are a good source of choline and that choline plays a role in memory support.

    Aaron wrote on May 28th, 2008
  20. Thanks for this info…I will now eat memory enhancer foods…

    Sarah wrote on February 27th, 2009
  21. Dear Sir,
    Thank you immensely for the information on brain foods.However, what do you think of seasonings like thyme and stuff like urine.I also learnt egg intake for people over 50 years could increase cholesterol level that could spell doom.Thanks.

    moses beckley wrote on May 6th, 2009
  22. I always wondered why I liked tuna, table quality cheese and baked bean casserole. Happy brain.

    Robert wrote on August 17th, 2009
  23. Thank you very much. That is a wonderful job.Fantastic !

    Thom wrote on December 12th, 2009
  24. I’m wondering why cocoa or coffee was not mentioned as among the brain-booster foods.

    bohol wrote on August 24th, 2010
  25. Hi! How do we find clean tuna (non-mercurial)?
    Why isn’t somebody attempting to raise clean tuna,
    without the mercury poisoning that is in the tuna now?

    Curious

    Jillian wrote on September 23rd, 2010
  26. Blueberries and Salmon and wholegrains, choline from eggs are great, but the only thing that helped me gain my verbal speech abilities back that I had lost after giving birth to my third baby is Mind Boost by Mastermind Supplements. I take their product Mind Release to de-stress myself from the caffeine I drink too.

    LJ wrote on July 1st, 2011
  27. I’m confused, how does Tempeh (made from soy) and beans, a primal no-no end up on this list? Dark chocolate and whine..ok I guess but what’s with promoting random soy, beans and your whey protein with sugar in it…and whey! Not only are whey and sugar not paelo, but they aren’t necessary either. Are you just promoting a gluten free atkins at the ongoing weight loss phase with paleo branding to catch the fad?

    Confused wrote on November 16th, 2011
    • this post is from over 5 years ago, so it appears that mark has refined his version of paleo over the years. I doubt he would include beans these days, and tempeh is fermented. tempeh & natto are among the most healthiest foods in the world if you can stomach the smell/taste and they are non-gmo … all this gut flora talk these days are including these food for a reason. and whey is a good way to be paleo & very athletic, though i would never take whey with sugar so you have a point there.

      michael wrote on August 14th, 2012
  28. Check out Dual N-back training for the so-far only proven brain training task with positive impact on IQ:

    http://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-add-2-75-iq-points-per-hour-of-training/

    Rich wrote on May 25th, 2012
  29. Beans? Beans aren’t Primal…Is that because this is an old post?

    Jessie wrote on August 22nd, 2012
    • I believe so, yeah. It would be very nice if the year of posting was alongside the day and month.

      I’ll admit that since I’ve been browsing I’ve found lots of contradictory postings and was rendered skeptical at the inconsistancies I found – something dispelled if the dates were more specific!

      Someone above mentioned this was five years old, but I’m not certain how they found out. Maybe they’ve been around for that long and just remember. Maybe they’ve been eating their eggs!

      M.

      MEversbergII wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  30. Uh, I was definitely eating yogurt when I read this.

    Wendie wrote on January 12th, 2013
  31. I am soooooo confused. Digging for info on the internet is confusing. If nuts, seeds and legumes have antinutrients why does Mark recommend them? I have read sooo many bad things about flax seed and soooo many good things, I do not know what to think anymore. I used to eat flaxseed for years, and now I have stopped because of all the “nasty” side effects it can have on your health. Who do we believe? I ate flax seed for years and know stopped because of all the “bad” things about it. Everybody has links to “studies” backing what they are saying. I used to be so passtionate abour nutrition and health and now I am nothing but a very frustrated person not knowing what is healthy and what is not. Everybody has something evil to say about any type of food. Geez!! Next month or next year somebody will come up with studies demonstrating sugar is not a demon, it´s actually healthy for you, ha! (sorry, just being way to sarcastic here) *big sigh*

    Lila wrote on March 1st, 2013

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