The Best Foods to Fuel Your Brain

brain foods

The connection between diet and brain function is well-established; missing out on essential nutrients definitely prevents the brain from functioning optimally. Whether you have a pile of work to complete or lecture slides to cram, a well-fed brain is essential if you want to maintain peak cognitive performance.

Here is a list of six brain foods that may help you improve your work performance and memory, support cognitive fitness, eliminate brain fog, and make you feel your best self. We’ve also put together some meal ideas if you want to get creative in the kitchen and fuel your brain.

What are the best foods to eat when studying?

Foods rich in omega-3

Foods loaded with omega-3 fatty acids should be included in your diet as much as possible. Since the brain is about 60% fat, essential fatty acids such as omega-3 are known to positively influence cognitive ability

Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna, as well as caviar, contain high levels of omega-3. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds, extra virgin olive oil, soybeans, seaweed, and nuts. 

It is important to note that plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids are rich in ALA, while seafood provides DHA and EPA fatty acids. So, it is important to eat a variety of foods, or opt for supplements if necessary.

Meal ideas

Salmon and salad greens on a wholegrain wrap

Smoked trout with asparagus and Brussels sprouts

Extra virgin olive oil poached tuna salad with avocados

Ginger-garlic tofu with broccoli and seaweed

Dark green vegetables

Green vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, silverbeet, Swiss chard, and lettuce are rich in key nutrients that are essential for optimal cognitive function. They may not be the first things you want to reach for when you’re undertaking an all-night study session, but it’s not that hard to integrate them into your regular diet. Simply sneak your favourites into sandwiches and toasties or throw them in a bowl of ramen!

Meal ideas

Green smoothie with kiwi and lots of apples

Pesto made out of a mix of leafy greens and basil with olive oil and pine nuts 

Cold sandwich made with yoghurt, mayo, and chopped greens

Quiches and frittatas

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate might just be the tastiest of brain foods! If you often feel sluggish or tired, dark chocolate made using raw cacao or that has a cocoa content of 70-80% or higher can help boost your energy. Cacao is a fantastic source of theobromine and natural antioxidants that improves blood flow to the brain and boosts brain function. And that’s not to mention the fact that dark chocolate contains an array of feel-good chemicals to alleviate your mood. If you’re an afternoon coffee drinker, try a good cup of hot cocoa instead!

Berries

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are loaded with antioxidants and flavonoids that help improve memory. The neuroprotective effects of berries have been widely studied, with evidence showing they may reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. So next time you feel like fruit, opt for fresh berries!

Meal ideas

Yoghurt sundae with berries, crème fraiche and honey

Mixed berry smoothie

Mixed berry crumble pie

Mixed berry acai bowl

Nuts and seeds

Trail mixes that include high-quality dried fruit, nuts, and seeds are good sources of brain-essential nutrients, especially vitamin E and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Given how versatile they are, and depending on the variety you buy, a handful of nuts makes for a fantastic afternoon snack, especially if you have a sudden craving for something sweet or savoury. You can also sprinkle different types of seeds, like sunflower seeds and pepita seeds, on your meals.

Meal ideas

A handful for a brain-boosting afternoon snack (try goji berries, Brazil nuts, walnuts, cacao nibs, pistachios, and macadamias)

Oatmeal or porridge topped with walnuts and chia seeds

Water

While it might be the most obvious of brain foods, water is essential. Most of us take water for granted, but since about 75% of the brain is made up of water, it is crucial that we replenish our mind and body with it. Dehydration compromises cognitive performance, which leads to brain fog, fatigue, and dizziness. So, keep yourselves hydrated, folks!