Increase Brain Power By Eating These Foods

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Need to increase brain power before your next exam? Or maybe you’re trying to remember everything you rehearsed before a major presentation. With the brain using about 20% of our daily calories, there’s a reason certain foods will increase brain power.

Key nutrients to increase brain power

In order for the brain to stay healthy overall, it requires several key nutrients from the diet. These include antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and glucose. Fill up on some of these foods to help improve your concentration, productivity, and overall brain function.


Antioxidants fight unwanted inflammation in the body caused by stress. Chronic inflammation not only can lead to the brain aging faster and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, but also to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, a poor immune system, certain cancers, and arthritis. Find this powerful nutrient in foods like:

  • Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts. This family of fibrous veggies has glucosinolates, a special compound that decreases oxidative stress.
  • Berries of all kinds like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and mulberries. These have a variety of antioxidants that help your ability to learn and remember.
  • Dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao. Yes, pure dark chocolate is full of healthy antioxidants and also helps increase circulation which improves blood flow of nutrients up to the brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are needed to build our cell membranes and also give us long-term energy. We have to get these fatty acids from our diet found in both plant and animal sources such as:

  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, cod, haddock, tuna, sardines, and halibut have omega-3’s called EPA and DHA which are easier for the body to convert into what it needs.
  • Flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts are great plant sources with a form of fatty acid called ALA. This one takes a little extra work to convert but is still a healthy option.

Unsaturated fats

Unsaturated fats are typically liquid at room temperature and most commonly found in plant sources. Mono- and poly-unsaturated fats are high in vitamin E which acts as an antioxidant to prevent added stress on the cells. Try some of these unsaturated fats:

  • Extra virgin olive oil is high in oleic acid which is especially known for its ability to reduce inflammation.
  • Avocados not only are high in vitamin E and monounsaturated fats to encourage better blood flow, but they’re packed with fiber and potassium which can help improve heart health.
  • Nuts and seeds like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds are some of the highest of their kind in vitamin E.

Make your own trail mix snack mixing a variety of these brain-boosting nuts and seeds with unsweetened dried fruit or dark chocolate pieces.

~ Dietitian’s Tip


Glucose is our body’s favorite source of energy with about 120-130 grams of glucose used daily by the brain alone (that’s about 500 calories from carbohydrates). Sneak some complex carbs into your meals and snacks like whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat), fresh fruit, and starchy vegetables (corn, potatoes, carrots).

If you’re still hungry during your late night studying or presentation prep, make some homemade popcorn with olive oil and sprinkle with some roasted nuts and dark chocolate nibs. Brain power!

~ Dietitian’s Tip

More ideas…

Keep reading the actionable steps below for more foods to improve your cognitive function. Keep your brain in tip-top shape!

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Actionable Steps


Read the longer version

To learn more, read these articles reviewed by our professionals: 4 Types of Foods to Help Improve Memory by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 10 Foods to Help You Boost Brain Health by Rachel DeVaux, RD, LD, 12 Foods to Boost Brain Function by Medical News Today.


Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time

Sticking with whole, fresh foods is best when your brain needs an energy boost. Avoid unhealthy food cravings by planning your meals and snacks ahead of time.


Gather your recipes

Have you tried these caramelized walnuts for a little sweet & spiciness? This cabbage salad is full of those cruciferous antioxidants.


Bring your brain-boosting snacks on the go

You never known when you might need a quick mental jolt to feel revived!


Keep it balanced

Continue eating a variety of all food groups including colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats (like mentioned above).


Talk to your dietitian

Talk with a dietitian if you want to make any major changes to your diet or see your primary care physician if you suspect having a pre-disposition to a neurodegenerative disease.

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About the Author

shannon costello

Shannon Costello

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)

Hi, I’m Shannon! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Culinary Coach, and Personal Trainer. After dedicating over 8 years to the corporate wellness world, I began my own nutrition practice. Chef Shannon Nutrition focuses on plant-based nutrition and culinary coaching. My passion for culinary nutrition grew when I worked as a cooking instructor for a culinary entertainment company. After several years as an instructor and event coordinator, I moved into the role of Director of Culinary Entertainment where I developed all the recipes, menus, and instructor trainings. My dietetic’s expertise helped the company expand into allergy-friendly and health conscious menus to suit all clients.
Full Bio | LinkedIn | 1:1 Coaching

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