11 Best Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory

4. Turmeric

Turmeric has generated a lot of buzz recently.

This deep-yellow spice is a key ingredient in curry powder and has a number of benefits for the brain.

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, meaning it can directly enter the brain and benefit the cells there .

It’s a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that has been linked to the following brain benefits:

  • May benefit memory: Curcumin may help improve memory in people with Alzheimer’s. It may also help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of this disease .
  • Eases depression: It boosts serotonin and dopamine, which both improve mood. One study found curcumin improved depression symptoms just as much as an antidepressant over six weeks .
  • Helps new brain cells grow: Curcumin boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a type of growth hormone that helps brain cells grow. It may help delay age-related mental decline, but more research is needed .

To reap the benefits of curcumin, try cooking with curry powder, adding turmeric to potato dishes to turn them golden or making turmeric tea.

SUMMARY:

Turmeric and its active compound curcumin have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, which help the brain. In research, it has reduced symptoms of depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Broccoli

Broccoli is packed with powerful plant compounds, including antioxidants .

It’s also very high in vitamin K, delivering more than 100% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in a 1-cup (91-gram) serving (27).

This fat-soluble vitamin is essential for forming sphingolipids, a type of fat that’s densely packed into brain cells .

A few studies in older adults have linked a higher vitamin K intake to better memory .

Beyond vitamin K, broccoli contains a number of compounds that give it anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which may help protect the brain against damage .

SUMMARY:

Broccoli contains a number of compounds that have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, including vitamin K.

6. Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body and brain from free radical damage .

They’re also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper (32).

Each of these nutrients is important for brain health:

  • Zinc: This element is crucial for nerve signaling. Zinc deficiency has been linked to many neurological conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression and Parkinson’s disease .
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for learning and memory. Low magnesium levels are linked to many neurological diseases, including migraines, depression and epilepsy .
  • Copper: Your brain uses copper to help control nerve signals. And when copper levels are out of whack, there’s a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s .
  • Iron: Iron deficiency is often characterized by brain fog and impaired brain function .

The research focuses mostly on these micronutrients, rather than pumpkin seeds themselves. However, since pumpkin seeds are high in these micronutrients, you can likely reap their benefits by adding pumpkin seeds to your diet.

SUMMARY:

Pumpkin seeds are rich in many micronutrients that are important for brain function, including copper, iron, magnesium and zinc.