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The 6 Best Drinks for Your Brain Health, Say Experts

March 8, 2024

Brain health is top of mind as many of us look for ways to improve our memory and focus. There are plenty of specialty supplements on the market that claim to improve cognition and even to help prevent degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but you can also support your brain with certain expert-approved drinks.

Give yourself an extra advantage by choosing drinks that are high in polyphenols, antioxidants, amino acids, and probiotics that support memory, focus, cognition, and mood. This — along with including nutrients in your diet like omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, choline, and B vitamins in foods like fish, pulses, and walnuts — is a great way to support your brain health.

Check out the list below for the best drinks for your brain health, according to dietitians.

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1. Green tea

“Green tea contains antioxidants, caffeine, and several other plant compounds that may help reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and plaque buildup in the brain,” says Laura M. Ali, MS, RDN, a culinary nutritionist and author of MIND Diet for Two.

One of the antioxidants with the highest activity in green tea and the biggest brain-boosting benefit is the polyphenol EGCG. “EGCG can cross the blood-brain barrier and could be neuroprotective,” explains Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD.

A 2019 review in Nutrients found that green tea may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive impairments by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, and the formation of amyloid-beta plaques, while also improving blood flow in the brain.

“Green tea also has amino acids that can help with the stress response,” says Sauceda. The amino acids theanine and arginine, along with caffeine and EGCG, in green tea have anti-stress action, which helps reduce the aging effects that long-term stress can have on the brain, according to a 2021 review in Molecules.

Related: The 5 Amazing Health Benefits of Drinking Green Tea

2. Kefir

In the past decade, fermented drinks like kefir have become more popular for their positive effects on gut health. Recent research has shed light on the important role gut health plays in the brain, especially when it comes to mood regulation. In fact, 95% of serotonin, a feel-good hormone, is produced in the gut.

“Kefir is packed with nutrients, probiotics, and bioactive peptides,” says Caroline Margolis, RDN, a dietitian at Lifeway Foods.

Animal studies have found that drinking kefir can improve depressive-like symptoms in mice, and that the probiotic strains found in the kefir stayed in the digestive tract for at least seven days. It could also help protect neurons with its anti-inflammatory effects on the body.

3. Kombucha

Speaking of tea and fermented foods, kombucha is a “best of both worlds” beverage, as it’s essentially fermented tea.

“With its foundation being green or black tea, kombucha is rich in polyphenols, specifically catechins, and L-theanine, an amino acid known for its memory-boosting effects,” says Jamie Adams, MS, RD, LDN.

Drinks that contain L-theanine and caffeine, like tea, can improve memory and focus better than other beverages. One small study found that people who drank black tea performed better on cognitive tasks, had improved memory, and made fewer task errors than those who drank only water before being tested.

Add the benefits of probiotics to those of the tea, and kombucha becomes a brain-supporting super drink. While there isn’t much research on kombucha’s specific benefits to gut and brain health yet, fermented foods are linked to improved mood and mental health.

“More and more research is being conducted on the importance of the gut-brain barrier, with findings linking good gut health to improved sleep, skin, immunity, and reduced anxiety and depression,” Adams says.

4. Water

The most simple beverage may be the best for your brain, and the good news is that it’s free and comes straight from the tap.

“Even mild dehydration can impact both cognitive and mood functions, making you feel irritable and unable to focus,” says Steph Magill, MS, RD. Research from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga found that just over a 1% reduction in body mass from dehydration led to decreased mood and ability to concentrate, increased difficulty with tasks, and headache symptoms.

If you don’t love plain water and have a hard time sipping enough of it, try adding flavor packets or enjoying sparkling water instead, Magill suggests. Count those hydrating foods toward your daily water goal, too.

Related: 7 Products To Stay Hydrated During Cold Weather

5. Tart cherry juice

If you’re looking for a drink to replace your nightly wine habit, making a glass of tart cherry juice part of your evening routine may help boost your brain health. Tart cherries are high in melatonin, a hormone that helps to regulate sleep, and tryptophan, an amino acid that turns into serotonin, regulating mood and sleep.

“Research shows that tart cherry juice can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress status,” Magill says. Oxidative stress is a major contributor to degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

In a small 2019 study in Food and Function, 37 older adults were given two cups of tart cherry juice daily or a placebo. After 12 weeks, the group that drank tart cherry juice daily had improved memory and attention scores and performed better on learning tasks than the placebo group.

6. Bone broth

One of the most important things you can do for a healthy brain is to make good, quality sleep a part of your routine. Sipping bone broth in the evenings could help you do just that.

Without enough sleep, you’ll have a difficult time creating new memories and concentrating on tasks throughout the day, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“Bone broth is rich in an amino acid known as glycine,” says Julie Balsamo, MS, RDN. “When glycine is consumed before bed, it can improve the quality of sleep and promote healthy sleep patterns.”

In one small study, healthy adults who reported difficulty sleeping took 3 grams of glycine before bed and reported improved sleep quality and decreased time to fall asleep. They also performed better on memory tests and had less daytime sleepiness.

Read next: The 7 Best Foods for Your Brain Health, Say Dietitians

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