Feed Your Brain: 8 Recipes Containing Brain Health Superfood Ingredients
Published on May 9, 2022
By Jess Novak
We’re all about eating for heart health, but eating for brain health is just as important, especially for those of us whose 23andMe genetic report claims a potential predisposition for Alzheimer’s or who have a family history of dementia (or in our case, both!). As we learn more and more about the connection between our guts and our brains, we want to do our best at all stages of life to eat in a way that helps set us up for success in terms of our long-term brain health, and diet is a big part of that.
So we pawed through a bunch of scientific studies, researched some of the best ingredients for brain health, and found a great collection of healthy, delicious recipes that can help improve and maintain your brain health throughout the day.
Here’s some much-needed good news: the caffeine in coffee isn’t just great at making mornings bearable — it’s also been shown to support brain health. In fact, folks who drink three or four cups of coffee daily may be at lower risk for cognitive decline and reduced risk of stroke.
But drinking coffee on an empty stomach can cause some people acid reflux issues, and is well-known for producing a serious case of the jitters. If you don’t have the patience to drink your coffee after breakfast (or you’re someone who just can’t stomach food in the early morning) consider this nutritious, caffeinated smoothie, which contains a good hit of coffee, prebiotic-packed banana, and frozen cauliflower, among other ingredients. We’ve made this one before and would suggest tossing in any leftover avocado you have hanging around the fridge and a handful of chia seeds, too.
Both dark chocolate and cocoa powder have been shown in studies to improve working memory performance, and flavonoids — found in chocolate in abundance — have been shown to be neuroprotective. That doesn’t mean super-sugary milk chocolate is exactly a health food, but it does mean that adding a little cocoa powder and a few high-quality dark chocolate chips to your morning might actually be a pretty healthy choice in terms of your brain health.
This baked oatmeal somehow manages to be everything we’ve ever loved: it tastes pretty much like a chocolate-peanut butter cookie, but when you double-check the ingredients, they’re… incredibly healthful. We’re talking rolled oats, bananas, oat milk, peanut butter, a little maple syrup… it’s a refined sugar-free breakfast that’s full of heart-healthy fiber, and we’re sold.
Turmeric is one of those buzzy health food ingredients with big claims that seem unrealistic, but the truth is, it’s genuinely really, seriously good for you in about ten different ways, and one of them has to do with your memory. Turmeric has been shown to improve memory in Alzheimer’s patients, and it’s also been shown to help new brain cells grow.
Tofu scramble is a classic way to enjoy a big hit of turmeric in the morning (it helps tofu mimic the color of eggs) and the tofu scramble in this vegan breakfast burrito is no exception to the rule. We’re lazy and also like to avoid refined carbs where possible, so we tend to go tortilla-less and turn this into a bowl instead of a proper burrito, but love the combination with avocado, black beans, and spinach.
Look, we love blueberries, but they get all the love in the healthy eating community, and for no reason that we can discern. Blackberries have less than half the sugar found in blueberries, tons of fiber, and massive amounts of antioxidants. Those antioxidants have been shown to protect against oxidative stress, which can contribute to brain aging.
This blackberry salad is beyond simple and incredibly delicious. We love it as a side with grilled salmon or grass-fed steak, but it would also make a fantastic vegetarian meal topped with some grilled tofu.
You know how salmon famously has tons and tons of omega-3 fatty acids? That’s all true, but salmon roe has 3.5 times the amount in salmon itself. And before you think “fine, but that’s totally out of reach for my budget,” hold up — two ounces of Northern Pacific salmon roe will set you back $12, so while it’s not no money, we think it’s pretty appropriate as an occasional treat (especially compared with the cost of salmon steaks).
These deviled eggs are healthy, delicious, and a perfect appetizer for a cocktail party or special occasion at home. We tend to spice up everything, so we like to throw in some cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and have been known to swap half the avocado oil mayo for Greek yogurt, but you can also keep this recipe just as it is — it’s great on its own.
Nuts in general are great for your brain — and eating them has been linked with preventing cognitive decline — but walnuts may have an extra edge, since they also deliver tons of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
A grain-free version of chicken piccata that takes just 20 minutes from start to finish? Sign us up. This protein-packed chicken recipe is brightly flavorful and healthful. We’d serve with a quick sheet pan of roasted asparagus and if we have some extra time (or have some leftover) along with a black rice pilaf.
Eating plenty of vitamin C has been correlated with sustained cognitive function, and a half-cup of yellow bell peppers provides 137mg of vitamin C, which is nearly double what you’ll find in a medium-sized orange. (Not to knock oranges. We love oranges, but yellow bell peppers definitely win on this score.)
Grass-fed steak can be pricey, but flank steaks are among the least expensive cuts, which makes it a great value for a dish like this involving a marinade. Our only edit to this otherwise excellent steak fajita bowl recipe: we’d swap in a little Greek yogurt for the dairy-free sour cream if everyone in the party can eat dairy, just because it’s so wholesome and full of protein, and faux sour creams tend to not be that nutritionally sound.
Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin K — you can get more than 100% of your RDI in a one-cup serving. This is good to know for anyone who’s trying to achieve better memory, since high vitamin K intake has been positively linked in studies to memory and cognition.
These broccoli quinoa cakes are a really easy, delicious way to get a whole serving of broccoli into your dinner without just sitting there and eating a cup of broccoli. It’s also a great way to use up leftover quinoa — we always make way more than we need to just to have some on hand throughout the week. You get a deep, golden crust with this by pan-searing the cakes, but in order to prevent them from falling apart, consider using feta cheese and chilling them in the fridge for 45 minutes or so before cooking. We love the recipe author’s suggestion of pairing with this avocado cilantro salsa.