Four “smart” foods to boost brain function

In Tuesday’s Daily Dispatch, I brought the bears out of hibernation. We discussed how grizzlies and brown bears get plenty of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3s because of all the wild-caught salmon and nuts they eat.

Maybe that’s where the phrase, “smarter than the average bear” originated?

I’d like to continue that train of thought over the next two days and tell you all about the seven, key “smart” foods shown to improve cognitive function.

So, let’s get right to it…

Smart Food No. 1: Fish

Fish has certainly earned a reputation as “brain food.” And this commonly held belief stems from the fact that fish contains two omega-3 essential fatty acids — DHA (docohexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosopentaenoic acid) — which support brain function.

One study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology concluded that diets low in omega-3s may contribute to premature aging of the brain. On the other hand, diets higher in omega-3s can protect the aging brain.

Plus, brain scans show that people with low omega-3 intake have smaller brain volume than those with higher intakes. People with low omega-3 intake also score lower on cognitive function tests for multi-tasking and problem-solving.

(You can learn more about the importance of omega-3s in the June 2018 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a newsletter subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started.)

But there’s more to fish than just omega-3s…

For example, in addition to omega-3s, salmon contains a red marine carotenoid pigment called astaxanthin. (Shrimp also contain this carotenoid.)

And research shows astaxanthin supports activation of a gene called FOXO3 that protects against premature aging overall. In fact, in lab animal studies, astaxanthin showed a 90 percent increase in activation of FOXO3 in heart tissue. (You can read more about this amazing compound by searching my archives via

Of course, salmon (like other cold-water fish) also contains high amounts of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamin D, which is an anti-aging powerhouse too.

You can now find vitamin D, together with astaxanthin, in convenient liquid form. I recommend you take 10,000 IU daily of liquid vitamin D with astaxanthin. (And remember, that dose of vitamin D may sound high, but really, it’s not high at all — especially compared to the typical dosage amounts commonly found in most micronutrients.)

Smart food No. 2: Berries

Berries should always be included into any quality “smart” foods list.

For one, they contain anthocyanin, an antioxidant linked to potent brain benefits.

Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other red-purple-blue berries contain high amounts of this antioxidant compound. And the darker berry, the higher anthocyanin level.

One recent study from the University of Exeter in the U.K. found that just one daily cup of fresh or frozen berries reduces chronic inflammation, improves brain function, and fights premature aging.

The research also showed that after 12 weeks, healthy adults who drank 30 ml daily of concentrated blueberry juice experienced improvements in brain activation, working memory, and blood flow to the brain. (This amount of concentrated juice equates to about 8 ounces of fresh blueberries.)

You can also supplement with concentrated water-soluble powdered blueberry extract (together with other beneficial, vitality-boosting ingredients like baobab, rose hips, and rooibos). You can add it to any beverage, together with your liquid vitamin D with astaxanthin. Simply search the “Shop” tab on my website, for my own personally formulated supplement recommendation.

Smart food No. 3: Spices & Herbs

I’ve written a lot lately about all the healthy spices in your kitchen cabinet. Especially turmeric, which you can use to make curry.

Of course, curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric. And loads of research show it reduces inflammation, thereby helping to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Mind you, I consider herbs and spices in much the same vein, as they both add flavor to foods. And they both support brain health.

In fact, British research links the fragrant herb rosemary to improved cognitive function.

Specifically, researchers found that just inhaling — as in smelling — rosemary improved learning and mood. It also found an association between blood levels of a phytochemical in rosemary called 1,8-cineole and improved cognitive performance.

(I like to sprinkle fresh rosemary atop wild-caught fish, organic vegetables, and grass-fed lamb or other meat to add a punch of flavor and brain-boosting benefits. Especially now that the weather is perfect for grilling out!)

It seems we’ve known about the effect of rosemary on cognition for a very long time. Indeed, Shakespeare mentioned the herb about 400 hundred years ago, when he wrote, “Rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” (Shakespeare often incorporated references to medicinal herbs and spices into his writing.)

Smart food No. 4: Nuts

In Tuesday’s Daily Dispatch, I also told you about some recent science linking nuts to improved insulin sensitivity and markers of cardiometabolic disease.

Of course, nuts also support brain function.

In fact, a recent study at Loma Linda University Health Sciences Center in California found that eating nuts on a regular basis improved cognition, learning, memory, and other brain functions.

Another study at the University of California found men and women of all ages who ate the most walnuts, specifically, performed consistently better on a group of six cognitive function tests.

And that brings me back to Shakespeare…

During the Renaissance, doctors believed in the “Doctrine of Signatures,” which meant the appearance of plants in Nature reflected their medicinal properties.

And walnuts do indeed look like the human brain. So, it certainly makes sense, according to the doctrine, that walnuts would benefit brain health. Of course, walnuts also contain about double the antioxidants of other tree nuts — like almonds.

Tomorrow, I’ll continue with this train of thought, so to speak, and tell you about three supposed “vices” that actually benefit the brain. Stay tuned right here to the Daily Dispatch for more!


“7 foods that can make you smarter,” Newsmax ( 3/26/2018