5 of the Best Foods for Brain Power

April 21, 2016 Nutrition

It’s long been said that “you are what you eat.”

There is truth to this statement, and in America our bodies increasingly reveal the fact that our diets are full of processed, fatty foods. You don’t need to take my word for it; google obesity rates in American children under 12 and your stomach may feel as though you’re on the first downhill run of a massive roller coaster.

Here’s what you may not know: our bodies not only become a physical representation of what we consume, so do our brains.

You can read more about recent studies that explore the link between brain health and obesity in Science News, Live Science, or the New York Times blog.

This disturbing phenomenon is especially true in children. Their brains are more apt to be affected by their diet, since they are continually forming and growing. To avoid creating an invisible “obesity epidemic” of the mind there must be a redefined approach to feeding kids properly. With school back in full swing, now is the time for parents to invest in their children’s academic and personal success by offering them the best cognitive fuels on the planet.

Foods that fuel — Not foods that “Fun”

Here are a few foods that have, through research, been shown to create a positive impact on children and their ability to progress in academia and brain development.
Fresh salmon filet

1. Fish, but especially salmon:

“Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA which are both essential for brain growth and function,” says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD.

Fresh brown eggs

2. Eggs:

One of the greatest strengths of the egg is that it’s not only tasty but fairly cost effective—a great option for low-income or single-income families. And if foods could play sports, I’d want eggs to be my utility player. There are so many things a person can do with eggs (scrambled, fried, hard boiled, quiche, breakfast burritos, egg sandwiches, etc.) They are a very versatile brain food.

Here’s where eggs really knock it out of the park: they provide a much needed source of protein as well as choline, which helps with the development of memory. Grab a couple cartons of eggs and send your kids off to school well fed with a wonderful brain food to jumpstart their day.

Bowl of fresh berries

3. Fruit, but especially berries:

Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and even cherries are incredibly tasty and healthy options for children. Much like the egg, these berries are versatile and get along with many other foods during a meal. You can add berries to salads, cereals, yogurts, and even certain vegetables benefit from a pop of fruit flavor (strawberries and green beans or cherries and asparagus).

Berries are a potent source of antioxidants (such as vitamin C) which have been shown to prevent and fight the Big “C”—cancer. They also are a notable source of omega-3 which helps with ongoing brain growth and development. When buying berries always remember to buy them fresh in order to get the full effect for brain power. In general, the more intense the color the more nutrition in the berry. Help your kids by giving them a “berry good day”!

Bowl of nut butter

4. Peanuts and peanut butter:

This may be a favorite among the choices listed so far. Peanuts are an easy, savory snack when you don’t have time to prepare something. If dinner options are thin one evening, grab the peanut butter and whip up a PB&J. Peanut Butter is the perhaps the easiest and most user friendly of the Brain Food Team.

Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes, plus thiamin to help the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy.

So the next time you’re at the store grab a jar of peanut butter and a canister of peanuts. For a twist on an old favorite, make a peanut butter and banana sandwich for your children. Dip apple slices in peanut butter. Top off your favorite salad with a handful of peanuts.

Bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon

5. Oats and oatmeal:

“I like to oat, oat, oat…” Remember that song?

Oats are one of the most familiar hot cereals for kids and a very nutritious “grain for the brain,” according to Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N. “Oats provide excellent energy or fuel for the brain that kids need first thing in the morning.”

Oats are also packed with fiber! Oats keep a child’s brain fed all morning at school and are a good source for vitamin E, B-vitamins, potassium and zinc—all of which help your child’s body and brain function at full capacity. Grains are very affordable and require minimal prep time in the morning.


“Brain foods” are critically important to children’s success, not only because they improve brain capacity, but also because of the overall health benefits they offer the entire body.

The confidence and serenity a healthy mind and body offer are invaluable and can be the difference between success and mediocrity in one’s life.

Do you have healthy “brain food” recipes that your kids love? Share in the comments!