Healthy College Eating: 5 Foods to Improve Brain Function

Healthy Foods

Here’s some food for thought: An extensive study that examined 10 aspects of cognition in almost 4,700 people found that those with the most nutritious diets were less likely to experience mental declines as they aged.

For those who are more concerned about next week than next year, scientists believe that improving your diet can lead to short-term improvement as well. The biggest boost comes to those who were eating horribly to begin with, but everyone has something to gain.

If you’re looking to gain a mental edge for either right now or the future, here are five foods that can help you do it.


Folklore held that drinking would kill brain cells that you could never replace. Though no doctor is going to advocate a steady diet of alcohol, scientists now know that we do grow new brain cells throughout our lives.

Omega-3 fatty acids are believed to play a key role. A landmark study showed that people who consumed more omega-3 experienced increased brain volume.

Seafood such as halibut, salmon, and tuna are the best sources for omega-3s, with fresh trumping canned and wild holding an edge over farm-raised. Flaxseed and other vegetable oils are good sources, too, as are walnuts.


There are good foods, and then there are better foods. Dr. Steve G. Pratt, co-author of SuperFoods Rx, puts blueberries on his list of great foods that can improve your health now and possibly increase your longevity.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants that studies on animals have shown help protect the brain and possibly even ward off the effects of dementia.

Best of all: Blueberries taste great and are readily available year-round. Toss some into your morning smoothie or keep a bag of freeze-dried handy for snacking.

Go Nuts

Nuts get a bad rap because of their high fat and calorie content, and nutritionists say that’s unfortunate. Nuts also are packed with protein, fiber, and important nutrients.

Many also are thought to boost brain health as well. Walnuts in particular have high concentrations of DHA that can improve cognitive abilities in adults and possibly prevent age-related decline.

A Rainbow of Produce

Antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables may delay or even prevent damage to cells. They’ve been credited with fighting cancer and boosting immunity. Newer research indicates that special antioxidants called flavonoids give the aging brain even more of a boost.

You’ll find flavonoids in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The wealth of natural sources makes it easy to find something you’ll like. Strawberries, carrots, avocados, and red grapes all are great options. Replacing your usual iceberg lettuce with spinach will give you another boost.


Vitamin E is another antioxidant that scientists believe supports brain health. Nuts and fish are good sources of Vitamin E and so are seeds such as sunflower and pumpkin.

If you lack the time or patience to shell seeds, there are a number of sunflower-seed butters on the market that include heavy doses of Vitamin E. The taste is similar to peanut butter, and the seed butter usually has more fiber and protein and less fat and sugar.

No change in diet is going to immediately make you smarter. Eating a balanced diet rich in these five foods can, however, help you make the most of what you were born with.

Written by Ashford University staff

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