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9 Powerful Nootropic Foods That Work (Tried & Tested)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

Some foods contain nootropic compounds that have been shown to benefit the human brain by boosting executive skills, working memory, creativity, and motivation.

So as a fitness trainer, I wanted to know everything about it, so I took a few weeks to research the best nootropic foods.

I then consulted a dietician to understand how these foods may maximize the nootropic function in the brain.

In this article, I will provide details on everything that I found out.

Keep on reading.

Quick Summary

  • Eating seeds and nuts is necessary to establish and maintain brain cells.
  • Coffee and green tea are the most prevalent sources of caffeine and have been shown to increase cognitive performance.
  • Foods rich in zeaxanthin and lutein have been shown to increase functional memory and the brain's processing speed.

How Do You Maximize Nootropics With Food?

A woman holding a glass bowl of salad

You maximize nootropics with food by consuming meals that may significantly boost cognitive domains like attention, concentration, learning, and memory, as well as brain health.

Your brain only accounts for roughly 2% of your overall body weight. However, it uses at least 20% of your everyday energy supply.

And that supply is derived from the foods you consume throughout the day [1].

When everything in your brain is working well, your alertness, attention, energy, memory formation, and mood all function properly.

However, many of the foods we consume today don't qualify as "brain food."

In fact, some of them can harm brain nerves as well as impair cognition.

When you experience a crash shortly after lunch or feel extremely awake late at night when you should be winding down for sleep, it's usually due to the effects of the meals you consume.

Omega-3 fatty acids, like the fatty acid DHA, are essential components of the lipids which constitute the brain cell membranes [2].

Therefore, consuming foods like seeds and nuts can increase blood flow to the brain and may even stimulate the formation and preservation of new brain cells.

Nootropic Foods

A woman holding a hot cup of coffee

Nootropics are generally safe to use. They contain essential nutrients, amino acids, minerals, and other chemicals that the brain utilizes as neurotransmission fuel. Nootropics, known as "smart drugs," do not make you smarter.

They enable your brain to perform more effectively, increasing your cognitive performance.

While hundreds of nootropic pills are available, certain foods contain naturally occurring nootropic chemicals [3].

Furthermore, some ingredients may help your brain health, like antioxidants or probiotics that bypass the blood-brain barrier.

The following are the best nootropic foods that may help your brain.

1. Coffee

Drinking coffee reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disorder, and Alzheimer's disease and may even prevent premature death [4].

Coffee and green tea are the most prevalent caffeine sources in the diet, which have been found to enhance cognitive function.

They do this by inhibiting the action of adenosines, brain neurotransmitters that impede brain function. These neurotransmitters can cause drowsiness and reduce mental stamina.

Recent studies have found that caffeine may also restrict gene pathways associated with systemic inflammation [5].

Increased levels of this form of inflammation have been linked to poor cognitive function.

But let's not forget that too much caffeine may lead to anxiety in some people.

2. Coconut oil

A close up shot of coconut oil with coconut in the background

With a high concentration of medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs) in the oil, MCTs skip our bodies' normal digestive system and flow directly to the liver, where they are processed into ketones [6].

Our brains, then, use the ketones to generate Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that physically powers the brain and boosts cognitive function and alertness.

3. Fatty Fish

This fish category encompasses salmon, herring, trout, sardines, and albacore tuna, which are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.

About 60% of your brain contains fat, with omega-3 fatty acids accounting for half of it [7].

Omega-3 fatty acids are great organic nootropics. They are necessary for memory and learning because the brain uses them to form brain and nerve cells.

These acids provide various extra benefits for your brain.

For instance, they may decrease age-related decline of mental function and brain fog and aid in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease [8].

On the other hand, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to learning difficulties and depression [9].

According to several studies, people who consume fish daily have more brain gray matter volume [10].

Most nerve cells that control decisions, memory, and emotion are found in gray matter.

4. Bone Broth

Close up shot of bone broth being boiled outside

Bone broth is the best nourishment for gut healing, which aids in brain restoration.

This ancient meal has several health advantages, including strengthening your immune system, healing leaky gut, enhancing joint health, and eliminating food allergies [11].

Its high collagen content aids in the reduction of inflammatory diseases, and restorative amino acids such as proline and glycine preserve your immune system operating properly and aid in improving memory function [12].

5. Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens, such as spinach and kale, are high in zeaxanthin and lutein, two carotenoids that have been the subject of several recent research.

In volunteers, supplementation with zeaxanthin and lutein resulted in quicker processing speed [13].

According to the study's authors, this effect was substantial "even when assessing young, healthy adults who appear to be at peak performance."

In another research, human volunteers with greater amounts of zeaxanthin and lutein performed better on a functional memory test.

Their brains appeared to operate more effectively when viewed via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) [14].

Finally, among older individuals, lutein (present in spinach and kale) was linked to higher crystalized intellect (the capacity to apply gained information and experience) [15].

6. Blueberries

Close up shot of blueberries on a wooden bowl

Blueberries have several health advantages, some of which are particularly related to your brain.

Anthocyanins, a category of plant chemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, are found in blueberries and other deeply colored berries [16].

Antioxidants fight oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can lead to brain aging and serious neurodegenerative diseases [17].

Some antioxidants present in blueberries were found to accumulate within the brain and aid in the communication of brain cells [18].

Blueberries may assist in boosting memory and some cognitive functions in adolescents and older individuals, according to an analysis of 11 research projects [19].

"Berries are among the greatest sources of antioxidants and have excellent anti-inflammatory characteristics, which can aid in the reduction of inflammation in our brain."
- Melanie McGrice, Dietitian

7. Turmeric

Turmeric is a long-used Chinese medicine herb with amazing nootropic properties.

It stimulates brain function and is frequently used to address Alzheimer's disease and stroke [20].

It takes consuming about 2.5 grams of turmeric each day to reap its advantages.

8. Eggs

A top close up shot of a bunch of eggs

Eggs are healthy because they are high in choline which may help our brains relay impulses across neuronal membranes.

But what exactly does that mean?

Our bodies absorb choline from eggs and convert it into the chemical acetylcholine.

This substance then supports the body in memory retention and establishing peaceful sleep [21].

One egg contains 27% of your daily choline requirement.

9. Water

Even minor dehydration (at levels normal in daily life) can lead to cognitive decline.

This can further instigate changing moods, lower activity levels, and decreased speed of processing [21].

Therefore, it is essential to drink enough water every day.

FAQs

What Foods Are High in Nootropics?

Foods that are high in nootropics include eggs, bone broth, blueberries, dark leafy greens, and fatty fish.

How Can I Sharpen My Mind With Food?

You can sharpen your mind with food by following a healthy dietary pattern that includes a lot of legumes, fruits, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables.

What Are the Three Foods That Fight Memory Loss?

Three foods that best fight memory loss are leafy green vegetables, fish, and berries.

What Food Enhances Concentration?

Foods that enhance concentration include green tea, coffee, and coconut oil.

What Is Our Rule of Thumb for a Healthy Brain?

Some foods, like fruits and vegetables, green tea, and coffee, contain antioxidants that help protect your brain from damage.

As I do with my clients, I recommend you adopt a healthy diet and exercise daily while combining your routine with high-quality cognitive enhancers to improve brain health.

We've tested many nootropics and decided to single out the ones that stood out the most. They contain healthy doses of ingredients that have proven to enhance cognition and focus and elevate mood.


References:

  1. https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.172399499
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7468918/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30864515/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26572796/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28092664/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9203050/
  7. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/omega3-supplements-in-depth
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27633106/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6683166/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7103640/
  11. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-bone-broth
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5350494/
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4176961/
  14. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/309431521_
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27999541/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32825684/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7582347/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7828789/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7442370/
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929771/
  21. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/306047353_
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