6 Cognitive Enhancing Foods: Backed by Research

Updated: 3 days ago

Improve your thinking and protect your brain's health with these 6 cognitive-enhancing foods.


No.1 on the list is walnuts.

Walnuts are a great source of those useful fats and high in protein. But they also have considerable psychological benefits. One study found walnut consumption significantly improved cognitive function. Specifically, visuomotor speed (visual response time), information-processing speed, (memorizing symbols and matching them to numbers), learning and recall, delayed verbal memory, and cognitive attention.

Walnuts may also offer preventive features for depression. One study compared nut consumers to non-nut consumers and found those who ate walnuts had a greater interest in doing things, higher energy levels, and fewer feelings of hopelessness.

Walnuts are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is an omega-3 fatty acid associated with arteries' health and blood pressure.

For an extra boost, go for black walnuts. Black walnuts grow wild in the U.S and are much higher in nutritional value than English walnuts. I recommend Natures Way Black Walnuts.


Not only are blueberries delicious and versatile, but their cognitive benefits are also back by science.

One study in 2010 found moderate blueberry supplementation can grant neurocognitive benefit. Another found daily consumption of blueberries may reverse age-related deficits in cognition as well as benefit those with no cognitive problems.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (the gold standard experiment) found 24 grams of blueberries a day (that’s equivalent to 1 cup) for three months significantly improved cognitive function. In particular, the cognitive features that improved were episodic verbal learning, memory, and task switching (the ability to unconsciously shift attention between tasks).

You should be eating or supplementing blueberries every day and the optimal dose is between 5.5g - 11g. The best way to supplement is by taking Wild Organic Blueberry Powder.


"Everyone should believe in something. I believe in coffee" Unknown.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found participants with higher caffeine consumption scored significantly better on cognitive function tests such as global cognition, attention, and verbal memory. However, this is somewhat conditional on a high-quality diet, and lower alcohol consumption.

Also, research published in Nature found caffeine enhanced long-term memory consolidation. Those in the caffeine group accurately identified pictures of objects, over the placebo and control groups, 24 hours after they memorized them.

Many more studies have demonstrated caffeine’s cognitive enhancing properties, check out this 2010 review article for a reasonable summary.

Quick aside... If your a coffee lover (like me), then why not go for some of the better coffee in the world.


Along with cacao's long list of potential health benefits, research shows it has neuroprotective qualities and it may have cognitive-enhancing features.

Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found elderly participants who consumed moderate to high quantities of cocoa flavanols (a type of plant nutrient), had significant improvements in cognitive function such as memory, attention, and executive function. Quick aside... executive function enables us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and easily switch between multiple tasks.

Another study, published in Hypertension found regular consumption of cocoa flavanols promotes brain function in elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment. The authors report this effect is mediated by in insulin sensitivity.

Cocoa contains a large percentage of flavanoids that have many health benefits to the brain such as promoting neuronal survival and synaptic plasticity. They have been found to have a positive effect on vascular system function and on cerebral blood flow. If that doesn't tempt you, then cocoa's mood-boosting and positive effects emotional stress might.

Quick disclaimer, one piece of research found cocoa had no effect on the cognitive performance of healthy adults but did significantly enhance positive mood states. Therefore, the neuroprotective qualities of cocoa are crystal clear, but research around its benefits to cognitive enhancement in healthy brains is still in its infancy.

In all dietary decision making, caution must be taken as many chocolate products are high in calories or contain unhealthy doses of refined sugar, so choose your product carefully. We recommend raw cocoa.

Purchase some Organic Cacao Powder and find quirky ways to add it to food. I love it in my morning smoothie!

Fatty fish

To some degree, we expect the brain typically to shrink in healthy aging, but our neurons are not impacted in large numbers. Whereas, In a neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s, the damage is substantial and many neural pathways stop functioning and die.

A key characteristic of Alzheimer’s is the build-up of amyloid plaques. Specifically, beta-amyloid protein, which in the Alzheimer’s brain, builds in unusual levels, and clumps together to form plaque that accumulates together between neurons and destroy cell function. The good news is fatty fish can reduce the amyloid-β pathology, as well as decrease inflammation and increase blood flow.

A systematic review found high intake of fish or long-chain omega-3 fatty acid supplements significantly reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. This review recommends having fish two to three times per week or supplements such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid ) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). However, the research is unclear whether fatty fish benefits patients who have already developed a neurodegenerative disease.

A word of caution... avoid fish with high levels of mercury (such as shark and swordfish) Instead, try salmon, cod, sardines, and tuna (Skipjack is the species of tuna with lower mercury levels).

Quick aside... not a fish lover, you could try flax or chia seeds. But to get the optimal health boost from fish oil supplements, go for Nordic products. I recommend Nordic Naturals, found on amazon. For children, try this strawberry flavored oil.

Leafy greens

No cognitive boosting food list is complete without those green, leafy veggies.

Recent research published in Neurology found 1 serving a day of leafy greens was significantly and positively associated with slower rates of cognitive decline. In other words, those leafy greens contribute to your brain's health. But specifically, the food sources of folate, phylloquinone, lutein, nitrate, α-tocopherol, and kaempferol which are found in broccoli, spinach, kale, and collards are found to have protective relations to cognitive decline.

But there’s a catch!

Many greens such as kale, broccoli, and collard green have dangerously high levels of heavy metals like thallium and cesium. So, be mindful of where your food is sourced. I do not recommend substituting whole vegetables for supplements, however, if you eat a wide variety of veggies, then go for an Organic Super Green Powder. The research suggests green powders have a number of health benefits. I recommend organic products such as Miracle Greens found on Amazon.

So, there you have it, 6 foods back by clinical evidence to boost cognition or protect your brain from cognitive decline.

Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.- Hippocrates

For more information on how to keep your brain sharp, read Master your Visual and Spatial Memory, which will show you how to use your brain in a novel way that will prompt neurogenesis.

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