There are so many good things for the brain that you can eat. If you think about things that nature brings us, those are pretty much it. The more you steer away from processed foods the better off you are. If the food doesn’t occur in nature and it ends in the letter O, you might want to think twice before eating it. Here are a few of the best brain foods for overall brain health, cell growth and mood regulation.

-Tyrosine. You want this amino acid in ample doses in your brain. It is an essential building block for dopamine and norepinephrine. It’s found in several foods such as seaweed, eggs, low-fat dairy (cottage cheese), soy, fish, turkey, mustard greens, almonds and several other foods.

Berries. Memory function and an anti-oxidative in the brain. Darkest are best: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry – in that order. Add cherries for stroke prevention.

Apples. Lots of choline that helps synapses to fire rapidly. Two apples or 8 ounces of apple juice have almost the same effect on the brain as omega-3 fatty acids from fish. Apples/juice are excellent before a test or taxing project work. The glucose bump from the natural sugar in apples helps in pre-frontal cortex function. Be careful how much you drink. The sugar content in all juices is usually very high.

Turmeric. This is the spice found in curry. Attacks beta amyloid deposits implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. Also excellent for anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties in the brain. The spices found in curry have a protective effect on the brain (cumin, cloves, saffron).

Eggs. Very high in choline for learning formation and synaptic firing in the brain. And yes, you have to eat the yolk.

Fatty fish. Huge omega-3 fatty acid effect, which is positive in the brain. It is responsible for neuronal health and communication. Fatty fish are best. Salmon, sardines, trout, mackerel.

Oysters, clams and lamb’s liver. High in the essential brain minerals zinc and iron and help in memory function.

Cocoa. Yes, chocolate…dark chocolate is good for endorphin boost in the brain and reduced formation of clots, which may help prevent strokes. Note that the darker the chocolate, the better. All things in moderation. A half to one ounce a day (a two inch square). A lot of chocolate is laced with refined sugar. Not great.

Nuts and seeds. These help in slowing cognitive decline. High in vitamin E. Eat about an ounce a day. If you have high blood pressure, eat unsalted nuts. Almonds in particular are beneficial to the brain.

Avocados. They are almost as good as blueberries in promoting brain health.

Vegetables. Any of the dark leafy greens like spinach and Swiss chard are packed with folate, which is a B-vitamin the brain uses to make catecholamines. Other folate-rich foods include lentils and asparagus. Tomatoes and peppers carry carotenoids that help counteract the free radical damage that destroy the mood-protecting fats in the brain. Think about red, orange and yellow hues in vegetables and then eat them!

Whole grains. Good for blood flow in the brain.

Freshly brewed tea/unsweetened. There is an antioxidant effect. Also, it can increase mood, focus and memory. Lightly caffeinated is best.

-Alcohol. This one doesn’t come without controversy, but several key studies point to the beneficial effect of liquor. Scientific research demonstrates that moderate alcohol consumption improves creativity, thinking, reasoning, and memory in aging adults. Moderate is considered two or fewer drinks per night: that’s two 5-ounce glasses of wine, a total of 4 ounces of hard liquor, or two beers. Red wine is reported to have a protective trait since the skins of red grapes have resveratrol in them. It helps in stroke prevention and post-stroke damage. It’s VERY important to note that every person has a different tolerance to alcohol and its sedative effects. It’s also very important to note that the line is fine between moderate and beneficial, and over-consumption is detrimental to the brain.

Red meat. Of course this one is controversial as well. But, red meat is one of the single best and quick uptake sources of iron that helps produce catecholamines for mood. People who are iron deficient are 50% more likely to become depressed than those with higher iron levels. If you’re vegetarian, it’s harder to get that same kind of iron, however beans, dried fruits and whole grains are a good second choice.

For more, read this great article by Catherine Christie on foods that improve and manage mood

Mood-Food Relationships