Science of Nutrition

10 Foods to Boost Brain Health

10 Foods to Boost Brain Health

Ready to Boost Your Brain Health?

When was the last time you even considered your brain health?

Let’s start with another question — When was the last time you reached for your fourth cup of coffee while finding yourself struggling to study for an exam or finish a project just to be let down by the minuscule results?

Or, maybe you finally set aside a few hours for deep work time, but once you’re ready to dive in, you absolutely cannot focus.

Look, you’re not alone! And, it may be time to focus more on what you’re eating.

The importance of physical nutrition

On episode 014 of The Transformational Nutrition Podcast, ITN founder and CEO Cynthia Garcia spoke about making a change in her intermittent fasting routine to help give her the energy she needed to work on a big project.

She realized that her low energy levels were stemming from simply not eating enough to fuel her brain health for her major workload.

That conversation sparked a few questions from our listeners about foods that help with brain health and function.

On today’s episode, Cynthia shares the top 10 foods that help with memory, focus, productivity, and the ability to keep up with busy days. 

You might already eat some of these foods daily but don’t even realize that they’re fueling more than just your physical body!


An inspirational quote from episode 022

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What should you be adding to your grocery list?

In this episode, Cynthia is sharing the top 10 foods that contain the vitamins and minerals that give your brain the boost it needs to keep you going.

Not only do these ingredients help fuel your body and brain health, but they help keep you focused for longer. 

Snacking on nuts like almonds and walnuts or adding spirulina in your post-workout smoothie are just a few ways to add brain boosting ingredients into your diet.

Cynthia shares why you should be looking out for these foods in the supermarket and ideas for how to add them into your diet. 

Listen to Discover...
  • Why it’s important to pay attention to the foods we consume 
  • The consequences of not feeding ourselves what our body is truly hungry for
  • Simple and creative ways to incorporate these 10 foods in your diet 
  • A simple and practical tip for avocado lovers
  • How to pair ingredients together to make the ultimate brain-power meal

Episode Resources:

Listen to The Transformational Nutrition Podcast on Apple Podcast Spotify Stitcher

Ready to take the next steps toward becoming a Nutrition Coach?  Download our detailed Course Catalog

Want to hear more from the ITN student featured in this episode? Connect with Jessica!

Read the transcript for this episode:

[00:00:00] Cynthia Garcia: Here at ITN, we often ask, what are you really hungry for? Because we understand that we are fed by so much more than what’s on our plate. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t value the importance of a good, healthy, balanced diet to support our overall wellbeing. 

Welcome back to the Transformational Nutrition Podcast, the podcast that is redefining nutrition as anything that eats you physically, mentally and spiritually. I’m your host. Cynthia Garcia, the founder and CEO of the Institute of Transformational Nutrition. 

And in today’s episode, we are going over 10 foods that will improve your brain function. So if you feel a little. Spacey or you just need that extra boost of brain power to get things done, show up and be present and relationships and just feel better overall.

Then this is an episode you don’t want to miss. So a few weeks ago we posted on Instagram and we ask you what sorts of topics you’d like to see us talk about here on the. Which by the way don’t ever hesitate to let us know what you’re hungry for. I’ll happily make a podcast episode around the things that you are interested in when it comes to feeding yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Now a lot of responses came back when we asked this question like, Hey, what do you want us to talk about? Around brain function and foods that will help your body and mind in general, but kind of, especially the brain. Now, a few weeks ago, I talked about how I needed to make a change in my wellness routine, because I wasn’t exactly fueling my body properly for the brainwork that I needed to continue on.

One of my. Projects I’ve taken on this whole big thing that I was super excited about, but I was also doing intermittent fasting and I just wasn’t feeding myself enough to really power my brain, to do the work that I needed to do. Now that was again, a few episodes back. So go back and check that out. If you’re interested.

It’s where I talk about making a change and why you need a change in your routine. So. I knew, like I said, I needed to be eating more, but I also knew that it mattered what kind of food I was eating in order to be really productive in order to focus, avoid distraction, and have the energy to get through this project in a way that I wanted to do it.

So I started to incorporate foods into my diet that I knew would support my brain function. And I mean, I can’t tell you what impact it has made on my memory. Focus. Oh my gosh, the focus, my productivity, my ability to keep working throughout the day without getting brain fatigue or just fatigue in general.

And that’s what I want to share with you today.

We love spotlighting the unique stories and transformations of our students and graduates here at ITN. I’m excited to introduce Jessica Davis and give her a chance to talk about her own journey of becoming a certified transformational nutrition coach. Let’s start by learning about Jessica’s background.

[00:03:23] Jessica Davis: I was a performing arts student. So I was a dance major in high school. And then I was also a dance major in college. And really, I do have to say that that probably started my health journey. So being in front of mirrors, in a leotard and tights for multiple hours in a day with other girls my age and everything like that really reinforced.

Comparison idea for me, I was always comparing myself to others and then dance can be very competitive. So I feel like my whole life, everything kind of revolved around looks and appearance. And then, you know, you start to tie your work to that. So I noticed that. I found my identity and my self worth in the way that I looked.

And that really did a number on my mental health at the same time. Going through some health issues related to chronic stress. They were, you know, my hormones were all over the place. My weight was sort of fluctuating and people were really noticing, I don’t even think it was fluctuating that badly, but you know, a few pounds here or there and people because I was in the dance world, people were commenting on it and it really bothered me.

I was not taking care of my body. ’cause, I didn’t know how at the time. And that made me really want to move away from dance because dance was too physically demanding for me time. And I was at the same time realizing that maybe it wasn’t even who I was. I had always put my identity there because I started when I was eight years old and it was my life.

[00:05:12] Cynthia Garcia: So here at ITN, we often ask, what are you really hungry for? Because we understand that we are fed by so much more than what’s on our plate. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t value the importance of a good, healthy, balanced diet to support our overall wellbeing. Because the things that we eat influence the way that we feel, the way that we think and the way that we function overall, they impact our emotions.

Our relationships it’s so much bigger than just eating. So we’re not hungry. Now I want to share with you a whole list of foods, 10 of them to be exact that have been proven to improve our brain function. Right? So you want to make sure that. You check these out and that you think about some ways that you can get them into your diet.

And I will also give you some ways to get them into your diet as well. Again, these foods have been proven in numerous studies to improve brain function. So whether you find yourself studying for an exam needing extra focus for a new project, or you just need a productivity boost or ability to focus.

Try incorporating a few of these foods. So let’s dive into it. Here are the top 10 foods to improve brain function. Number one is turmeric a study published in the Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition found that turmeric may enhance memory in adults for up to six hours at a time. Now, this is because of a component in tumeric known as curcumin, which has antioxidant properties that may be able to help the brain form new memories.

Pretty cool. Right. Start your day by adding turmeric to an omelet, it also tastes great in many homemade soups and just gives it that extra boost of. Food number two is walnuts. Now think about this. I love walnuts. First of all, like they’re so good. I remember growing up as a little girl, there was a Walnut tree in my memos yard and I would go out me and my little cousin and we’d get these walnuts and they had this kind of shell hole kind of thing on them and we’d get them out of that.

And I remember it was this yellow. Death that stained our hands. I would take us forever to get this off. And every time we came back, our parents and, you know, aunts and uncles, and they would just be like, are you kidding me right now? Anyways, we’d get the thing out. And then we’d find the biggest rock, put it on another rock and just smash it so that we could get those walnuts.

And we’d probably work for, I don’t know when eight 30 minute. Just to get one Walnut cracked, but man, it was worth it. And walnuts. I mean, if you think about it, they even look like a little brain, you know, don’t they, so walnuts are rich and memory boosting omega-3 fatty acids and they’ve been shown to produce positive effects on brain function and memory.

They make an excellent snack. I like. Throw them in a little bag and take them with me on the go they’re good source of healthy fat. Again, they improve my brain, my function, if my blood sugar could get slow, I’ll just eat a handful of them. And they go well with just about any fruit. So throw some in a trick bag with some blueberries or grapes, and you’ve got a quick energy and brain boosting snack.

You can also add them to salads. If you want an additional crunch or pack them in with some celery and carrots. If veggies are your thing. Let’s tune in again to discover what Jessica did after leaving her career in dance and how this allowed her to find her passion in nutrition, coaching.

[00:08:48] Jessica Davis: When I was leaving the dance world, I was kind of focused on two things. And one of those things was being a fitness instructor because dancers are naturally very good at being fitness instructors, because we can really talk about the body. So I was focusing on fitness and I was really starting to get passionate about.

And then at the same time, I was noticing that all of my clients who were in my classes really needed help with nutrition because they would be coming and they would not be seeing the results. And I knew from having to learn to take care of myself after having the hormonal issues and the chronic stress and just my body being completely rundown from dance.

I started learning how to take care of myself. And I started learning that no matter what you’re doing, movement-wise you need to still be supporting yourself nutritionally. At that time, I was actually struggling with whether or not, so I wanted to potentially go into counseling or I wanted to be a nutrition.

And I didn’t know which one I wanted to do. And anytime I would go to look into counseling programs and really make the decision, I would kind of have this like empty feeling, like there’s something missing. And that was really for me, the nutrition aspect, like I needed to incorporate nutrition into the mental health.

And then, so when I found ITN and how they incorporate the three pillars, Mental health, the science pillar, and then the spiritual health that really spoke to me because I knew that in my own experience, if I only focused on nutrition, it still did not necessarily make a difference. If I wasn’t doing well spiritually and emotionally.

[00:10:46] Cynthia Garcia: All right. The third food that will help increase brain function is salmon. So the DJ found in salmon, mackerel, and tuna may help you to maintain normal brain function without a fatigue. So your brain prefers DHA to other sources of dietary fat, and it will use it over those other sources anytime.

Available, not only that, but any deficiencies in DHA include, can lead to learning impairments and lack of focus, which we’re trying to not have. Right. So make sure that you eat a healthy, fresh salmon to get those benefits. I would avoid farmed salmon because there are so many things that they feed these.

That I don’t want in my body. That’s for me, I’d highly recommend that for you to find a good, healthy source of wild salmon that you can enjoy. All right. Salmon is great on anything. Like I love to put it in my air fryer oven. It’s the best because it gets it really crispy around the edges, but it’s still soft and just cooked perfectly on the inside.

I love that. I’ll put it on a bed of greens for a salad. You can also use it in other dishes. You can make it a dip, get creative with it, but enjoy some salmon. All right. Number four on our list of brain foods is blueberry. Blueberries. We know that blueberries have been shown to improve memory in adults, according to the journal of agricultural and food chemistry.

Right? So they have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties to keep your brain healthy and at its best. Now, look, there’s no wrong way to eat a blueberry. I like to just snack on them through the. Or if I’m hungry at night, I will, instead of getting like chips or something like that, I’ll just get a little bowl of blueberries and I’ll snack on those.

Cause they’re like, nature’s candy. I love blueberries. Sometimes I’ll just snack on them throughout the day. You can add them to salads or healthy desserts. You can pair them with those walnuts for an added brain. Do what works for you? I keep a little container of fresh organic blueberries around and I just grabbed them whenever I need an extra boost.

They’re quick, easy, and again healthy. All right. Brain boosting food. Number five. Say that five times fast is avocados. Now I’m going to tell you, I didn’t know what an avocado was until I moved to Los Angeles. That’s a true story. And the first time I ate it, I was like, What is this? It’s is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable it’s kind of soft and smushy?

Avocados freaked me out. I did not know what I was getting myself into. Remember I grew up in the south. We had none of these things around, like I was a meat and potatoes kind of girl. And so all the condos, I was not sure about these days. I would eat them on anything. In fact, I will pack an avocado to take with me in my bag.

If I know that I’m going to be out and about, and won’t be able to get something healthy. So all the condos are high in omega-3 fatty acids and Moto and saturated fats. They are a delicious way to eat your brain healthy. And look, you can use avocados. Oh my gosh. Like, let me count the ways. So I mentioned I will just throw it in my bag.

That’s not a joke. Truly, and I have this little knife that I take. It’s just like a little butter knife and I’ll cut it open and I just eat it. I had this little knife and fork and spoon set. That’s always in my purse. I started it when rain was a little kid and I just continued it for me because I’d find myself out and random situations and it comes in handy.

So anyway, I’ll just eat avocado right from the shell. I love to take it and mix it with a little fresh lemon juice and some Celtic, sea salt, and just make a really basic guacamole. I’ll eat that on veggies, carrots, celery. It’s so good. You can add avocados to your salads. You can mix them up with alongside keenwah or brown rice.

You can add it to smoothies. You can make a chocolate pudding with avocados. I can’t, it’s a true story and it tastes so, so good. You can spread them on, you know, some gluten-free bread. You can put them in dips. Like I mentioned, guacamole really. There’s no wrong way to eat an avocado. And tip, oh my gosh, I’ve been eating avocados for years and I just learned this tip.

You’re going to want to know it too. Like, I don’t know. It came from Tech-Talk or someone way smarter than me, apparently, because I never knew this, but you know, usually you cut an avocado and then what I do, but a lot of people do is I kind of just like smack the knife into the seat. So that I can pull the seed out when the knife gets stuck in the seed.

Right. I can’t tell you how many cuts that I’ve avoided or getting my finger just chopped off. I know friends who’ve cut through like the entire side of their hand. This is for real, just trying to get seed out of an avocado. You do not have to do that friend. You don’t all you have to do. You cut it open, you pull it apart.

And the side that has the seed stuck in it. You just put your little thumb. Right on the flip side of that, right on the skin of the avocado. And you put. That’s it, you push, you push the seed from the other side and it just falls right out. I had no idea. It changed my life. It saved my fingers and I’m sharing it with you in hopes that it does the same.

One of our favorite things is finding out what our graduates enjoyed the most about the transformational nutrition coach program. When we asked Jessica this question, she explained, uh,

[00:16:48] Jessica Davis: for me it was the coaching community that I gained. And I think the coaching aspect of ITN and having the coaching lab. That was just so powerful because we’re not just on our own, going through the materials and trying to piece it all together. We have people that we can actually interact with and I’ve become very good friends with several of the people that I met through it.

And I think being a part of the community of people who want the same things as you is so incredible.

[00:17:27] Cynthia Garcia: All right. That is a total tangent, but I could not in good conscious do this episode and talk about avocados without looping you in on my best kept secret. Actually it’s all over the internet, but anyways, all right. Brain food. Number six is sunflower seeds. I know sunflower seeds, they’re high in vitamin E, which has been shown to improve neurological function.

In fact, deficiencies in vitamin E have been linked to poor memory in aging adults and poor focus. These are another great snack. When you’re on the go, you can just toss them in your bag. That can be eaten plain. You can add them to salads. You can saute them with veggies, smoothies, you name it. Sunflower seeds are just a great go-to to have around.

All right. Brain food. Number seven is spirulina. Spirulina is so healthy. It’s been shown to be proactive in treating certain cancers. Immunodeficiencies, uh, inflammation. And according to research, it’s been shown to improve memory dysfunction, which is important. Especially if you have a lot going on like me, I’m like, wait, what is that thing?

What am I doing that? Okay. Got it. So you can add spirulina to. Smoothies if you want. I like tossing it in, uh, like a breakfast smoothie. It does have a bit of a taste to it. So just be aware of that. I like to kind of cover it up. You can also get capsules and take it that way. If that serves you better.

All right. Food number eight, brain boosting food. Number eight. This is kind of a devil one here. It’s a Gingko biloba and gen sing because research shows that when you take those two together, Gingko and Jen saying may be able to improve your memory quality. So I like to do this by drinking, just an herbal tea.

It’s just so easy. I can get it in, you know, as a hot tea. So it helps me to relax and focus on the present moment. I do, you know, a little bit of just being present just to present meditation, and that helps to keep your. Fresh and focused since completing her certification. Jessica has been working hard to build her dream career as a nutrition coach.

Let’s hear what she’s been up to lately.

[00:19:44] Jessica Davis: I work remotely for a tech company and I do their operations for them, but I also, I’m doing one-on-one coaching on the side and I. Thinking that my one-on-one coaching will take over very quickly and I’ll be able to leave my full time job faster than I originally thought I was thinking it was going to take a little bit longer, but people are actually really in need of help.

And so when, you know, I’m able to connect with people and they find out that I do nutrition coaching and they actually really do. Seem interested. And I think people are so like, what should I do? Should I do this diet? Should I, do you know what this other person is doing? And they don’t know how to find for themselves what they need.

So I’m close to being able to do one-on-one coaching. Full-time.

[00:20:39] Cynthia Garcia: Okay, we’re getting so close to number 10, but burst brain food. Number nine is almonds, almonds nuts, man. So good for brain health. So the L tyrasine that’s found in almonds has been associated with improved cognitive performance. Whenever you are. Tasking. This is according to the journal or pharmacology, biochemistry and behavior.

And the great thing about almonds is they are so easy to incorporate into just about anything, right? Smoothie, salads, any kind of dishes that like pasta dishes, you can eat them plain. I usually will sometimes rotate almonds with my walnuts when I get tired of my walnuts. Isn’t too often. I want to tell the truth, but all men’s can be a great backup.

They’re really portable. You can stash them and need them whenever you just want to have a quick pick me up or eat them rather, whenever you need a quick pick me up. All right. The final brain boosting food. Number 10, drum roll, please. It’s complex carbohydrates. I know not really a food in particular, but I wanted to give you some options here.

And I wanted to kind of go out on a bang with this bigger scope or category of foods. So just like an endurance athletic event, your brain needs fuel to go the distance, right? Like this project that I told you I was working on, I did not have enough fuel for my brain to finish. At the end of the day, I was exhausted.

And I incorporated more complex carbohydrates think about, and they are oats brown, rice lagoons, and they provide the brain with glucose, which is needed for learning concentration and memory function. You can pair them with, you know, brown rice with salmon for dinner, or you can eat. Oatmeal with some blueberries in it and toss in some walnuts for breakfast, that we are getting kind of a triple dose of brain boosting foods, but complex carbohydrates are important to have into your diet.

If you’re looking for more energy to get your brain through the day and through the projects that you need to move. So there you have it, 10 brain boosting foods that are easy to incorporate into your daily diet and your daily routine. Now keep in mind that you don’t have to add every single one of these to your next grocery run.

You can choose a few that you enjoy incorporate them a few days a week into meals, or just on their own and start to reap the benefits. All right. Let’s hear from Jessica one last time, as she shares a couple of things that she wishes she would have known when she was starting her coaching career.

Hopefully this can inspire other people looking to become a coach as well.

[00:23:31] Jessica Davis: I wish I would have known that this process can be. Because I’ve always just wanted to be there already and never really enjoyed the process of not being quote unquote there yet, wherever there is being here where I am right now can be enjoyable. And people feel that when you’re having fun, you know, people feel that when you’re enjoying life and you’re doing what you love, then.

You know, they will be attracted to you and they won’t feel like you’re trying to target them in any way. Like I’m trying to help lose weight because I think you need to lose weight. No, I honestly, you know, trying to help people. And that’s what I love doing is really helping people restore their relationship to themselves and their bodies and their minds.

So I think having fun in the process. I definitely was not doing that. At first, I was in a scarcity mindset at first and I was thinking that I was not deserving of it. And I was just having no fun because I was working my full-time job during the day. And then. On the computer again, trying to work on my business during the night.

And there was no time for fun in there. Well, if you’re not having fun, your energy is definitely not fun for other people. I think the only other thing that I’ve really been focused on is coming into things as you are now, because. I think we learned that at the very beginning of ITN show up, you know, you know, enough just show up how you are.

And we teach people that too, we teach our clients to show up at the gym, how you are now. You don’t have to need there already. So really I’m focusing on instead of have, do be I’m focusing on be, do have. So being before I have the thing and really just showing up as my authentic self.

[00:25:36] Cynthia Garcia: Now if you want more resources and you want to interact with people, just like you, who are on the same journey of discovering what feeds them, then head over to our Facebook community. It’s simply called the transformation generation and you can find it just by searching on Facebook. You can also find it in the show.

Where you’ll also find other resources for this episode. And that is over at All right. Thank you so, so much for joining me today and I will see you next week for a brand new episode.


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