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Food Habits And Their Effects On Brain Activity

Author :

Abhishek Dutta

Post Uploaded Date : September 9, 2023 Last Updated Date : April 1, 2024
Good food plays an essential role in the proper functioning of the brain. Some of the best foods for brain health are berries, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, fatty fish, tea, and coffee, whereas some of the foods that are not good for the brain are alcohol, refined carbohydrates, sugary drinks, highly processed food items and foods high in trans fats.

From a very young age, we’re taught that eating proper meals helps us feel our physical best. What we’re not always taught is that good nutrition significantly nourishes the brain, which in turn improves our cognitive functions, such as our ability to think, learn, remember, and concentrate.  

Conversely, a poor diet can lead to impaired decision-making, fatigue, and slow down reaction time. In fact, an inadequate diet can lead to various mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. 

This blog discusses food habits and their effects on brain activity and will make you aware of which foods are best for your brain health.

What Is Brain Food?

Brain food is defined as any food that contains nutrients that promote brain function or any meal consumed for the motive of energizing the brain or increasing the power of intellectual thought [1].  

How Does Food Affect Your Brain?

The food we eat influences neurons (the major cells of the brain). An unhealthy diet causes inflammation of these neurons and inhibits the formation or development of new brain cells or neurons. This, in turn, can affect the way our brain works and can cause several mental disorders such as depression.  

Studies have compared traditional diets such as the Mediterranean diet (a diet consisting of plant-based food and healthy fats) with typical Western diets and have found the risk of depression is 25% to 35% lower in those who eat or consume a traditional meal [2]. 

What Food Is Good For The Brain?

Five foods for brain health or Foods that improve brain function are discussed below.

Fatty Fish – 

Fatty fish are a great brain food example. They are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids that have been linked to reducing blood levels of beta-amyloid-the protein that develops damaging clumps in the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Consuming omega-3 improves memory ability, cognitive well-being, learning, and blood flow into the brain, says Ibrahim M Dighriri et al. in a study published online in the year 2022 [3].  

Berries –

Flavonoids (natural plant pigment) present in berries help in improving memory. Women who consumed two or more servings of blueberries and strawberries each week delayed memory decline for 2.5 years, according to a study done by researchers at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital [4]. 

Walnuts –

Nuts are an abundant source of healthy fats and proteins. Higher consumption of walnuts improved cognitive test scores, according to a 2015 study from UCLA. Walnuts contain high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a type of omega-3 fatty acid, and diets rich in ALA have been linked to cleaner arteries and lower blood pressure. Therefore, it is good for both heart and brain health. 

Green Leafy Vegetables –

Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, kale, and collards are rich in nutrients such as folate, beta carotene, lutein, and vitamin K, which are healthy brain foods. 

Consumption of these vegetables may help to slow the decline in cognitive abilities with older age, says Martha Clare Morris et al. in a 2018 review [5].  

Coffee And Tea – 

The caffeine in your morning cup of tea or coffee might offer benefits to the brain. According to a 2014 study, participants with higher caffeine consumption scored good marks on a test of mental function. Caffeine might also help solidify new memories, according to another research [6]. 

Tips For Eating Healthy – 

  • Create a healthy shopping list and stick to it. 
  • Don’t shop when you’re hungry; you’ll end up buying unhealthy foods.
  • Consume plenty of good fats; this will improve your brain function.
  • Stay away from processed foods.
  • Have healthy snack options when you’re hungry, such as nuts, sweet potatoes,  and fruits, among others.  

Best Nutrients For Brain Health – Mental Health And Nutrition

Five best nutrients for brain health – 

Iron – 

This is an essential mineral responsible for cognitive development and brain functions such as oxygen transportation, DNA synthesis, myelin synthesis, neurotransmitter synthesis (chemical messengers of the brain), and metabolism [7]. 

Vitamin D –

It is well known that vitamin D is good for bone development. However, you must also be aware that it is important for the brain as well. This sunshine vitamin reduces the risk of dementia in the elderly population.

Vitamin B –

Vitamin B, such as B6, B12, and folate, helps in the communication of the nerves and brain. They are involved in the formation of neurotransmitters or brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine, all of which are responsible for improving mood.

Folic acid preserves brain health, boosts food, and is also good for heart diseases. 

In addition, a deficiency of vitamin B-12 can cause nerve damage, low moods, and memory loss. Therefore, it is essential that you’re getting vitamin B in your diet.  

Vitamin C – 

Vitamin C is an antioxidant (compounds that protect the cells from free radicles) that is present at the highest level in the brain. Having higher amounts of this vitamin in the blood is associated with improvement in tasks involving memory, focus, attention, and decision speed.  

Additionally, vitamin C supports brain health as you age and protects against conditions such as anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder. 

Zinc –

Zinc is a nutrient that plays a crucial role in the enhancement of memory and cognitive functions. It regulates your mood by controlling the levels of the neurotransmitter or chemical messenger serotonin and, therefore, improves the symptoms of anxiety and depression.  

Zinc is also associated with regulating your sleep-wake cycle and has a direct impact on sleep quality.

Alternatives to Improve Brain Functioning

Apart from a healthy diet, there are also certain medications, such as “Modafinil,” that is used by millions of people to improve their cognitive functions.  
The nootropic starts its working within 30 minutes after administration. It is well tolerated by most people and has fewer side effects compared to other medications of the same class, making it a great choice for better brain functioning.  

Bad Foods For The Brain

Five bad foods for brain health are discussed below – 

Sugary Drinks 

Drinks containing high amounts of sugar, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, sports, and energy drinks, increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. High-fructose corn syrup, the primary ingredient of these drinks, can cause brain inflammation and impair memory and learning. Therefore, such sugary drinks must be avoided. 


Excessive consumption of alcohol has been linked with detrimental effects on brain health, leading to behavioral changes, memory loss, and sleep disruption. The high-risk group includes young adults, pregnant women, and teenagers. Long-term intake of alcohol reduces brain volume, disruption of neurotransmitters, and metabolic changes.  

Highly Processed Foods

Processed foods are high in added fats, salts, and sugar. Some examples of processed foods are sweets, instant noodles, chips, ready-made meals, and microwave popcorn. These type of foods causes weight gain and is associated with a decline in brain tissue.

Foods High In Trans Fats 

Trans fats occur naturally in some food products such as meat and dairy but, produced trans fats – hydrogenated vegetable oils – are the most detrimental. These artificial trans fats are present in snack foods, ready-made cakes, and some types of cookies. It can have a dangerous impact on brain health and is linked with impaired memory and the risk of Alzheimer’s.  

Refined Carbohydrates 

Consuming refined carbohydrates (carbs that have undergone processing to remove their vitamins, minerals, and natural fibers) results in decreased mental alertness, increased risk of dementia, and poor memory. It happens due to the inflammation of the hippocampus, a part of the brain that is linked with the aspects of memory.

The Bottom Line – Healthy Brain, Happy Life!

The brain performs various essential functions, including regulating our mental well-being as well as physical health. Therefore, we should work hard to keep it healthy. 

To keep our brain healthy, we should focus on our food choices since our diet has a huge impact on our brain health.


Does eating healthy make you happier?

Yes, according to researchers, eating healthy, particularly vegetables and fruits, protein, and whole grains can make you happy.

What are the three foods that fight memory loss?

The three foods that fight memory loss are green leafy vegetables, fish, and berries.

Can eating less cause brain fog?

Not eating enough throughout the day can cause brain fog.

Does the brain need carbs or fats?

The primary source of fuel for the brain is fats, whereas carbohydrates provide the brain with glucose.

What vitamin deficiency causes a lack of focus?

Low levels of B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and omega-3 fatty acids cause a lack of focus.

What is the brain’s preferred fuel source?

Glucose is the brain’s preferred fuel source

What are the effects of an unhealthy diet?

Some of the effects of an unhealthy diet are obesity, high blood pressure, decreased energy levels, reduced immunity, cardiovascular diseases, etc.


  1. Brainfood, Wiktionary

  2. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food, Harvard.

  3. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review, NCBI

  4. Berries keep your brain sharp, brighamandwomens

  5. Nutrients and bioactives in green leafy vegetables and cognitive decline, NCBI

  6. Caffeine has positive effect on memory, Johns Hopkins researchers say, jhu

  7. The impact of brain iron accumulation on cognition: A systematic review, NCBI

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