8 Brain Foods for a Healthy Mind

8 Brain Foods for a Healthy Mind

In today’s busy world it is easy to forget about the basic guidelines for healthy eating, including the importance of eating three square meals a day. But did you know that certain foods are considered good for your brain health and overall brain function?

We’ve rounded up our favorite “brain foods” that have been proven to help with focus, memory, and keeping you feeling more awake, alert and energized throughout your day. The following is a list of eight super-foods that should be part of your weekly meal plan. Each food will include information about the health benefits for specific brain-related function, as well as a quick recipe suggestion. So whether you’re looking for foods to help with memory, to help wake you up, or perhaps even to help you concentrate, these amazing nutritious foods are sure to provide.

1 – Avocado


Avocados are one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. They contain fiber, potassium, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and all of the B vitamins. Avocados are also high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats known as omega-3 fatty acids, which can help keep your heart and brain healthy. Eating avocados can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Avocado Toast Recipe

  • ½ ripe avocado
  • 1 slice whole wheat bread
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Toast the slice of bread in the toaster or in a pan. Scoop the avocado out of its peel and use a fork to mash it on top of the toast. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.

2 – Nuts


Eating a small handful of nuts each day is a great snack that is high in fiber, protein, unsaturated fat and a slew of vitamins and minerals. Each type of nut offers an array of nutrients. For example, cashews are high in zinc, iron and magnesium, which can aid in the improvement of memory loss and memory related diseases. Walnuts contain significant amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, which is one of the three omega-3 fatty acids that is essentially food for our brain and keeps our brains healthy active and alive from birth and throughout our life.

Spicy Cajun Nut Mix Recipe

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1 lb. bag of raw mixed nuts

Heat a large sauté pan or wok to medium heat with oil. Add the spices to the oil and cook for a few minutes just to warm through. Add the mixed nuts and mix well, stirring constantly to coat the nuts well with the seasoning. Remove from the pan when the nuts begin to look and smell toasted. Enjoy warm or room temperature.

3 – Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate

Not just any chocolate will do on this list, and specifically its dark chocolate that has most of the brain health benefits. For starters, the flavonoids in dark chocolate improve blood flow to the brain increasing your attention span, your reaction time, your problem solving skills and your memory. Additionally, eating dark chocolate releases endorphins in our brain reducing stress levels and pain in the body. Chocolate also contains high levels of tryptophan, which is a neurotransmitter of feeling happy.

Chocolate-Dipped Blackberries Recipe

  • 6 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pint black berries
  • Chopped walnuts, for garnish (optional)

Melt the chopped dark chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds or until smooth. Dip each black berry halfway into the chocolate then place on a plate. Sprinkle with chopped walnut pieces for extra crunch. Let the chocolate harden on the berries before serving.

4 – Blueberries


According to a study at Tufts University, blueberries if eaten regularly can help with short-term memory loss. Other studies show that blueberries can also slow the aging process and age related diseases. In the short term, these magic berries can also help to improve your ability to learn and can improve your motor function and skills.

Blueberry Pudding Recipe

  • 1 package (6 ounces) blueberries
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon apple juice
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds

In the bowl of a blender add blueberries, coconut milk, agave nectar, apple juice and chia seeds. Blend mixture until blueberries are well pureed. Refrigerate pudding or serve room temperature.

5 – Salmon


Eating fish that is high in essential fatty acids is one of the best sources of protein and other nutrients for your body and your brain. Since the body does not make essential fatty acids naturally they must be consumed by our diet. Oily fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, and sardines contains the highest amounts of EFAs and DHAs. High levels of DHAs improve memory loss and can reduce the risk of all memory related diseases like dementia and basic brain atrophy due to the natural aging process.

Salmon Cucumber Coins Recipe

  • ½ cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill
  • 24 slices cucumber
  • 4 oz smoked salmon, cut into 24 pieces

In a small bowl, stir together the Greek yogurt, capers and chopped dill. Place 1 teaspoon of yogurt sauce onto each cucumber slice. Top each with a piece of smoked salmon and a small sprig of dill and serve immediately.

6 – Beets


Beets are not only high in vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, fiber, folate, manganese and potassium but they have also been proven to increase blood flow to the brain. Eating beets can improve your overall mental performance and brain function simply because the nitrates in beets convert to nitric oxide in your body which helps you relax and dilates the blood vessels in your brain lowering your blood pressure.

Roasted Beets Recipe

  • 12 beets
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the tops and the roots of the beets and peel each one with a vegetable peeler. Cut the beets in 1 1/2-inch chunks. Place the cut beets on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, turning once or twice with a spatula, until the beets are tender. Remove from the oven and immediately toss with your favorite vinaigrette dressing and enjoy.

7 – Broccoli


Eating your green vegetables has never been more important then when relating it to your overall brain health. Broccoli contains high levels of Vitamin K and choline, which helps to strengthen your cognitive brain functions and improves your memory. Broccoli also contains a lot of folic acid, which can help to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and can help keep you feeling happy and ward off depression. Additionally it is high in lignans, which has been shown to benefit our brains ability to perform its basic functions like thinking, reasoning, remembering, imagining and learning words.

Oven-Roasted Broccoli Crisps Recipe

  • 1 head broccoli, washed and completely dried
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Cut broccoli into florets and place in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over broccoli with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Transfer to a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for at least 25 minutes or until the broccoli is crispy and crunchy, but not completely burned. There will be burned edges on some florets which is what gives these chips their irresistible crunchy texture and crispy, caramelized flavor.

8 – Whole Grains

Whole Grains

These foods can come in the form of whole-wheat pasta, wheat and whole grain breads, brown rice, and oats. The reason that these foods are considered magical energy for the brain is because whole grains are low glycemic foods and will keep the blood sugar stable for longer than eating refined or white grains. Whole grains very minimally alter your glucose level in the body and will slowly supply glucose to your blood and brain overtime, helping you concentrate for longer and stay focused throughout your day.

Steel-Cut Oats and Banana Recipe

  • 1 cup Steel Cut Oats
  • 3 cups water
  • Pinch salt
  • Banana, sliced

Bring 3 cups water and salt to a boil then add 1 cup Steel-Cut Oats. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook stirring occasionally for 10 – 15 minutes (or to your desired doneness). Remove from heat and let stand covered for a couple of minutes. Spoon into a bowl and serve with slices of banana on top.


5 Sweet Candy/Cookie Combinations

5 Sweet Candy/Cookie Combinations

In the kitchen, it can be all too easy to stick to what you know and love. This is especially true when it comes to baking, where an experiment gone wrong can land you with a batch of rock-hard gingersnaps, bitter brownies, or cake so gooey you would need a spoon to eat it.

On the other hand, playing it safe means your results are reliable, but never a delightful surprise. Some of the most delicious foods out there came from bakers and chefs who tried something new, often by mixing things that they love. So we decided to experiment by putting two of our favorite things together: cookies and candy.

Between those two types of treats, there’s a seemingly endless list of possible combinations, and not all of them are going to be a match made in heaven. We tested a variety of cookie/candy combinations to take the pressure off busy home cooks who might not have time to bake and eat several batches of treats. (You’re welcome!) These are a few of our favorites.

1. Reese’s Pieces + Double-Chocolate Cookie

Reese's Pieces

Why it works

Chocolate and peanut butter are always a winning combination when it comes to taste, but these cookies have a beautiful feel as well. The crunch of the candy shell followed by the buttery smoothness of the Reese’s Pieces adds a nice creamy texture to a type of cookie that can often taste a little dry. The option of boosting the peanut butter flavor with extra Reese’s Pieces or adding more chocolate in the form of chocolate chips also lets you customize this cookie to get the taste you like best.


Based on the Hershey’s recipe for Chewy Chocolate Cookies: https://www.hersheys.com/recipes/en_US/recipes/5366/reeses-chewy-chocolate-cookies-with-peanut-butter-chips.html


  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or just a pinch if you’re using salted butter instead of unsalted)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine , softened
  • 1-2 cups of Reese’s Pieces
  • 1-2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional — change the amount of Reese’s Pieces accordingly, so you have about two cups total)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Then mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl — flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt — and set it aside.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar together in large bowl until fluffy. This works best with either a stand mixer or a handheld one. Then add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Gradually add the dry ingredients mixture, beating well as you go, but stop stirring when the ingredients are all combined, so you don’t overbeat the flour. Stir in the Reese’s Pieces and the chocolate chips, if you’re using them.
  3. Spoon out small rounds of cookie dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Each one should be about two teaspoons’ worth of dough.
  4. Bake for eight to nine minutes, or until the cookies look set but are a little soft in the middle. Be sure to let them cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving them to a rack. This recipe makes about four dozen cookies.

2. Heath Bars + Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie

Heath Bar

Why it works

We’ve tried the recipe below with both Heath bars and the chopped peanut butter cups it calls for. Both are delicious, but we think the Heath bars have a stronger flavor than the peanut butter cups, so in this version of the cookie, the candy stands out more. The toffee complements the chewiness of the oatmeal and the subtle peanut butter flavor in the cookie beautifully. As a bonus, you get more texture contrast with the caramel crunch that comes every time you bite into one of these mini masterpieces.


Based on the recipe for Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/07/24/peanut-butter-cup-oatmeal-cookies/


  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown works, too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind where you have to stir in the oil)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (160g) oats
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped Heath Bars


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients — flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder — together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, use a whisk to stir the melted butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar together until all the lumps are gone.
  4. Stir in the egg and then the peanut butter, mixing until everything is combined.  Finally, stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and mix them together with a large spoon or rubber spatula until they are just combined. The dough will be very soft and slick. Fold in the oats and the chopped Heath bars.
  6. Roll the dough into balls, about three tablespoons of dough each, and place on parchment paper on baking trays. If you have a cookie scoop, it’s very helpful with this recipe.
  7. Bake for about 11-12 minutes. The cookies will look very soft and under-baked, but take them out of the oven anyway. They won’t spread out all the way while baking, so lightly press down on each cookie using a spatula to help them flatten. Leave the cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, and then move them to a wire rack, so they can cool completely.

3. Peanut Butter Cups + Peanut Butter Cookie

Peanut Butter Cups

Why it works

This cookie has two upsides: First, a delicious peanut buttery flavor. Second, thanks to a mini muffin pan, a cute style that looks like you spent a lot of time crafting these treats, when in fact you just bought a log of dough at the store, because you can do that with this recipe. We didn’t, but our test kitchen has a lot of time on its hands and a great deal of enthusiasm for its new stand mixer.

But even without the premade dough, the peanut butter cookie recipe we used is straightforward, so this is a quick and easy way to impress your date. Just make sure you freeze the peanut butter cups ahead of time — it makes them much easier to press into those fresh-from-the-oven cookies.


Peanut Butter Cup Cookies from AllRecipes.com: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/9471/peanut-butter-cup-cookies/


  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (not the natural kind)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix together the dry ingredients — flour, salt and baking soda — and set the bowl aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk.
  4. Add the flour mixture little by little, and mix well. Stop stirring once the dry ingredients are fully combined with the wet.
  5. Shape into small rounds and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan. Each round should be about 2 ½ teaspoons to 1 tablespoon, depending on your muffin pan.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F for about eight minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Let them cool and then carefully remove from pan.

4. Whoppers + Chocolate Chip Cookie


Why it works

This is a candy you don’t often see baked into desserts. Until we stumbled across these recipes, we didn’t know our love of chocolate malts could be turned into a cookie at all. The chopped up Whoppers add both an unusual taste and texture, and the malted milk powder ensures that the delicious malt flavor is present in every bite. As a bonus, the bottoms of the cookies are almost caramelized.

We loved both versions of this cookie, so it comes down to whether you prefer a rich chocolate cookie or a buttery, lighter-flavored cookie. If you want to go for a retro sweetheart look with the finished batch, put out a plate of these alongside a classic chocolate malt — one glass, two straws.


Malted Chocolate Chip Whoppers Cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/malted-chocolate-chip-whoppers-cookies/


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup malted milk powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (or light brown)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped Whoppers candies (or any malted milk balls)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, malted milk powder, cornstarch, baking soda and sea salt together, and set the bowl aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy, which takes about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until combined.
  4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Mix until they’re just combined.
  5. Stir in the chocolate chips and malted milk balls last.
  6. Shape the cookie dough into tablespoon balls and place on prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  7. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until they’re slightly golden brown around the edges (but not in the middle). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for two minutes, and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. M&Ms + Brown Butter Cookie


Why it works

M&Ms do a great job of adding color to baked goods, and all of the different seasonal options make these an ideal candy for customizing your cookies. Take Valentine’s Day, for example. Those pink, red and white candies just radiate true love, don’t they?

But as colorful as they are, M&Ms aren’t the most flavorful candies out there, so we like them in a brown butter cookie, which has a richer, deeper flavor than your basic recipe, thanks to the nutty aroma of that butter. The milder candy taste provides a delicious balance with the buttery cookie, and it brings out the best in both. The original recipe calls for pretzels to create a lovely salty-sweet combination, but we’ll be honest: We were testing out all sorts of different candies, so we threw in some Twix bars for their crunch and a hint of caramel. It was awesome.


Based on the recipe for Brown Butter Pretzel M&M Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/03/05/brown-butter-pretzel-mm-cookies/


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flours
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of M&Ms
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of pretzels, Twix or another treat (you want to have 1 1/2 cups total between this and the M&Ms)


  1. First, make the brown butter. Melt the butter in a saucepan, over low-medium heat. Constantly stir the butter.  The butter will begin to bubble and get a bit foamy, and after a few minutes, you’ll see its color change to amber. Once you begin to see brown specks in the butter, remove it from the stove, pour into a shallow dish and refrigerate for one to two hours.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the solid brown butter for one minute on medium speed until completely smooth and creamy. This works well with either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar, and mix on medium speed until it’s nice and fluffy. Then mix in the egg and vanilla, making sure everything is evenly mixed.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt.
  5. On low speed, slowly mix the dry and wet ingredients until just combined. You don’t want to over mix the flour. The cookie dough will be quite thick.
  6. Add the M&Ms and mix for about five seconds until evenly disbursed, using either the mixer or a wooden spoon. Cover the dough tightly with aluminum foil or plastic wrap, and chill it in the refrigerator for at least one hour and up to two days. Chilling is not optional with this recipe!
  7. Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator, and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  8. Once it’s been chilled, the dough may be slightly crumbly, but it will come together if you work the dough with your hands as you roll it into individual balls. Each ball of dough should be about one tablespoon.
  9. Bake for eight to nine minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. The cookies will look extremely soft when you remove them from the oven, but that’s normal. Let them cool for five minutes on the cookie sheet. (The cookies will deflate slightly as they cool down.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Additional Sources:

  • “Cupid to Shower Americans with Jewelry, Candy this Valentine’s Day,” National Retail Foundation, Jan. 26, 2015, https://nrf.com/media/press-releases/cupid-shower-americans-jewelry-candy-this-valentines-day