June 6, 2023

Exploring Plant-Based Brain Food

Nourishing your mind with the power of vegan food

In today’s hectic world, maintaining mental clarity, focus, and overall cognitive function is of utmost importance. I’ll be bold now and state that everyone should put their nutrition first.

Busy people tend to opt for less healthy food options, skip meals, don’t eat well or overeat without ensuring enough quality. It’s often too late until one realises the effects bad nutrition has on overall health, beginning with proper brain functioning.

Photo by ready made

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Nutrition & brain health

The connection between nutrition and brain health & performance is truly fascinating.

Does food affect brain health at all? In short: Yes.

There are some things you should take into account though. When I’m referring to a vegan diet here I’m talking about a balanced and well-rounded whole foods plant-based diet.

Now this provides a variety of macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, fibres, antioxidants and healthy fats, among other secondary plant compounds, that support cognitive function and overall gut & brain health.

Nature is providing us with an array of plant-based foods that can supercharge our brainpower and contribute to optimal brain health. Some of them you could call superfoods, but in my opinion, any whole plant-based food in the right amount is superfood.

Our brains play a role in inflammation in the body through a complex communication network known as the brain-immune axis. Certain types of food have the ability to help reduce chronic inflammation in the body, which is associated with various diseases.

Brain food

Food categories that enhance brain function and fight inflammation include:

  • berries
  • leafy greens
  • cruciferous vegetables
  • nuts & seeds
  • legumes
  • whole grains
  • dark chocolate

Fruit & veggies

Berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries…)

Berries are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that have been linked to improved brain function and memory. They have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, protect against age-related cognitive decline, and even enhance communication between brain cells.

Leafy Greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, microgreens, collard…)

Leafy green vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are excellent sources of folate, vitamin K, and lutein, which are associated with improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage…)

Such vegetables are part of the cruciferous family and are rich in antioxidants and compounds with anti-inflammatory properties. They contain high levels of vitamin C, folate, and other essential nutrients that support brain health and protect against cognitive decline.

Nuts & seeds

Nuts like walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews and more are excellent, if not necessary, for brain health, structure and function. Nuts, in turn, reduce inflammation and generally help promote healthy neurotransmitter activity.

The same applies to seeds like flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, poppy seeds and others.

Legumes & whole grains

Legumes, among others, are different kinds of beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Since they are rich in fibre, protein, and complex carbohydrates, they provide a steady supply of glucose to the brain, support stable blood sugar levels, and offer nutrients that promote brain health.

Whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, oats, and whole wheat also provide a steady release of glucose, supplying the brain with a constant source of energy. They also contain nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, and fiber, which support brain health and cognitive function overall.

Photo by alleksana

Dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa content)

Good quality dark chocolate contains flavonoids, antioxidants, and caffeine that can enhance cognitive function, boost mood, and improve blood flow to the brain. It may also provide neuroprotective benefits, meaning protecting brain cells from damage, injury, or degeneration.


Have you noticed how walnuts have the shape of a human brain?

Brain health benefits: The omega-3 fatty acids found in walnuts are particularly beneficial for brain health. They have been linked to improved cognitive function, memory, and learning. Omega-3s play a crucial role in maintaining the structure and function of brain cells, they have anti-inflammatory properties, and they are believed to have a neuroprotective effect, potentially reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline.


Turmeric is a yellow spice commonly used in curry dishes and is known for its active compound called curcumin. Curcumin has been studied for its potential to cross the blood-brain barrier and exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may support brain health and protect against neurodegenerative diseases.

Certainly not brain food

Omega 6 — Omega 3 ratio

The effectiveness of omega-3 fatty acids, including those from walnuts, as mentioned above, in promoting brain health is influenced by the balance between omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the diet.

The recommended balance between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is ideally between 1:1 and 4:1. Unfortunately, the typical Western diet differs significantly from this ideal ratio, often surpassing 20:1 in favour of omega-6 fatty acids. This imbalance has been linked to increased inflammation levels and an increased likelihood of developing chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis.

Arachidonic acid & Inflammation

Arachidonic acid, is a type of fat, mostly present in animal products like meat, eggs and dairy and it is not commonly present in significant amounts in plant-based foods.

However, it’s important to note that our bodies can also produce arachidonic acid from other fats, such as linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid found in plant oils like sunflower oil, soybean oil, and corn oil. So while plant-based foods may not directly provide arachidonic acid, they can indirectly contribute to its production in the body.

Excessive levels of arachidonic acid metabolites, especially from animal products, such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes, can contribute to the initiation and perpetuation of inflammation. These metabolites have pro-inflammatory properties and can promote vasodilation, increase vascular permeability, and recruit immune cells to the site of inflammation.

The alkaline diet & alkaline food

Especially if you believe in the benefits of the alkaline diet and wish to follow it, it is smart to go for a vegan alkaline diet. Animal products are for the most part, acidic and plant-based food, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, are typically alkaline or alkaline-forming due to their mineral composition.

So, by adopting a vegan alkaline diet, you would primarily focus on consuming plant-based foods that are considered alkaline-promoting.

Note that simply focusing on the pH of individual foods may overlook other important aspects of a healthy diet, such as macronutrient balance, overall nutrient intake, and individual dietary needs. It’s always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes to your diet.

You can read more about The Alkaline Diet: pH Levels and Optimal Health here.

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