The foods we eat play an important role not only in our physical appearance and performance, but also in our brain function. Packing your plate with brain-boosting foods can help enhance cognitive function by improving memory and increasing concentration. The natural compounds in some foods nurture important neurotransmitters, which improve cognitive abilities and may even help chase away depression and the risk of some degenerative diseases. Here are seven foods to improve brain power and make you smarter.

1. Dark chocolate



This delicious treat is filled with brain-boosting compounds, antioxidants and just enough caffeine to boost serotonin and put you in a good mood. Dark chocolate contains flavonol, which helps boost the circulatory system and promotes better blood flow to the brain. In a study conducted by Northumbria University in the U.K, researchers found that participants were less mentally drained and performed better on simple math tests after consuming a beverage rich in cocoa flavonols, compared to participants given a beverage without flavonols.

2. Blueberries



Known as one of the best brain foods due to its high levels of antioxidants, the blueberry contains anthocyanin, a compound that helps protect brain neurons linked to memory. According to a USDA study, a diet rich in blueberry extract may improve motor skills and short-term memory. This little berry may even help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Kale


(Rosie Acosta)

One of the reasons kale has recently gained fame as a super food is for its powerful anti-aging effects on the brain. Iron deficiencies have been linked to poor mood, foggy thinking and other cognitive thinking; kale is so rich in iron it can help you overcome these issues.  According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, eating kale helped lower brain age by one to two years.

4. Fatty fish



Coldwater, fatty fish, such as wild salmon and anchovies contain high levels of essential fatty acids EPA and DHA which have been linked to superior cognition, improved memory and reduced risk of degenerative mental diseases such as dementia. DHA is considered a vital nutrient when it comes to mental development and enhanced learning ability. Its polyunsaturated fats also help protect the brain from accelerated aging and can help boost mood and reduce depression.

5. Nuts



This wonderful, portable food, with a mix of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats is a perfect brain-boosting snack to add to your daily diet. Nuts are rich in vitamin E, which can help ease cognitive decline as you age. The brain-shaped walnut may be especially helpful. It contains protein, in addition to vitamin E, vitamin B and both omega-6 and omega 3 fatty acids, which are an excellent source of nourishment for the nervous system and may lead to clearer thinking and happier thoughts.

6. Garlic



Raw garlic is one of the most potent nutritional foods. It helps strengthen the cardiovascular system, which in turn provides positive benefits for brain functionality. Garlic also contains inflammation-reducing properties which may improve overall cognitive function including memory and learning abilities. Aged garlic extract has been shown to protect the brain against function loss and a study in The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging showed compelling evidence of dietary garlic as an alternative treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

7. Oysters



Typically known as a libido-or fertility-enhancing food, oysters also contain several nutrients vital for healthy brain function. Rich in selenium, magnesium and protein, this shellfish has been found to improve cognition and mood. Its high levels of iron and zinc can help increase concentration, sharpen memory and improve the ability to easily recall information.

Making these foods a part of your regular diet while decreasing your consumption of highly processed foods may help sharpen your thinking over time. Avoid large amounts of alcohol, sugars and corn syrup and include healthy sources of protein in each meal and snack. For the best benefits, choose wild caught fish and organic produce as often as possible, since some pesticides have been found to be neurotoxins that may lower IQ.