A Day of Meal Ideas for Brain Health and Longevity

Eat your way to a better thinker with these ingredients.

woman preparing healthy meal in kitchen
Photo: M_a_y_a / Getty Images

You are what you eat—and that's especially true when it comes to your brain. The foods you consume can help your brain stay in peak shape (and help keep you sharp). That's why we asked Jill Castle, a dietitian and advisor to Brainiac Foods, about the meals and ingredients you should consume for the health and longevity of your thinker.

Try protein-rich peanut butter toast or a yogurt smoothie for breakfast.

To eat your way to a better brain, Castle says to focus on making sure protein is a starring part of your diet. "Protein and its amino acids are building blocks of the brain," she affirms, "and [create its] components, like neurons and neurotransmitters—plus, protein helps build the structure and size of your brain." Add protein food sources to each meal and most snacks, she says, noting that foods like peanut butter, poultry, beef, beans, yogurt, and other dairy items are optimal sources. Come breakfast, for example, that might mean putting some peanut butter on whole grain toast or filling up on a yogurt smoothie.

Make a sandwich loaded with healthy fats for lunch.

It may sound counterintuitive, but Castle notes that certain high-fat foods are actually good for the brain. "Fatty fish like salmon, nuts, avocado, olives, and plant oils (especially olive oil) are sources of healthy fats," she explains. "Omega-3 DHA is especially helpful and can be found in seafood and fortified foods such as yogurt and eggs." The reason why fats are so important? It keeps the brain's gray matter—which is composed of fats—healthy. "More than half of the brain is made up of fat," Castle explains. "DHA is a prominent omega-3 fat in the brain and is necessary for the creation, movement, organization, and connectivity of the brain's neurons." To get your fill of fats during lunch, consider layering up some tasty favorites on a sandwich. Castle suggests adding turkey, avocado, lettuce, and tomato to whole grain bread; try a yogurt parfait with berries and walnuts on the side for a sweet, nutritious treat.

Go for an nutrient-rich dinner, like grilled salmon, whole grain couscous, and sautéed vegetables.

A good way to make sure your brain is staying healthy is to keep your food choices nutrient rich. "The brain requires a variety of nutrients, such as choline, iron, zinc, the B vitamins, and more to support its development and health over time," Castle explains. "These nutrients are in foods like whole grains (iron, zinc, B vitamins), animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy (choline, iron, zinc and B vitamins and more), and beans and other legumes (iron, zinc, B vitamins), for example." The thing that makes several of these nutrients such potent longevity boosters involves their impact on brain function. "Choline is involved in brain cell structure, neurotransmission, and memory processing and storage," she says. "Iron is required for the normal anatomy of the brain and information transmission across the brain. And zinc is needed for all the main functions of the brain." Transform this list into a tasty, nutrient-rich dinner with grilled salmon, whole grain couscous, and sautéed or roasted vegetables (with olive oil!)—and a sweet side like applesauce, notes our expert.

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