Your brain works hard all day long, so feed it well. Your diet can easily influence your emotions, ability to focus, energy levels, and so much more. A nutritionist shares her favorite brain-boosting foods and how to get them in your diet.

Fresh salmon on a plate with herbsShare on Pinterest
Giorgio Fochesato/Offset Images

We all feel pretty tired every now and then. Our brains might feel foggy, or we just feel mentally (and physically) exhausted.

The good news is that, just like a diet that’ll help your digestive health or immunity, there’s brain food out there that can help promote your energy and fight fatigue.

Certain vitamins and minerals in foods can even help keep your brain sharp by battling a foggy mind or even memory loss. You can also get certain nutrients from food that will make you feel more awake and ready to tackle your day.

To help strengthen and energize your mind, here are some of my favorite “brain foods” — plus ideas for how to work them into your everyday wellness routine.

The omega-3 fatty acids in fish keep your brain at the top of its game. This healthy type of polyunsaturated fatty acid is found in abundance in salmon and has been shown to help fight fatigue.

More specifically, one study found that those with chronic fatigue syndrome could benefit from adding more omega-3s to their diet. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), both of which are found in salmon, actually helped those with chronic fatigue.

Other research focusing on children actually found that those who eat fish more frequently get a better night’s rest, which translates to better energy the next day.

To add more good news: Other science says that the omega-3 in fish can even keep your mind sharp by fighting off Alzheimer’s disease.

As you can see, there are several benefits to adding fish to your meal plan.

How to get it in your diet

Aim to eat two servings of a fish a week. One serving is 2 to 3 ounces, about the size of your palm. Look for wild-caught rather than farm-raised salmon for more nutrient-dense fish.

You can purchase wild fish at most grocery stores. Just look on the label for details on where it’s coming from. You should easily be able to spot the “wild caught” stamp.

A healthy way to prepare fish is either baked in the oven or on the stovetop. You can add veggies and bake in foil for a quick, delicious meal.

Another one of my favorite dishes, which you can easily add wild-caught fish to, is a nourishing macro bowl. Check out how to make your own with these tips.

A staple of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil may help protect memory and learning ability and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, suggests a study on mice. These health benefits of olive oil likely come from vitamin E (which can also help boost immunity) and other antioxidants that help fight off free radicals in the body and brain.

Olive oil also provides anti-inflammatory benefits that can help fight off illnesses throughout the body, including the brain. Lowering inflammation can help counteract fatigue, too.

How to get it in your diet

Buy olive oil stamped “extra virgin” to gain all the health benefits. This oil is unrefined (meaning it’s not processed) and cold-repressed, preserving all its health advantages.

Because of its lower smoke point, it’s best to use olive oil in salad dressings, dips, and with anything that cooks at a lower temperature. Try using olive oil in this lemon shallot dressing, or add it it to this delicious poached egg dish.

Aim to use no more than a tablespoon when using olive oil to cook.

Avocados, one of my favorite foods, contain monounsaturated healthy fats, which provide sustained energy throughout the day. They’re also high in magnesium and potassium, which help improve blood flow — and better blood flow means a healthier brain.

Also, research shows that the lutein (a carotenoid) that avocados provide can improve the ability to think.

What’s more, avocados have been associated with generally better health in people who eat them. Research shows that those who do consume the fatty food have better diet quality overall, higher nutrient intake, and lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

Avocados contain tons of vitamins and minerals that help your body function properly and will benefit your brain and your energy. Besides magnesium and potassium, you also get vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as folate — to name just a few top must-haves.

How to get it in your diet

There are countless ways to add avocado to your meals. It’s one of the best to add to salads, smoothies, or even just as a topping to a main dish. Try to stick to just half an avocado in each meal.

You can try this two-minute smoothie, gazpacho, or dark chocolate mousse (all featuring avocado) for starters.

To make sure you’re buying a good, ripe avocado, give it a little squeeze. It should feel soft but not super squishy. Try to eat it within a day or two of hitting that texture.

Jam-packed with tons of vitamins and minerals, leafy greens offer a plethora of fatigue-fighting benefits.

Because most greens (like spinach, kale, and collard greens) contain high levels of vitamin C and even some iron, they can help fight fatigue caused by an iron deficiency — a common cause of tiredness.

Also, leafy greens contain nitrates, which improve blood flow throughout the body. This not only benefits the brain, but helps keep you awake.

One study even found that those who ate just one serving of leafy greens a day could slow the cognitive decline that comes from aging.

How to get it in your diet

You can find dark leafy greens at any supermarket. Choose anything from collard greens and kale to spinach. Make sure you wash the greens before you eat them unless the package says it’s prewashed (though it never hurts to give it an extra rinse).

There are tons of ways to incorporate more greens into your everyday meals. Try mixing them in smoothies, salads (like this delicious massaged kale one, which you can make the night before and it won’t go soggy), sandwiches, or cooking them up to serve as a side dish.

See, it’s that easy! You have a choice to boost your brain health at every meal. It’s easier than you think — and super delicious too.

McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN, is the Founder of Nutrition Stripped, a nutrition education company making it simple to learn the science of nutrition and the art of healthy living—with online education programs, monthly memberships, free articles, healthy recipes, and the “Nutrition Stripped” cookbook. Her work has been featured in Women’s Health Magazine, SELF, Shape, Today’s Dietitian and more.”