What Are Good Brain Foods?

What foods increase memory and concentration?

We are often asked by clients: what foods should I eat while doing neurofeedback training?  A common question from parents who want to help their kids' overall health as well as improve their kids' school performance.  The second group to ask are aging adults who are looking to enhance their memory while they age and professionals who want to stay as mentally clear and focused at work.   We'll share some clear foods that benefit the brain and ones to stay away from, regardless of your age.

What Are the foods for studying and focus?  

The answer is the same healthy diet that everyone should eat to maximize brain health!  But here are some specifics foods to eat for that are good for your brain health and some to avoid.

What Brain foods to avoid

1.  Sugar.

 Sugar is a toxin, when you use the definition of chronic toxicity (not acute: it won't kill you upon consumption!).  As an anecdote, a pathologist friend told me that in 1965 he took his entire family off of sugar.  "It was the best thing I could do to ensure the longevity of their lives."  


In 2015 Dr. Robert Lustig, from the department of pediatrics at the University of California, San Fran published a dramatic study proving that sugar was toxic in a very unique study of childrens' diets and the effects of sugar when you control for calorie intake.  Today, the average kid consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar every day, largely as corn syrup in sodas and processed foods. (Read article by Dr. Mark Hyman)

  • sugary drinks, including fruit juice (the body processes these fruit sugars as fast as sugar cane or corn syrup when the fruit's fiber isn't consumed at the same time.  In other words: eat an apple, stay away from apple juice.)
  • desserts, candies, cookies, candy bars
  • honey (yes, the body still metabolizes it as sugar!)
  • sugary cereals, including many granolas, which hide the amount of sugar in them by marketing themselves as "natural" foods

2.  Sugar from "white foods".  

The first category includes what we all associate with "sugar" but this second one is about simple carbohydrates, which the body breaks down very quickly into sugars.  A great documentary to watch on this topic is Fed Up by Katie Couric and Laurie David.

  • breads, bagels, tortillas
  • starchy vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes (better than potatoes), corn
  • potato chips, tortilla chips

3.  Bad fats.  

Bad fats cause inflammation in the body.  This topic is greatly debated and unfortunately, highly politicized, with lobbyist in the sugar/soda industry pointing the finger at all fats as the culprit in degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, rather than own up to the most recent research showing sugars as the main problem.  Here's a good short article on the topic by nutrition expert Dr. Mark Hyman, author of "Eat Fat, Get Thin."  

What are the fats to avoid?

  • Trans fats (Partially Hydrogenated Oils) found in: vegetable shortening, margarine, fast foods, such as french fries, microwave popcorn, potato chips
  • Hydrogenated Soybean Oil (look on ingredients of packaged foods)
  • Vegetable Oils which highly refined and processed oils include corn, soybean, canola, safflower, and sunflower oils. 

4. Allergens.

 Common food sensitivities/allergies in children with attention issues are food colorings, dairy, soy and gluten to name the most common.  

We observe in our neurofeedback center in NYC, Boulder, Portland and L.A., that when a child has a healthy diet we see positive shifts in their school performance and mood faster than kids whose diets contain a lot of processed foods and sugars.  

If you think there may be food allergies affecting your health, a safe way to find out is to do an elimination diet for kids and adults to see if diet is contributing to mental fogginess, and inability to focus being caused by allergic reactions.


What is the best Brain Foods?  

Foods that contribute to brain health

1.  Good fats.  These are the types of fat that protect the heart and brain and decrease inflammation:  Extra-virgin, cold-pressed, organic coconut oil and olive oil, grass-fed butter.

2.  Nutswalnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamia--great for fuel and contain the good fats the brain uses as building blocks.

3.  High quality proteins.  Organic, unprocessed, grass-fed local producers.  Replace those simple carbohydrates--breads, pizzas, cereals--with high quality protein found in grass-fed meats, sardines, herring and wild salmon, all high in Omega 3 oils.  It will cost you more in the short term grocery bills but save you in the long-term health of your brain and the health-care costs for degenerative illnesses.

4.  Green and leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli (the last three kids usually love).

5.  Special brain foods: seaweed and grass-fed organ meats.  Read the work of Dr. Wahls, who had a dramatic impact on her Multiple Sclerosis through changing her diet to brain-healthy foods.  She researched the foods that are essential for the brain's ability to create myelination sheaths on neurons and support the health of the mitochondria (power house) of the human cell, both of which are key to MS deterioration.  Here's an interview with her describing her diet.

6.  Low sugar fruits (berries) and a variety of colorful vegetables: every color of berry and variety of colored vegetables to ensure vitamins are being consumed.  Bright colors in fruits and vegetables is a sign we're getting the variety of vitamins and minerals we need.

There's a lot we can do to boost our well-being and keep our brain healthy --not just in kids, but also for adults as well.  


Support Your Mental Wellness and Wellbeing with NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback 

As neurofeedback is recognized and written about in the news, consumers ask: what is the best neurofeedback equipment and what are my training options? At Neurofeedback Training Co. we offer NeurOptimal neurofeedback sessions and neurofeedback at home to rent or for sale.  Schedule a session at one of our locations (New YorkBoulder or Pasadena) or consider renting a unit for a more convenient and cost-effective. We ship directly to your home! 

Learn more about renting a home system


Article written by Natalie Baker, Mom, Licensed Psychotherapist in NYC, Advanced NeurOptimal Neurofeedback Trainer and founder of Neurofeedback Training Co.

*NeurOptimal® is a training, not a treatment. Consequently, NeurOptimal®does not require diagnosis or treatment planning. You should be under the care of a physician for any medical disorder.


Natalie N. Baker, LMHC, is the founder of Neurofeedack Training Co. and certified Advanced NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback trainer. She holds a Master's Degree in Counseling and has been working as a psychotherapist since 1999. As a practicing Buddhist since 1991 and a meditation teacher since 1998, Natalie combines her Western and Eastern approaches to bring a broader perspective to mental health and wellness. In 2010 she added neurofeedback therapy to her practice as additional support for optimizing wellness.

Expertise: Psychotherapy, Neurofeedback & NeurOptimal Trainer Representative. 

Location: New York City, 32 Union Square, E1017, NY 10003
Email: Natalie@neurofeedbacktraining.com
Phone: 347-860-4778