The Best Anti-Aging Foods for Your Brain 

by JJ Virgin on December 21, 2023

The human brain is a remarkable organ, weighing in at approximately three pounds on average while consuming roughly 20% of the body’s total calories. 

It also contains approximately 86 billion neurons, which help manage emotions, process information, and control essential functions like movement and breathing.1 

However, various factors can alter your brain function, particularly as you age. For example, free radicals can damage brain cells by overwhelming the body’s antioxidant defense system. This imbalance, known as oxidative stress, contributes to age-related cognitive decline.2 

Persistent, low-level inflammation (called chronic inflammation) can also lead to age-related diseases, including neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. Scientists have coined the term “inflammaging” to describe this phenomenon.3 

The good news is that your diet can support your brain’s vitality and health. Certain foods can reduce age-related decline in brain health, protect against neurodegenerative diseases, and enhance overall mental well-being. 

The Best Anti-Aging Foods for Your Brain 

Your brain requires diverse nutrients, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids to function optimally. These anti-aging foods provide the nutrients to support brain health and prevent age-related cognitive decline. 

1. Protein 

Protein plays a multifaceted role in preserving the youthful vitality of your brain. Your brain relies on amino acids, the fundamental building blocks of proteins, to orchestrate various essential functions. These amino acids are not just passive components but active contributors to brain health. 

Amino acids are the architects behind neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers. Take tryptophan, for example; it’s an amino acid that influences mood and regulates sleep by contributing to the production of serotonin. This not only impacts your daily disposition but can also play a part in the aging process of your brain.4 

Amino acids are also crucial for repairing and maintaining nerve cells and their intricate networks. They are the foundation upon which the strength of your brain cells is built, directly supporting functions like learning and memory.5 

But protein’s benefits extend beyond the cellular level. Protein-rich sources like lean meats, fish, and nuts often contain antioxidants like selenium and vitamin E. These antioxidants stand guard, shielding your brain cells from the ravages of oxidative stress, a primary driver of aging. 

Certain amino acids found in fish and nuts have also been associated with a reduced risk of age-related cognitive decline. These amino acids actively participate in the defense against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. 

Your body’s protein requirements may increase with physical or emotional stress. Adequate protein intake helps bolster the body’s stress response, potentially benefiting mental and emotional well-being. 

In one study, stress levels were significantly higher in women with lower protein intake, highlighting the connection between protein intake and stress management.6 

Some of my favorite brain-supporting high-protein foods include: 

  • Barbecued Chicken Skewers that satisfy everyone at the table without the sugar overload in traditional BBQ sauces.  
  • This warm Minestrone Soup makes a satisfying, protein-packed starter for any meal. 
  • These Easy Baked Avocado Egg Cups are a delicious way to get more protein (and the goodness of avocado). Of course, if you’re egg-intolerant, these aren’t for you! 

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

Healthy fats, especially omega-3s, are known for their powerful anti-inflammatory properties. They help reduce inflammation in the brain, which, in turn, may lower the risk of cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disease.7 

Omega-3s don’t just stop at preventing decline; they actively promote your brain’s performance. They support the structure of your brain and the health of nerve cells. This support system keeps your brain sharp and resilient as you age.8 

Omega-3s also influence the production and function of the brain’s chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which are responsible for your mood, mental clarity, and overall cognitive function. When you have enough of these essential fatty acids, your mood is better, your mind is clearer, and your cognitive abilities are more robust.9 

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): 

EPA not only supports your mood and emotional well-being, it also enhances the effectiveness of serotonin, a key player in mood regulation. Additionally, EPA plays a crucial role in maintaining cognitive function and memory. It’s like the brain’s maintenance crew, ensuring everything runs smoothly. 

DHA is an essential component of the brain’s cell membranes, which are vital for communication between brain cells. This communication network ensures your memory and cognitive function stay sharp as a tack, even as you age.10 

I’ve got lots of delicious, omega-3-packed seafood ideas on my recipes page. This Blackened Salmon works equally well as a main entree or atop a big, leafy salad. 

Even if you regularly eat wild-caught fish, meeting your omega-3 quota can be challenging. Omega Plus provides 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, with high amounts of EPA and DHA for optimal brain support in one easy-to-take softgel.* 

Other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:  

  • Walnuts are a fantastic source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and age-related brain diseases. Walnuts also contain antioxidants that combat oxidative stress in the brain.11 I’ve added walnuts to this Cucumber and Radish Salad with Arugula, Nuts, and Seeds. 
  • Both flax and chia seeds are rich in ALA, making them excellent plant-based sources of omega-3s.12 These seeds are also high in fiber, which supports stable blood-sugar levels and reduces the risk of insulin resistance, a condition associated with cognitive decline.13 Add them to this delicious ​​Stress-Busting Chocolate Berry Smoothie
  • Grass-fed beef stands out for its higher omega-3 fatty acid content than grain-fed beef. Additionally, it offers a valuable source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid known for its potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can help shield brain cells from harm. Grass-fed beef also contains elevated levels of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, crucial for brain function and a healthy nervous system.14 These Meatballs in Tomato Sauce combine grass-fed beef with flaxseeds for a double dose of anti-inflammatory fats. 

3. Non-Starchy Vegetables 

Non-starchy vegetables like leafy greens, bell peppers, and broccoli provide essential antioxidants that safeguard your brain cells from harmful free radicals, reducing the risk of cellular damage. 

They also contain compounds that actively combat brain inflammation. This not only lowers the risk of cognitive decline but also reduces the chances of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.15  

The antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties in non-starchy vegetables boost your brain’s performance, too. As you age, these nutrients help maintain cognitive abilities like memory, focus, and problem-solving skills. It’s like giving your brain a daily workout to stay sharp.16 

Non-starchy vegetables are also rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Optimal fiber intake can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and age-related brain disorders, and Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient found in these vegetables, aids in producing neurotransmitters crucial for mood regulation and overall mental well-being.17-18 

Sparkling C Powder provides therapeutic amounts of Vitamin C combined with three bioflavonoids (quercetin, hesperidin, and rutin) for broad-spectrum antioxidant support. The delicious, orange-flavored effervescent drink tastes delicious, with zero grams of sugar.*

Need some veggie ideas? This Steamed Broccoli with Garlic Oil Drizzle will satisfy even your most finicky eater. Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon takes cruciferous vegetables up a few notches (because everything tastes better with bacon). 

4. Berries 

Berries are rich in vitamins (including vitamin C), minerals, fiber, and antioxidants like anthocyanins, flavonoids, and polyphenols. These antioxidants protect brain cells from oxidative stress, again reducing the risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.19 

Incorporating berries into your diet isn’t just a treat for your taste buds; it’s a treat for your brain too. Berry antioxidants are brain cell communicators and neuron nurturers. They enhance communication between brain cells and encourage the growth of new neurons. The result? Better learning and memory capabilities.20 

Berries contain anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce brain inflammation, potentially lowering the risk of age-related cognitive decline. They also support improved blood circulation in the brain, ensuring an adequate supply of oxygen and essential nutrients to protect brain cells.21 

Lots of my loaded smoothies, including this Berry Cobbler Protein Shake  Strawberry Shortcake Shake, include berries.

Master Your Metabolism For Brain Health 

Your brain is a highly energy-demanding organ. A well-functioning metabolism ensures a steady supply of nutrients to the brain, providing the energy it needs to function optimally. Brain fog, fatigue, and reduced mental clarity can result when your metabolism is sluggish or inefficient. 

Metabolism plays critical roles in other processes that support a healthy brain, including: 

  • Producing neurotransmitters (including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) 
  • Hormonal balance, including insulin levels for healthy blood-sugar levels  
  • Optimal antioxidant defense to fight free radicals 
  • Maintaining healthy blood flow and oxygen supply to the brain 

My Metabolism Rescue Program is the ultimate way to provide your brain and body the metabolic support it needs to thrive. This cutting-edge program features a comprehensive guide, an exclusive one-hour masterclass, and a hand-selected bundle of metabolism-supporting supplements (All-In-One Shake, Metabolic Reset™, and Collagen Peptides Powder). Learn more and enroll here.*  


  1. Northwestern Medicine: 11 Fun Facts About Your Brain 
  1. Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, Pallio G, Mannino F, Arcoraci V, Squadrito F, Altavilla D, Bitto A. Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:8416763. doi: 10.1155/2017/8416763. Epub 2017 Jul 27. PMID: 28819546; PMCID: PMC5551541. 
  1. Kosyreva AM, Sentyabreva AV, Tsvetkov IS, Makarova OV. Alzheimer’s Disease and Inflammaging. Brain Sci. 2022 Sep 13;12(9):1237. doi: 10.3390/brainsci12091237. PMID: 36138973; PMCID: PMC9496782. 
  1. MedlinePlus: Tryptophan: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia 
  1. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999. 14, Amino Acid and Protein Requirements: Cognitive Performance, Stress, and Brain Function.Available from:  
  1. Wattoo FH, Memon MS, Memon AN, Wattoo MH, Asad MJ, Siddique F. Protein intake and stress levels in nurses and housewives of Pakistan. Saudi J Biol Sci. 2011 Jul;18(3):305-9. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2011.02.002. Epub 2011 Feb 19. PMID: 23961140; PMCID: PMC3730849. 
  1. Thomas J, Thomas CJ, Radcliffe J, Itsiopoulos C. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Early Prevention of Inflammatory Neurodegenerative Disease: A Focus on Alzheimer’s Disease. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:172801. doi: 10.1155/2015/172801. Epub 2015 Aug 2. PMID: 26301243; PMCID: PMC4537710. 
  1. Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, Hamithi DM, Alshekh MM, Khobrani FA, Dalak FE, Hakami AA, Alsueaadi EH, Alsaawi LS, Alshammari SF, Alqahtani AS, Alawi IA, Aljuaid AA, Tawhari MQ. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022 Oct 9;14(10):e30091. doi: 10.7759/cureus.30091. PMID: 36381743; PMCID: PMC9641984.  
  1. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH. The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 4;12(8):2333. doi: 10.3390/nu12082333. PMID: 32759851; PMCID: PMC7468918.  
  1. DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH. The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders. Nutrients. 2020 Aug 4;12(8):2333. doi: 10.3390/nu12082333. PMID: 32759851; PMCID: PMC7468918. 
  1.  Chauhan A, Chauhan V. Beneficial Effects of Walnuts on Cognition and Brain Health. Nutrients. 2020 Feb 20;12(2):550. doi: 10.3390/nu12020550. PMID: 32093220; PMCID: PMC7071526. 
  1. Healthline: Chia Seeds vs. Flax Seeds — Is One Healthier Than the Other? 
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fiber: The Carb That Helps You Manage Diabetes 
  1.  Daley CA, Abbott A, Doyle PS, Nader GA, Larson S. A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutr J. 2010 Mar 10;9:10. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-10. PMID: 20219103; PMCID: PMC2846864.  
  1. Zhang W, Xiao D, Mao Q, Xia H. Role of neuroinflammation in neurodegeneration development. Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2023 Jul 12;8(1):267. doi: 10.1038/s41392-023-01486-5. PMID: 37433768; PMCID: PMC10336149. 
  1. Baroni L, Sarni AR, Zuliani C. Plant Foods Rich in Antioxidants and Human Cognition: A Systematic Review. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Apr 30;10(5):714. doi: 10.3390/antiox10050714. PMID: 33946461; PMCID: PMC8147117. 
  1. Sim M, Hong S, Jung S, Kim JS, Goo YT, Chun WY, Shin DM. Vitamin C supplementation promotes mental vitality in healthy young adults: results from a cross-sectional analysis and a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Nutr. 2022 Feb;61(1):447-459. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02656-3. Epub 2021 Sep 2. PMID: 34476568; PMCID: PMC8783887.  
  1. Stefaniak O, Dobrzyńska M, Drzymała-Czyż S, Przysławski J. Diet in the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease: Current Knowledge and Future Research Requirements. Nutrients. 2022 Oct 30;14(21):4564. doi: 10.3390/nu14214564. PMID: 36364826; PMCID: PMC9656789. 
  1.  Subash S, Essa MM, Al-Adawi S, Memon MA, Manivasagam T, Akbar M. Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural Regen Res. 2014 Aug 15;9(16):1557-66. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.139483. PMID: 25317174; PMCID: PMC4192974. 
  1. Tran PHL, Tran TTD. Blueberry Supplementation in Neuronal Health and Protective Technologies for Efficient Delivery of Blueberry Anthocyanins. Biomolecules. 2021 Jan 14;11(1):102. doi: 10.3390/biom11010102. PMID: 33466731; PMCID: PMC7828789. 
  1. Subash S, Essa MM, Al-Adawi S, Memon MA, Manivasagam T, Akbar M. Neuroprotective effects of berry fruits on neurodegenerative diseases. Neural Regen Res. 2014 Aug 15;9(16):1557-66. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.139483. PMID: 25317174; PMCID: PMC4192974. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.