Brain Food Snacks to Boost Focus and Memory
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14 Brain Food Snacks to Boost Focus and Memory

Written by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD on July 08, 2024


We’ve all been there: you sit down in preparation for an exam, a work assignment, or another task on your to-do list and realize you’re too hungry to concentrate. You don’t have time to prep (or eat) a meal, so what can you do? Enter: brain food snacks

Whether it’s our career responsibilities, a demanding educational path, or an upcoming exam, we need our brains working at their best to achieve our goals. Having some brain-healthy snacks on hand can provide the fuel you need to power through the day. 

The best brain snacks should be well-rounded and provide a balance of nutrients. Some will be higher in healthy fats, while others may provide complex carbohydrates and fiber or lean proteins. The trick is to enjoy a variety of healthy brain snacks between meals to ensure you’re getting essential nutrients for focus, memory, and concentration. 

As with other aspects of health, good nutrition is one of the most important factors in protecting our brain and helping it do its job. After all, what you’re eating can either help or harm your body’s ability to perform optimally now and down the road. 

Need ideas? We’ve rounded up 14 of the best brain food snacks to boost focus and memory. 

1. Blueberries

Blueberries are sweet, juicy, and packed with antioxidants that help protect your cells from inflammation and damage. All berries are great, but one study found that blueberries have more antioxidants than other varieties. Blueberries contain compounds called anthocyanins, which give them their beautiful blue color. Studies show that eating blueberries can help improve mood and cognitive performance as we age. Pack them for after-school activities or to munch on while preparing for an important meeting at work. 

2. Fatty Fish

Certain types of fish contain more brain-boosting omega-3 fats, specifically DHA and EPA, which are essential for brain health and protecting cognitive function as we age. Some of the best types for your brain are salmon, trout, and sardines. Aim to eat fatty fish a couple of times a week. If you don’t eat fish, you can get DHA and EPA from plant-based algae-derived supplements

3. Chomps Meat Sticks

Chomps meat sticks are one the best snacks for exam day because they’re high in protein and contain healthy fats and nutrients like iron and B vitamins, which support energy levels and overall brain health. Each meat stick contains 10-12 grams of protein, helping satiate hunger and help you focus. Choose from flavors like Original Beef, Pepperoni Seasoned Turkey, or grab a variety pack

4. Turmeric

Best known for its yellow color and earthy, slightly sweet flavor, turmeric contains a bioactive compound called curcumin. Curcumin has been extensively studied for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that support brain health. It may even help you grow new brain cells. When you use turmeric in recipes, add a pinch of black pepper, which contains a compound called piperine that boosts curcumin bioavailability by 2000%. 

5. Broccoli

Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are packed with antioxidants and high in vitamin K, which are linked to better brain health. Not to mention, broccoli contains compounds called glucosinolates and sulforaphane, which have been studied for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Pack raw broccoli florets with hummus for a quick brain healthy snack or toss some broccoli sprouts in your tortilla wrap for lunch.

6. Pumpkin Seeds

Looking for the best brain food snacks for exams that are convenient to toss in your bag? Try pumpkin seeds! They’re rich in antioxidants and nutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium, and copper, which are great for your brain. Some research has even found that pumpkin seeds can help counteract the harmful effects of certain toxins in the brain. 

7. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, caffeine, and antioxidants that help boost brain function. Research has found that dark chocolate may help support optimal performance when you need your brain to focus on certain tasks. The flavor can take some getting used to, but aim for a higher percentage of cacao for the most benefit, like 85% dark chocolate.

8. Oranges

Citrus fruits like oranges are high in vitamin C, which helps prevent mental decline and boosts brain function. One study found that having higher levels of vitamin C in your blood may be associated with better focus, memory, and decision speed for tasks. 

9. Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and vitamin E, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and support brain function. Stash some in your desk or backpack for a quick brain snack for testing when you need a little energy boost.

10. Eggs

Eggs are a good source of several nutrients tied to better brain health, such as vitamins B12 and B6, folate (vitamin B9), lutein, and choline. Your body uses choline to create acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in memory and mood regulation. Eat some eggs for breakfast on exam day or pack a hard-boiled egg in your lunch box for a midday brain boost.

11. Green Tea

When searching for brain food snacks for studying, consider making a mug of hot green tea that you can sip on while you read. Green tea contains caffeine, L-theanine, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which can help enhance brain function and improve focus and alertness. There’s even evidence that EGCG reduces the build-up of beta-amyloid, a protein that can form harmful plaques in your brain.

12. Spinach

Leafy greens like spinach are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help protect brain cells from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. One study among 960 older adults found that people who ate at least 1.3 servings of leafy greens per day experienced brain function equal to people who were, on average, 11 years younger than them. More greens may mean better focus and memory. 

13. Whole Grains

Whole grains are packed with fiber and provide a steady release of glucose (sugar), which is your brain's primary energy source and helps you stay focused on your tasks. Whole grains are also rich in fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants, which support overall brain health. Choose whole grains like quinoa, oats, barley, brown rice, and 100% whole grain bread over their refined counterparts (like white rice, bread, and pasta). 

14. Avocados

Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, which promote healthy blood flow to the brain, enhancing cognitive function. They also contain folate and vitamin K, which protect against cognitive decline and improve memory. Fuel your morning with avocado toast, a delicious and healthy work snack. For an extra brain boost, toss some avocado slices on your lunch salad.

Final Reflections on Brain Food Snacks

Including brain food snacks into your routine can help you stay satiated and focused on your tasks, whether they’re related to your job, education, or responsibilities at home. Brain snacks provide nutrients like healthy fats, fiber, protein, and antioxidants that promote satiety, protect your brain from inflammation, and provide energy. Consider the healthy brain snacks above and how you can combine them for a well-rounded pick-me-up.


Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the best snack to fuel the brain?

    The best brain healthy snack is a combination that provides nutrients like fiber, protein, healthy fats, and antioxidants. These foods will offer brain fuel and help you focus. 

  2. What is a good brain food snack before a test?

    Before taking an exam, you want a brain snack that can satisfy your appetite and help you concentrate. For example, a combination of blueberries, walnuts, and dark chocolate or a Chomps meat stick with a clementine. 

  3. What 3 foods are best for brain health?

    While there aren’t 3 specific best foods for brain health, some great choices include walnuts, dark chocolate, blueberries, leafy greens, fatty fish, eggs, and pumpkin seeds. You can also sign up for a student subscription to Chomps so you’re never without a convenient brain healthy snack on campus.

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