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July 19, 2023

9 Surprising Nootropics for Boosting Memory, Focus, and Mental Clarity (And You Can Eat Them for Lunch!)

Nootropics - also known as “smart drugs” - are intended to improve human thinking, learning, and memory. But did you know this doesn’t need to come in the form of a pill and what you simply eat for breakfast or lunch can support your focus, mental clarity and memory throughout your day?

We like to call this the brain/food connection, and it has everything to do with your memory and focus (two critical aspects of your overall cognitive function). In order to optimize your memory and focus, it’s important to ensure you’re getting all the essential nutrients your body needs.

The brain is approximately 60% fat, so healthy fat consumption is fundamental to optimizing brain function.

According to recent studies, nutrition has a major impact on both short- and long-term cognitive performance. So, the easiest and most reliable way to ensure your brain is getting all of the nutrients it needs is by eating a well-balanced diet that’s rich in healthy fats.

Along with healthy fats, the brain also requires several vitamins to function properly, especially B vitamins. Folic acid (vitamin B9) is crucial for proper brain function and plays an important role in mental health while Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to impaired memory/cognition. Both of these nutrients are vital to achieving optimal brain function.

Natural Nootropics: 9 of the Healthiest Foods for Memory & Focus

1. Hemp

Hemp is considered an excellent source of healthy fats and contains all essential fatty acids, including Omega-3s which play a significant role in brain function and development. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve cognitive function by supporting healthy neural pathways and decreasing inflammation in the brain.

Hemp is also high in the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin which is a neurotransmitter linked to mood regulation, sleep quality and cognitive performance.

In addition to essential fatty acids and amino acids, hemp contains other beneficial nutrients which can support cognitive function. In particular, hemp is high in vitamin B6, which has been shown to enhance cognitive functions such as memory and concentration. Vitamin B6 may also indirectly help with brain function by lowering levels of homocysteine - high levels of this protein in the body have been linked to dementia.

Hemp is also rich in phytonutrients, such as flavonoids, terpenes and phenolic compounds that are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These compounds can shield the brain from damage caused by free radicals or oxidative stress, which are the two main factors known to lead to cognitive decline.

2. Cacao

Cacao, the raw form of cocoa, is renowned for its chocolaty taste and aroma. However, cacao also contains numerous compounds with potential health advantages such as flavanols - a type of flavonoid. Flavanols have been established as powerful antioxidants with potential benefits for brain performance such as memory enhancement or focus.

Research suggests flavanols may improve blood flow to the brain, aiding cognitive function. They may also stimulate new brain cell growth and enhance communication between neurons within the brain, further supporting cognitive health.

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology demonstrated that consuming a high-flavanol cacao drink improved performance on cognitive tests related to attention and memory among healthy adults.

Cacao is an excellent source of magnesium, which is essential for brain health and cognitive functioning. Magnesium helps regulate neurotransmitters - chemicals that send messages throughout the brain and body - as well as support energy production within the brain, essential for maintaining brain health.

3. Coconut Water

Coconut water has become increasingly popular over the past decade due to its potential health advantages. Staying hydrated is especially important for brain health.

Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating, all of which negatively impact cognitive functioning such as memory and focus. Coconut water is an ideal hydration alternative because it contains essential minerals like potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium in abundance.

Electrolytes are critical for keeping the body's hydration levels optimal, and they also play a significant role in nerve function. Hydrating the brain properly helps ensure it functions optimally, supporting cognitive function and memory consolidation. Coconut water also contains antioxidants like vitamin C and polyphenols which are also important for brain health.

These compounds have been demonstrated to possess neuroprotective effects, meaning they may help shield the brain from damage caused by free radicals and inflammation. Furthermore, some research suggests coconut water may possess anti-inflammatory properties which could further support brain health and mental performance.

4. Rhodiola

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries to enhance cognitive function. The active compounds found in Rhodiola such as rosavin and salidroside are believed to enhance cognition by relieving stress, increasing oxygen delivery to the brain, and controlling neurotransmitter levels.

Rhodiola's stress-reducing properties may be particularly beneficial for cognitive health, as stress has been known to impair memory and focus. Studies have demonstrated that Rhodiola can reduce stress and anxiety by controlling cortisol release - a hormone linked with stress - while increasing feel-good neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine.

Rhodiola's potential to increase oxygen delivery to the brain could explain some of its cognitive-enhancing effects. By improving blood flow and oxygenation in the brain, Rhodiola may support healthy brain functioning as well as enhance cognitive performance.

Additionally, Rhodiola has been shown to boost levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter important for memory and cognitive function. By raising acetylcholine concentrations, Rhodiola may promote improved memory retention and focus.

5. Chaga

Chaga, a mushroom with a rich history in traditional medicine, has gained attention in recent years for its potential health benefits, especially concerning brain health and cognitive function.

Scientists have conducted several studies to investigate Chaga's potential positive impact on brain health and cognitive performance. One of the compounds present in Chaga is betulinic acid, which has demonstrated neuroprotective properties.

The compound's ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain may help prevent cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. This finding suggests that Chaga could potentially serve as a natural means to support brain health and cognitive function.

Chaga is also packed with polysaccharides, complex carbohydrates that have been demonstrated to have immune-modulating effects. Some research even suggests these polysaccharides may have cognitive-enhancing properties like improving memory and learning capacity.

6. Moringa

Moringa has recently gained recognition for its numerous health benefits, including improved brain function. This is partly because of its flavonoids - powerful antioxidants which protect against oxidative stress and inflammation which may contribute to cognitive decline.

Moringa is packed with antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals for brain health, such as vitamin C, E, A, calcium, and potassium. These vital nutrients support cognitive functions such as memory retention and focus.

Moringa contains other compounds, such as amino acids and phytochemicals, that may have cognitive-enhancing effects. Some research has suggested moringa may improve memory and learning ability, in addition to having neuroprotective properties which help prevent or slow down cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases.

7. Sea Buckthorn Berry

Sea buckthorn is a berry that has been used in traditional medicine for many years, and researchers have studied its potential benefits for brain function. Sea buckthorn is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids, which help protect the body from oxidative stress. By reducing oxidative stress in the brain, sea buckthorn may improve cognitive function.

Chronic inflammation in the brain has been linked to cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Sea buckthorn has anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce inflammation in the brain and protect against cognitive decline.

Sea buckthorn also contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Omega-3s help support the structure and function of brain cells, and studies have linked them to improved cognitive function and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.

8. Chlorella

Chlorella is a single-celled green algae that has gained recognition for its potential health benefits, particularly those related to brain health and performance.

Chlorella contains GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), an amino acid that acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, promotes relaxation, and reduces anxiety levels. It also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that may protect the brain from damage and reduce cognitive decline.

One study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2012 found that chlorella supplementation improved cognitive function in healthy older adults. Participants who took chlorella for 12 weeks had improved scores on tests of memory and attention compared to those who took a placebo.

9. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has been used for centuries for its flavor and medicinal properties. Recent studies have suggested that cinnamon may also have cognitive benefits, including improving memory and focus.

Cinnamon contains the active compound cinnamaldehyde, which has been demonstrated to increase blood flow to the brain and enhance cognitive function in animal studies. Cinnamon also contains antioxidants which may shield the brain from oxidative damage or inflammation that could contribute to cognitive decline.

Furthermore, cinnamon may help regulate blood sugar levels - an essential step for brain health as high blood sugar has been linked to cognitive impairment. Studies have suggested that cinnamon may improve working memory and attention in both healthy adults and those with type 2 diabetes.


Maintaining proper nutrition is crucial for overall cognitive health, as diet plays a significant role in supporting brain function and impacting cognitive performance in both the short and long term. A diet rich in essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, can promote optimal brain function, memory retention, and focus.

Foods, such as hemp protein, cacao, coconut water, rhodiola, and chaga, are particularly beneficial for cognitive health due to their high nutrient content, including essential fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

By incorporating these foods into your diet, you can promote brain health and overall well-being, including improved memory and focus.

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