The Role of Diet in Memory Enhancement

Enhance Your Memory with a Nutrient-Rich Diet

May 1, 2024

Do you want to improve your memory? You don’t have to be a student or training for a job to want to enhance your memory. Countless individuals on the brink of middle age and well into advanced years also desire a boost in memory and to expand their cognitive output. Multifarious factors impact our ability to achieve optimal memory performance, among which diet plays a crucial role. A focus on foods that enhance memory is a helpful way to provide our brains with a significant memory advantage.  

Adopting a nutritious diet unequivocally supports overall brain health, integrity, and function—from the creation of new neurons and enhancement of memory, to alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. The relationship between dietary intake and the brain’s capabilities including processing, storing, and recalling information cannot be overstated. Certain foods offer substantial advantages for maintaining brain health and enhancing working memory, while others may impede these functions.

Foods That Boost Memory

A diet abundant in a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, and healthy fats is beneficial for enhancing memory. This nutritional regimen contributes essential antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support cognitive health and improve memory functions. Phytonutrients are naturally occurring chemicals in plants known to prevent diseases and promote robust brain function; notable examples include anthocyanins and flavonoids which are plentiful in many plant foods. Let us now explore foods that effectively boost memory and cognitive performance.


Berries are an abundant source of antioxidants, compounds that mitigate the effects of oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals and help in preventing premature aging of the brain. Additionally, berries contain high levels of neuroprotective anthocyanins. These phytochemicals go beyond merely providing natural color; they play a crucial role in promoting healthy brain aging and offering protection against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease. Research indicates that individuals who follow diets rich in anthocyanins tend to perform better on memory retention assessments. [i]

  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Elderberries
  • Loganberries
  • Huckleberries
  • Cranberries and more
  • Watermelon is a rich source of the pigment lycopene, which belongs to the carotenoid family (akin to beta-carotene). Lycopene serves as a potent antioxidant that may help counteract memory impairments. [ii] Additionally, watermelon provides an increased water source, an essential component for enhancing working memory. [iii]

    Oranges are high in vitamin C. Researchers have found that individuals who consume adequate levels of vitamin C perform significantly better on memory tests. [iv]. Additionally, individuals with sufficient vitamin C levels often experience reduced symptoms of depression and exhibit better mood stability and decreased confusion. [v]

    Grapes are a significant source of resveratrol, a polyphenol touted for its antioxidant properties, as well as its anti-inflammatory benefits and protective effects on both neurological and cardiovascular health. Resveratrol has been noted to enhance brain blood circulation and augment memory. Choose grapes with red skins to maximize this important nutrient. If you’re looking for a supplement source of polyphenols to boost memory and focus, consider the supplement Focus by Nedley Health. For those considering dietary supplements to enrich their intake of polyphenols and enhance cognitive functions such as memory and focus, the supplement Focus by Nedley Health could be an excellent choice.

    While certain fruit are associated with marked memory benefits, make it a daily goal to eat at least 5 servings of any variety of fruit.  


    Green leafy vegetables are highly regarded as optimal for brain health. These vegetables are abundant in B vitamins, which play a crucial role in enhancing cognitive function. Notably, vitamin B9 (folate) is essential for improving memory and reducing inflammation. Consider adding these green vegetables to your diet:  

    • Kale
    • Lettuce
    • Spinach
    • Green cabbage
    • Swiss chard
    • Mustard greens
    • Bok choy  

    Red cabbage is another plant rich in antioxidants. Shred onto a green leafy salad for an easy way to eat numerous memory-boosting vegetables.  

    Tomatoes are rich in the inflammation-reducing compound lycopene.  

    Bell peppers also contain anthocyanins. Enjoy in stir fry, roasted on toast, or raw slices, bell peppers can be enjoyed in so many ways as a healthy memory-boosting food!

    Mushrooms, though not universally favored, have been linked to improved cognitive performance. They serve as an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin D, which is another nutrient correlated with enhanced visual memory. [vii]

    Many other vegetables also enhance memory, making it essential to incorporate these vital plants into your diet. It is recommended that you eat at least 5 servings of vegetables each day, equivalent to approximately half a cup or 80 grams per serving. If you find it challenging to include enough fruits and vegetables in your meals, consider tracking your intake for several days to increase your awareness. Next time you shop for groceries, explore new varieties of fruits and vegetables that you haven't tried before.


    Whole grains are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates that are not only rich in the B vitamin folate but also pivotal in reducing brain inflammation and enhancing both short-term and long-term memory capabilities. [viii] Whole grains offer a steady supply of energy essential for the brain to regulate mood, as well as improve learning outcomes and memory retention. Replace white bread, pastries, pastas, and cereals with foods rich in whole grains such as:

    • Brown rice
    • Quinoa
    • Oatmeal
    • Buckwheat
    • Whole wheat
    • Rye
    • Millet
    • Barley
    • Spelt    

    Nuts and seeds

    Many nuts and seeds are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential polyunsaturated fats linked with enhanced learning, memory retention, cognitive health, and increased brain blood flow. These fatty acids play a critical role in the formation of synaptic connections within the brain, facilitating the storage of new memories. Consuming approximately 60 grams (roughly half a cup) of mixed nuts has demonstrated positive effects on both visuospatial and verbal memory capacities. [ix] Enjoy these omega-3 packed nuts and seeds:

  • Flaxseed, ground
  • Chia seed
  • Hemp seed
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnut
  • Almonds
  • Pistachios
  • Legumes

    Legumes are a rich source of protein, an essential basic nutrient with significant benefits to memory function. Studies have linked protein consumption with enhancements in executive functions and working memory, underscoring it as a crucial element of dietary intake for optimal cognitive performance. [x] Protein should make up 10-35% of your daily caloric intake, equating to approximately 50-175 grams per day. Enjoy these plant-based foods rich in protein in your diet each day:

  • Chickpeas (hummus)
  • Soy (tofu, tempeh, or edamame)
  • Peanut butter
  • Beans (with rice)
  • Split peas
  • Lentils
  • Buckwheat    
  • Healthier fats

    Saturated fats, commonly found in butter, lard, fatty meats, and cheese, are linked to memory impairment, particularly affecting long-term memory retention. Substituting saturated fats with unsaturated fatty acids has been found to elevate levels of acetylcholine—a molecule essential for enhancing learning and memory capabilities. It’s time to ditch the butter, and replace it with moderate quantities of healthier oils and plant foods, including:

    • Olive oil
    • Canola oil
    • Grapeseed oil
    • Avocados
    • Chia and flax seeds
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Olives

    You have the extraordinary opportunity to enhance your memory through your dietary choices. Consider setting a daily goal to incorporate foods that are abundant in antioxidants, vibrant phytochemicals, omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamins and minerals. By diversifying your intake of plant-based foods, you significantly increase the likelihood of nourishing your remarkable and resilient brain, thereby optimizing it for successful memory recall.


    Stay tuned for more memory enhancing tips in a future Let’s Talk Mental Health article.  

    Please contact us first before publishing this article (but feel free to share it!).

    Omega Topping Recipe

    BONUS recipe from Brighten Up Breakfast, a cookbook that prioritizes brain health.

    ¼ cup flax seeds

    ¼ cup chia seed

    ¼ cup hemp seeds

    ¼ cup walnuts

    2 tablespoons date sugar

    1/8 teaspoon salt

    Grind flax and chia sees in a clean coffee grinder and walnuts in a food processor. Mix all ingredients and enjoy. Refrigerate topping in an airtight container. Serve over hot or cold cereal, toast, fruit, or yogurt.    

    Makes 1 cup; serving size: 1 tablespoon; calories per serving: 51; omega-3 per serving: 1,048 mg



    [i] Kent, K., Yousefi, M., et al. (2023). Anthocyanin intake is associated with improved memory in older adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society.

    [ii] Yu, L., Wang, W., et al. 2017). Dietary Lycopene Supplementation Improves Cognitive Performances in Tau Transgenic Mice Expressing P301L Mutation via Inhibiting Oxidative Stress and Tau Hyperphosphorylation. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

    [iii] Zhang, J., Zhang, N., et al. (2020). Different Amounts of Water Supplementation Improved Cognitive Performance and Mood among Young Adults after 12 h Water Restriction in Baoding, China: A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT). International journal of environmental research and public health.

    [iv] Travica, N., Ried, K., et al.  (2019). Plasma Vitamin C Concentrations and Cognitive Function: A Cross-Sectional Study. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

    [v] Pullar, J. M., Carr, et al. (2018). High Vitamin C Status Is Associated with Elevated Mood in Male Tertiary Students. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland).

    [vi] Kodali, M., Parihar, V. K., et al.(2015). Resveratrol prevents age-related memory and mood dysfunction with increased hippocampal neurogenesis and microvasculature and reduced glial activation. Scientific Reports.

    [vii] Pettersen J. A. (2017). Does high dose vitamin D supplementation enhance cognition?: A randomized trial in healthy adults. Experimental Gerontology.

    [viii] Ma, F., Wu, T., Zhao, et al. (2016). Folic acid supplementation improves cognitive function by reducing the levels of peripheral inflammatory cytokines in elderly Chinese subjects with MCI. Nature News.

    [ix] Nijssen, K. M. R., Mensink, et al. (2023). Longer-term mixed nut consumption improves brain vascular function and memory: A randomized, controlled crossover trial in older adults. Clinical Nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland).

    [x] Muth, A. K., & Park, S. Q. (2021). The impact of dietary macronutrient intake on cognitive function and the brain. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland).

    About the author

    Cami Gotshall, MPH, serves as the Health Education Director at Nedley Health. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health, specializing in nutrition and wellness. Cami is passionate about disseminating information on living a mentally healthy lifestyle to people around the world. She lives in Colorado with her husband and son.