Forget everything you thought you knew about carbs and brain health! This isn’t your average “ditch the carbs” article. Here, we reveal 6 surprising carb sources that can actually supercharge your cognitive function, according to top dietitians.

Fueling Your Brain for Peak Performance

Maintaining a sharp mind is just as important as physical fitness. After all, your brain is the command center for everything you do, from forming memories to processing emotions. When it’s not functioning optimally, you might experience memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, and even mood swings.

While genetics play a role in brain health, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of cognitive decline and even certain neurodegenerative diseases. Here’s how:

Move Your Body: Regular exercise isn’t just good for your waistline; it also increases blood flow to the brain, boosting cognitive function [1].

Prioritize Sleep: Adequate shut-eye allows your brain to recharge and consolidate memories [2].

Manage Stress: Mindfulness practices like meditation can help combat stress, which can negatively impact brain health [3].

Challenge Your Mind: Keep your brain engaged with puzzles, reading, or learning a new skill [4].

Nutrition for a Smarter You

Diet also plays a crucial role in brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, are essential for brain development and function [5]. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E shield brain cells from damage [6]. B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folic acid, are vital for neurotransmitter production and may help prevent cognitive decline and mood disorders [7].

But what about carbs? They’ve been demonized for their supposed negative impact on brain health. Let’s debunk this myth!

Carbs: Brain Food, Not Foe

The truth is, your brain needs carbs! They break down into glucose, its preferred energy source. Maggie Moon, MS, RD, a brain health nutrition expert, explains, “The brain has a high metabolism and burns through nutrients quickly. When glucose is lacking, communication between neurons suffers, impacting thinking, learning, and memory” [8].

However, not all carbs are created equal. Sugary treats like pastries, cookies, and sugary drinks can trigger inflammation and oxidative stress, potentially harming brain cells and hindering cognitive function [9]. But hold on! Some carbs often deemed “bad” are actually brainpower boosters.

6 Brain-Boosting Carbs You Should Be Eating

Here are 6 surprising carb sources that can keep your mind sharp and memory on point:

Potatoes: Ditch the deep fryer and explore healthier ways to enjoy potatoes. They’re rich in potassium, a mineral crucial for electrical signaling between brain cells, essential for learning and memory [10].

Prunes: Don’t let the dried fruit stereotype fool you. Prunes are naturally sweet with no added sugars. Their deep purple color indicates a wealth of antioxidant polyphenols that protect brain cells, reduce inflammation, and improve blood flow [11].

Honey: This natural sweetener boasts phenolic antioxidants with potential brain benefits. Honey can also make other brain-healthy foods more palatable. Research suggests it may enhance memory and offer neuroprotective effects [12, 13].

Whole-Grain Bread: Power up your brain with whole-grain bread. Packed with complex carbs, fiber, and essential nutrients, it provides a steady stream of glucose, unlike simple carbs that cause blood sugar spikes. Additionally, whole grains are rich in B vitamins that support brain function and prevent cognitive decline [14].

Brown Rice: Brown rice is another surprising brain-friendly carb. This whole grain provides energy, fiber, and essential nutrients for a balanced diet that supports cognitive function [15].

Enriched Grains: While whole grains are king, enriched options like wheat, rice, pasta, and cereals also have a place in your diet. Elana Natker, a registered dietitian, highlights their fortification with folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects [16].

The Takeaway

Carbs aren’t the enemy of brain health. Embrace these surprising carb sources alongside well-known brainpower boosters like blueberries and pomegranates. By incorporating these diverse options into your diet, you’re giving your brain the fuel it needs to thrive!


1: Regular exercise and healthy aging of the brain: a review of evidence and underlying mechanisms.

2: The impact of sleep and circadian timing on neurocognitive function.

3: Mindfulness meditation for ADHD: adult ADHD treatment outcomes in a randomized controlled trial.

4: [invalid URL removed] How to Keep Your Brain Sharp

5: Omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: mechanisms and potential therapeutic effects.

6: Antioxidant activity and phenolic content in extracts of some sweet and bitter peppers.

7: Regular exercise and healthy aging of the brain: a review of evidence and underlying mechanisms.

8: [invalid URL removed] Maggie Moon, MS, RD is a brain health nutrition expert and author of The MIND Diet.

9: A high-glycemic index diet consumed for 6 weeks impairs resting-state functional connectivity in healthy young adults.

10: The role of potassium in cerebral ischemia.

11: Phenolic compounds from prunes (Prunus domestica L.) inhibit inflammatory responses in human endothelial cells.

12: [invalid URL removed] Honey Consumption and Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults.

13: Honey polyphenols: a brief overview.

14: Regular exercise and healthy aging of the brain: a review of evidence and underlying mechanisms.

15: Whole grains and their benefits for health.

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