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‘I’m a Neurologist—This is the Fruit I Eat Almost Every Day for Brain Health’

In World
June 08, 2024

Fruit that’s good for brain health

Decades of scientific research have made the connection between diet and brain health undeniable. While certainly no one has complete control over their health, a wealth of data has shown that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, plant-based proteins and fish lowers the risk of dementia while a diet high in ultra-processed foods increases the risk.

If you want to start upping your intake of foods that are good for your brain, one great place to start is with fruit. It takes virtually no prep work and helps satisfy a craving for something sweet, making you less likely to reach for something loaded with added sugar—which is definitely not good for brain health. Which fruit should you go for? Here, a neurologist and a neurosurgeon share their favorite fruits for brain health.

Related: This Is the #1 Healthiest Fruit, According to Registered Dietitians—Is It Part of Your Diet?

Why Is Fruit Good for Brain Health?

Most people know that fruit is healthy, but how exactly does it benefit cognitive health? Neurosurgeon Dr. Betsy Grunch, MD, FAANS, FACS, FCNS, says that one major reason is that fruits are high in antioxidants. “Fruits that are high in antioxidants can be good for the brain. They reduce free radicals and reduce the oxidative stress on neural tissue, which in turn may improve cognitive function,” she explains.

Dr. Mill Etienne, MD, MPH, FAAN, FAES, a neurologist and an Associate Professor of Neurology at New York Medical College, adds to this, saying, “Fruits can prevent damage of brain cells and they are a great source of antioxidants which help prevent degenerative changes in the brain, helping us to age more gracefully.”

Besides containing antioxidants, both brain experts say that fruits have other beneficial nutrients too. Dr. Etienne says that all fruit have carbohydrates, which are essential for the brain to use for fuel. “Fruits are among the healthiest sources of carbohydrates. Not only are they a great source of fuel for the brain but many fruits provide the building blocks that make chemicals, like serotonin, needed to boost our mood,” he explains.

Related: If You Want to Improve Your Brain Health, This Is the Very Best Food You Can Eat

Dr. Grunch says that two other important nutrients that many fruits contain are vitamin C (which supports immune health) and vitamin K (which can help increase oxygenation to the brain and improve concentration). Fruits high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries and tomatoes. The fruit highest in vitamin K is kiwi.

A Neurologist’s Favorite Fruit for Brain Health

With all of this in mind, what type of fruits do the brain experts themselves eat regularly? Dr. Etienne says that his favorite fruits are dark berries, specifically blueberries and grapes. “They are both great sources of antioxidants, which protect against degenerative changes in the brain,” he explains. Scientific research shows that blueberries help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain and can help reverse age-related declines in cognition. As for red grapes, research backs up the brain-healthy benefits of this type of berry too, showing that eating them regularly can enhance cognition.

Like Dr. Etienne, Dr. Grunch says that she also likes snacking on blueberries regularly and she and Dr. Etienne share another favorite fruit as well: bananas. “I eat at least one banana a day,” Dr. Etienne reveals. Besides being good for the brain, bananas are also a great gut-healthy food.

Related: The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Eat If You Want to Protect Your Brain Health 

If you are looking for a fruit that can support your mental health, Dr. Etienne recommends going for pineapple. “It’s a great source of tryptophan, which is a building block for serotonin, a chemical that is low in people with depression and anxiety,” he explains.

Both doctors say that citrus fruits are beneficial for brain health too and they like to eat them regularly. Dr. Etienne says that oranges (including mandarin—his personal favorite citrus fruit) are high in vitamin C, which has shown to support memory and cognition.

Avocados are another fruit both doctors say is greatly beneficial for brain health. “Avocados contain healthy fats that are important in brain function and development. They may protect astrocytes, which are the supportive cells in our brain,” Dr. Grunch says.

As you can see, regardless of what fruit you choose, your brain is bound to benefit. No matter what type of fruit you choose to eat regularly, Dr. Etienne recommends eating the whole fruit as opposed to having it in juice form. That way, you don’t miss out on the fruit’s fiber, which is beneficial for both the gut and brain. “Juice has more concentrated sugar and often has sugar and calories added which makes the juice less healthy than the actual fruit that it was made from. Additionally, because of the concentrate, you might have much higher blood sugar levels and an overall increase in caloric intake,” he adds.

Dr. Etienne says that he recommends everyone eat fruit daily for brain health, but especially those with ongoing brain issues, such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, mild cognitive impairment or a traumatic brain injury.

Eating a piece of fruit is something you can do every day that will directly support your brain health. It requires little effort to prepare and tastes delicious. Sounds like a no-brainer!

Next up, this is the very worst food for brain health, according to brain health experts.


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