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7 Brain-Boosting Breakfast Foods To Eat for a Focused Day

Sustain your focus and productivity throughout the day by starting it off with these breakfast foods.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

There are so many foods that contain nutrients known to benefit the brain. From nuts and seeds to fish, fruit, and veggies, you have a bounty of brain-boosting foods to choose from. To maximize the impact your food choices can have on your brain health, it is best to eat a variety of brain-boosting foods throughout the day. This includes breakfast. Though considered the most important meal of the day, breakfast is also notorious for sugary convenience foods, if not skipped altogether by many. But what makes this meal so important is the fact that it replenishes the energy levels your body depends on to carry you physically and mentally throughout the day.

With so many foods to choose from, there is no reason to skip out on these brain-healthy items, especially during breakfast. For a better breakfast that boosts your brain, here are seven foods you should eat for a productive, focused day. And for more dietitian-approved breakfast ideas to keep you at the top of your game, be sure to read Healthy Breakfast Foods Dietitians Say You Should Be Eating.


hard boiled eggs

Known for their protein content and ease of preparation, eggs are also a source of choline. This nutrient is known to plays many roles in the body, including as a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Because acetylcholine specifically plays a role in memory and intelligence, it is essential to consume adequate amounts of choline for brain function. Scrambled, boiled, or fried, eggs are a rich source of brain-boosting choline to enjoy at breakfast.

Smoked salmon

slices of smoked salmon on wooden board
Fabio Balbi/Shutterstock

While most fish is not typically thought of as being a breakfast food, smoked salmon is by far one of the healthiest sources of protein to include in your breakfast. In addition to protein, salmon also contains essential omega-3 fats that can benefit the brain. Current research notes the important role omega-3s can play in the brain development of children, and maternal intake of omega-3s during pregnancy may be favorable to the child's mental development. Additional studies note diets deficient in Omega-3 may be associated with impairments in cognitive performance. Enjoy your salmon over a whole wheat bagel with a light spread of cream cheese for a delicious and easy breakfast.


bowl of fresh berries to eat to feel much younger than your age

This class of fruit is known for its purple and red coloring and high nutrient value. While all berries are a source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, they also contain antioxidants known as flavanols. All antioxidants protect cells from damage, and this compound in particular may have brain-boosting effects, too. In fact, one study conducted in adult participants who ate blueberries found an improvement in memory and attention. While this study only observed the benefits of eating blueberries, it appears other berries possess similar characteristic. Enjoy berries in a smoothie, a top oatmeal or cereal, or as a side to your morning eggs.

Flax seeds

flax seeds

This seed is a plant-based source of omega-3 fats and may house some of the same benefits as the healthy fats found in salmon. Research conducted in rodents found maternal flaxseed intake may promote neuroprotective effects and spatial memory in their offspring. While the types of omega-3 found in fish may have stronger effects than the forms found in plant sources, all forms of omega-3 appear to be beneficial to the brain. Simply add milled or ground flaxseed to your oatmeal, smoothie, or homemade muffin recipe.



Another food easy to incorporate into breakfast, this nut contains brain-boosting omega-3 fats and polyphenolic compounds. These compounds possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that appear to benefit the brain. Research suggests a diet containing walnuts may have a positive impact on memory and learning, may improve cognition, and could reduce the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. Walnuts can be blended into a smoothie, added into oatmeal or cereal, or incorporated into homemade pancakes or banana bread.

Leafy greens

leafy greens kale spinach

This category of vegetables includes kale, spinach, cabbage, and collard greens—just to name a few. While these veggies contain many beneficial nutrients, the lutein, folate, beta-carotene, and phylloquinone found in leafy greens may help slow the natural decline in cognitive abilities seen in older age. While you may think of greens as being more appropriate for lunch or dinner, there are several ways to incorporate them into your breakfast. Simply sauté and add leafy greens to your omelet, incorporate raw leafy greens into your smoothie, or toss them in olive oil and lemon before topping your bagel and lox.

Pumpkin seeds

pumpkin seeds pepitas

While all nuts and seeds contain healthy unsaturated fats, the nutrients found in pumpkin seeds in particular may be beneficial to the brain, too. Like many other foods on this list, pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants that protect the cells of the body and brain from damage. Additionally, these seeds contain a collection of minerals that are also involved in brain health. Zinc is one nutrient found in pumpkin seeds that is found highly concentrated in the brain and is involved in the functioning of hundreds of systems and reactions in the body, including the nervous system. In fact, research suggests a zinc deficiency may be linked to some neurological conditions and brain diseases. You can incorporate the brain-protecting benefits of pumpkin seeds by adding them to your homemade granola, topping your yogurt parfait, or mixing them into your morning oatmeal.

Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey