10 Brain Foods To Support Studying

Camille Freking, MS Translational Pharmacology and Clinical Research
10 Brain Foods To Support Studying

There’s so much on the line during a test that, for most people, it’s impossible not to get unnerved. Even simple facts can be difficult to recall when you’re in the throes of an intense examination. 

Fortunately, there are a few foods you can eat to help give your brain the fuel it needs during a test. Of course, improving your studying habits can help, too! 

The thing about studying is that it doesn't truly start in libraries surrounded by books and notes. It starts in the kitchen, surrounded by plates and glasses. So what are the best brain foods, and how do they support studying? 


How Does Food Affect Studying?

The brain is the control center for your entire body. It never stops working — not even when you’re asleep. As a result, it requires a constant supply of energy to function properly.

The primary source of energy for your brain is a substance called glucose. Glucose comes from the food you eat, and is the result of the digestive process. Once your food has been metabolized, glucose enters the bloodstream and is transported to your brain. 

Unfortunately, the brain isn’t capable of storing glucose. That means that it’s your responsibility to keep your brain adequately supplied with glucose through nutritious daily meals. 

Failing to consume enough food to keep you nourished can put you in a bad mood, disrupt your sleeping patterns, inhibit your memory, and hinder your critical thinking abilities — basically, the complete opposite experience that you’ll want to have when trying to study.


What Foods Are the Most Helpful for Studying?

Eating is essential for healthy brain function. However, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to give in to any food craving you have. There are plenty of foods that can have a negative impact on your brain and memory

It’s best to avoid highly processed foods or anything high in added sugars, refined carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats. Giving into brain-fogging foods like sugary cereals, carb-heavy junk food, and energy drinks can get in the way of all of that amazing brain power. 

Instead of eating foods that can harm your brain, consider incorporating more of the following foods: 



The first item on this list is probably the most obvious one. Practically anyone that’s ever gone through college midterms and finals can tell you how important a cup of coffee is in the short term when you need to study. 

The reason, of course, is due to the high amount of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can significantly impact the brain and central nervous system

There are two specific ways that caffeine affects the brain:

The thing about caffeine is that you don’t want to overdo it. In moderate amounts, caffeine can refresh you and help to temporarily put some pep in your step. But too much of it can result in feelings of anxiety and irritability, paired with an elevated heartbeat that’s behind the notorious caffeine “jitters.” 

None of these side effects are conducive to quality studying, so aim for 100 to 200 mg of caffeine, and no more than 400 mg of caffeine per day (as recommended by the FDA).

Healthier sources of caffeine include coffee (try to avoid sugary lattes), black tea, and green tea. Dark chocolate also contains caffeine, but we’re sorry to say it’s nowhere near enough to give you the energy boost you’re looking for to help you study (unless you eat a whole bar of very dark chocolate in one sitting, which can deliver as much caffeine as a shot of espresso). 



Protein is an essential macronutrient that you need to eat a lot of each day. Most people usually associate protein with building muscles, and while that is one of the primary functions of protein, it’s not the only thing it does. For the brain, protein is crucial for helping neurons communicate

The neurons in your brain use neurotransmitters (chemical compounds) to send messages to other neurons throughout the body. Most neurotransmitters are made from amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Amino acids can be produced naturally, but the most important ones are only available via food. 

Other healthy protein sources include beef, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, dairy, and soy. 



You could argue that whole blueberries are the single most beneficial study snack for your brain. They’re absolutely loaded with a variety of compounds that can help support brain health. One of those primary compounds is antioxidants. 

Antioxidants are molecules that combat the effects of free radicals in your body. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause significant damage to cells, including the ones in your brain. When a free radical comes into contact with brain cells, they’ll attempt to steal the electrons of said cell. The process is called oxidation; if successful, it could severely damage or even kill the cell. 

Antioxidants seek out free radicals in your body and attempt to pair with them, effectively donating an electron to stabilize the free radicals without becoming damaged, themselves. 

Other healthy sources of antioxidants include artichokes, pecans, strawberries, dark chocolate, cabbage, broccoli, pumpkin, and raspberries. 



Oranges are rich in vitamin C and various flavonoids that provide many of the same benefits as antioxidants. While they’re not the same from a chemical structure standpoint, it’s safe to lump in flavonoids with antioxidants. The one-two punch of antioxidants and flavonoids can go a long way toward protecting your brain. 

Flavonoids are beneficial in protecting the brain from oxidative stress and helping repair the damage that stress has caused. It isn’t hard to imagine how detrimental the death of your brain cells can be when you’re trying to study. Increasing your flavonoid intake can help keep your brain cells healthy and functioning properly. 

Other healthy sources of flavonoids include lemons, grapes, apples, berries, spinach, legumes, onions, tea, and soybeans. 



Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene, which gives tomatoes their signature color. Lycopene is technically considered a carotenoid, but it’s universally recognized as a powerful antioxidant. (Anything even tangentially related to an antioxidant is good for your brain and deserves a high spot on this list!)

Like the other antioxidants listed above, lycopene can mitigate oxidative stress, suppress cytokine production (an inflammatory compound that can be harmful in high amounts), and limit the build-up of amyloid plaque. 

Other healthy sources of lycopene include watermelon, apricots, pink guavas, papaya, bell peppers, and pink grapefruits.


Oily Fish

Oily fish (aka fatty fish) like herring, salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel are loaded with nourishing compounds like omega-3 fatty acids that can help fuel your brain.

Not to mention, even though these fish are high in fats, they also serve as a notable source of protein alongside poultry. 

Other healthy sources of omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, soybean oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and cod liver oil.



Eggs are superfoods that provide a variety of health benefits. It could take a very long time to relay all of the essential nutrients that are provided by eggs. For your brain, one of the primary benefits of eggs is the high concentration of cholesterol. 

Now you’re probably a little confused since cholesterol has a solid reputation as a bad thing. The truth is that cholesterol is a bit complicated. Some cholesterol is essential for good health, while another form of cholesterol can be detrimental.

You see, the brain uses cholesterol for a few different purposes; so much so that about 20 percent of the cholesterol in your entire body is in the brain

The main benefit of cholesterol for the brain is that it makes up most of a substance called myelin. 

Myelin is a white, fatty substance that acts like a sheath around your neurons. The protective coating helps keep them safe and can increase the speed at which your neurons communicate. 

That doesn't mean you should eat a carton of egg yolks daily. Too much cholesterol can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. However, a daily supply of 200 to 300 milligrams should meet the brain’s demands.

Other healthy sources of cholesterol include dairy products, olive oil, salmon, beans, legumes, avocados, whole grains, and nuts. 



Fat is often viewed in the same negative light as cholesterol. While too much of it can be unhealthy, fat is a macronutrient essential to a healthy life. Fat provides the body with energy, supports cellular function, protects organs, helps absorb nutrients, and can provide warmth. 

Fat plays a somewhat different role in the brain. Namely, it’s the primary building block of it. The brain is roughly 60 percent fat, so you can imagine how important it is to function properly. 

The brain's physical structure (including the crucial gray matter located in the center) is primarily composed of fat. Fat is as important to a brain as wood is in a house. If you take it away, then it will fall apart almost immediately. 

The key to keeping your brain healthy is to focus on “healthy” fats. Saturated fats are the type of fat that’s almost entirely bad for you. Eating excess saturated fat can increase your LDL cholesterol (aka, the “bad” type of cholesterol). 

Instead, focus on eating healthy fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Avocados are one of the best sources of these fats, as roughly three-quarters of their calories come from this unsaturated fat. Specifically, avocados are very high in monounsaturated fat, which can help to lower LDL cholesterol and maintain the general health of cells. 

Other healthy sources of unsaturated fats include cashews, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, olive oil, peanut butter, and canola oil. You can make a handy nut-based trail mix for your next study session. 



Broccoli is generally one of the most disliked veggies out there. That’s unfortunate because it also provides a ton of essential nutrients. You can easily meet your daily vitamin K, folate, and beta-carotene quota with just a few broccoli florets. When it comes to your brain, the key compound in broccoli is lutein. 

Lutein is a powerful antioxidant that has highly beneficial anti-inflammatory properties. The frontal cortex, hippocampus, and visual cortex experience the primary benefits of lutein. These regions are heavily involved with language, learning, memory, and receiving visual information. 

Other healthy sources of lutein include cauliflower, collards, kale, spinach, lettuce, bell peppers, eggs, corn, pistachios, and peas.



You could easily argue that water should be the first thing on this list. After all, the brain is composed of 73 percent water, making it arguably as important as oxygen. The effects of dehydration typically begin in the brain because water is a crucial element for its health. 

Water is important to your brain for more than just composition, too. It helps the brain cells to communicate with one another, transports nutrients to your brain, and flushes out the toxins and waste byproducts that naturally accumulate throughout the day. Keeping your brain hydrated is essential to maintaining its ability to function properly. 


Improve Your Diet To Improve Your Studies

Studying requires concentration, discipline, and a variety of essential snack foods. It should be abundantly clear that the key to studying starts with a belly full of healthy foods and beverages. 

The thing about a lot of the foods mentioned above is that they take some time to prepare (time that could be used for cramming!). 

If you’re looking for a quick boost and don’t have the time to prepare an entire meal or a healthy diet plan, check out the MOSH protein bar — our signature brain blend of ingredients is called that for a reason! 

Visit MOSH today to build a bundle of unique flavors and see for yourself. We can’t guarantee you’ll do better on your test after a MOSH-fueled study session, but we can guarantee you’ll have a delicious time studying for it. 

Looking for more articles on brain-fueling nutrients? Explore the rest of the MOSH blog here!



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The Water in You: Water and the Human Body | U.S. Geological Survey

Lutein Has a Positive Impact on Brain Health in Healthy Older Adults: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials and Cohort Studies | PMC

Here’s the Reason Why So Many People Really Hate Broccoli | SBS Science

Avocados | The Nutrition Source | Harvard School of Public Health

Essential Fatty Acids and Human Brain | NCBI Bookshelf

Dietary Fats | American Heart Association

Cholesterol Content of Foods | Patient Education | UCSF Health

Cholesterol Metabolism in the Brain and Its Association with Parkinson’s Disease | PMC

Cholesterol Myths and Facts | CDC

The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health | PMC

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Lycopene and Cognitive Function | PMC

Lycopene as a Natural Antioxidant Used to Prevent Human Health Disorders | PMC

Linking Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress and Disease With Flavonoid Consumption: From Experimental Models to Humans | PMC

Flavonoids: an Overview | PMC

Understanding Antioxidants | Harvard Health

Antioxidants: In Depth | NCCIH

What are Neurotransmitters? | Queensland Brain Institute

Protein Supply in Long Nerves: How Do Neurons Do It? | Max Planck Institute for Brain Research

Adenosine and Sleep | Sleep Foundation

Cortisol: The Good News, Bad News, and the Downright Ugly Truth behind This Stress Hormone | University of Utah Health

Caffeine | Better Health Channel

Impact of Underconsumption on Cognitive Performance - Not Eating Enough | NCBI Bookshelf

Studies Show Glucose and Oxygen Help Brain | ABC News

Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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