10 Unexpected Brain Foods

Seeing as it is coursework season and everyone’s deadlines are drawing to a close, we thought that we would give you collegiettes a helping hand. We can’t give you that many tips on studying as we haven’t mastered it ourselves yet but when it comes to brain food, we’re your girls. Every student has ‘googled’ brain foods in desperation at some point or another and we all know the wonders of oily fish, pumpkin seeds and leafy greens. Most foods that stimulate the brain and are proven to increase motivation aren’t the most tempting and are rarely found in classic student kitchens. With that in mind, Team HC UEA have done some research and have come up with a comprehensive list of surprising and unobvious brain foods, some of which you will probably find in your kitchen and others not.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter doesn’t seem like a brain good but it is a great source of protein as well as vitamins b3 which are proven to help brain function. Eating protein boosts motivation, so rather than tucking into a filling breakfast of carbs, opt for a slice of toast with some peanut butter for a perfect pick-me-up.


Honey not only tastes delicious but it’s also proven to be great for brain fuel. People often stay away from honey because of the sugar it contains, it is really important to remember however that sugar is a key energy source for our bodies and brains. The sugar in honey is all natural and filled with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from plants. Just swapping sugar for honey can have many health benefits and can give you a natural boost rather than a forced buzz and then a sugar low.


This brain food is probably not in your student cupboard but they are readily available and surprisingly cheap! Mussels are packed with DHA, heme iron and vitamin B12; three fundamental nutrients for protecting brain health and preserving memory. We are not suggesting that you eat mussels every day but it is interesting to note that every 3 ounce serving of mussels contains 430 milligrams of DHA - equivalent to three to five standard fish oil pills.


Watermelon is not a typical student fruit but it has been proven to contain high concentrations of antioxidants, most notably lycopene, which can prevent cognitive decline. Watermelon is also incredibly refreshing and a great source of water, stopping you from getting a work headache from staring at your laptop screens too hard! Be careful though! Over-eating watermelon WILL lead to over-weeing, so maybe only snack on it at home where there isn’t a toilet queue!


Seaweed is also unlikely to be in your student cupboard but in terms of being a brain food, its properties speak for itself. Seaweed contains folic acid: a fundamental brain nutrient, as well as being rich in lignans and dietary potassium, both of which reduce stress, protect the brain and body from negative effects of stress and improve cognitive performance.

Ice cream

Ice cream may not be a typical brain food in terms of vitamin content but it is proven to stimulate the brain. Funnily enough it has been proven that ice cream makes the brain ‘light up’ in the some way that it does when people win money - Just one spoonful lights up the happy zones in the brain.

Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is in most student kitchens and is a great source of monounsaturated fats that are proven to slow brain aging. Swapping vegetable oil for a drizzle of extra virgin could make all the difference!


When we discovered that popcorn was a brain food, we were thrilled! It’s a wholegrain that improves blood flow to the brain and its vitamin B6 content is great for brain cell communication. It’s also a great snack to indulge in without getting too full and draining your energy!

Dark chocolate

We were hoping that chocolate would be good brain food and it is – Hooray! Dark chocolate in particular contains cacao beans that are considered a super food and can improve your mood, increase motivation and help ease pain when you get a work headache!


This is by far the most random of the brain foods listed but sage has been proven to contain compounds that prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in learning and memory.  The herb has been used medicinally for centuries in many different cultures and has scientific evidence proving its effectiveness in improving and helping to delay cognitive decline!

“Disclaimer: Don’t solely rely on ‘brain foods’ to nail your deadlines and pass your exams, we’ve tried that in the past and it will not work!  Trust us!”