Dr. Amen’s 7 Brain Superfoods for 2020

Dr. Amen’s 7 Brain Superfoods for 2020


Each year, nutritionists and wellness experts offer their suggestions for the best superfoods to fight cancer, protect heart health, and fight off cold and flu bugs. But what about superfoods that enhance brain health and mental wellbeing? Dr. Daniel Amen, a neuropsychiatrist and brain imaging expert, has selected the following 7 brain superfoods for 2020 for their ability to support neural networks, optimize day-to-day brain functioning, enhance moods, sharpen mental focus, and more.

For better brain health, add these superfoods to your shopping list in the New Year.

Hemp Seeds

Cultivated from the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, hemp seeds contain only trace amounts of THC, the psychoactive compound found in marijuana. These plant-based proteins are high in prebiotic fiber, which supports gut health and helps keep you feeling full, and they’re an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that provide a host of brain benefits. In addition, they contain more protein than chia seeds or flaxseeds and they provide all the essential amino acids, which are key for the production of neurotransmitters. Hemp seeds are also high in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which research has found can reduce depression in women with PMS.

Smart Ways to Eat It: Sprinkle hemp seeds into smoothies or use hemp milk instead of other dairy-free milk alternatives.


A popular Indian spice, turmeric is found in curry and contains a chemical called curcumin that has been shown to decrease the plaques in the brain thought to be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease. For a 2009 study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers mixed curcumin and vitamin D3 in the blood of Alzheimer’s patients in test tubes and found that it prevented the buildup of the abnormal plaques associated with the disease. More than 7,000 published articles have revealed the benefits of curcumin, including powerful anti-inflammatory properties, as well as antioxidants, blood sugar regulation, and anti-cancer activities.

Smart Ways to Eat It: Add flavor to your favorite proteins or vegetables with turmeric-infused curries.

Seaweed and Sea Vegetables

These superfoods of the sea are forms of algae that are a good source of selenium, tyrosine, and iodine to support healthy thyroid function. When your thyroid is underactive, it can produce symptoms, such as memory problems, inattention, depression, and psychosis. If it is overactive, it can lead to anxiety, sleeplessness, and more. Seaweed and other sea vegetables are also high in fiber, which supports gut health, and they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. Research shows that a brown seaweed called fucoxanthin has shown promise in improving insulin resistance and blood sugar control.

Smart Ways to Eat It: Try seaweed snacks instead of chips or use seaweed wraps instead of bread.

Pea Protein

This plant-based protein powder derived from yellow peas packs a nutritious punch, and it provides all 9 of the essential amino acids your body cannot produce. This makes it an ideal vegan substitute for animal proteins that supports healthy neurotransmitter production. Pea protein also provides a good dose of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), especially arginine, which promotes blood flow, which is critical for optimal brain function. Low blood flow on brain SPECT imaging has been seen with depression, suicide, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), hoarding, murder, substance abuse, seizure activity, and more. Fueling your brain and body with pea protein can also help curb cravings, increase mental focus, and boost energy.

Smart Ways to Eat It: Use it in smoothies for a powerful start to your day.

Brazil Nuts

You don’t have to go all the way to Brazil to get the nutritional benefits of these nuts. With one of the highest concentrations of selenium, they support thyroid function and the immune system. Research in The Journal of Nutrition shows that when selenium levels are too low (or too high), it increases the risk of depression in young adults. A polyphenol called ellagic acid found in Brazil nuts may also have neuroprotective properties and has antidepressant-like effects, according to a growing body of research.

Smart Ways to Eat It: Toss Brazil nuts in salads or eat a small handful for a nutritious snack.


Sardines are chock full of omega-3 fatty acids as well as choline, a compound that is neuroprotective and useful in support following head trauma. Animal research from 2008 found that a choline-supplemented diet improved spatial memory, reduced brain inflammation, and balanced some deficits related to TBI.

Smart Ways to Eat It: Place sardines in half an avocado for a buttery rich meal, or chop them up and “hide” them in a homemade sauce or marinara.

Gluten-Free Whole Oats

It’s common knowledge that whole oats are full of nutrients, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. But what elevates them to brain superfood status is the high concentration of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, an amino acid that helps to stabilize electrical activity in the brain and calms over-firing in the brain. This results in a feeling of calmness and more self-control. Low levels of GABA have been found in many psychiatric disorders, including anxiety and some forms of depression. Some research on brainwaves has shown that GABA increases alpha waves (associated with relaxation) and reduces anxiety.

Smart Ways to Eat It: For a brain-healthy breakfast, add protein powder, cinnamon, and nuts to gluten-free whole oats.

At Amen Clinics, we take a whole-body approach to helping people overcome debilitating symptoms and achieve peak performance. We perform comprehensive evaluations that include brain SPECT imaging, as well as looking at the many lifestyle factors, such as diet, that can contribute to mental health symptoms or hold you back from reaching your potential. Our wrap-around services focus on the least toxic, most effective solutions, including brain health nutrition coaching.

If you want to join the tens of thousands of people who have already enhanced their brain health, overcome their symptoms, and optimized their performance at Amen Clinics, speak to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.



  1. I am a 60 a women living in New Zealand
    I have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s early stages following a Spct scan I have been following a keto diet for the last 12 months what I play tennis twice a week and have just started swimming anbdaily sauna is there anything more I can I to keep this at bay . I would appreciate any advice to ensure quality of life
    Kind regards regards and happy new year
    Elizabeth Hollier

    Comment by Li — December 26, 2019 @ 9:22 AM

  2. I live in Nantucket, Mass. and was wondering if you recommend any clinics or doctor’s that follow your program in the Boston area.My mother has been diagnosed with the early stages of Dementia and would like to get her on your Bright Minds program. I myself have read your book “Memory Rescue” and follow it. Any information would be helpful. Thank you so much!

    Cheryl Gregorich

    Comment by Cheryl Gregorich — January 3, 2020 @ 5:34 AM

  3. LI

    Follow Dr Dale Bredesen and watch several Youtube videos with his interveiws. Also his book “The end of Alzheimer’s”will have everything you need to know. Exercise is key so keep it up!

    Comment by sharon mcdaniel — January 3, 2020 @ 7:08 AM

  4. Many of the foods etc. we have on our list of good things to eat. What are the quantities you would suggest?

    Comment by Gail Ruetz — January 3, 2020 @ 8:00 AM

  5. To Li

    Keto diet is not a good way to keep acidic foods away from your body. You want to become more alkaline is much as possible Keto puts your body and brain in an acidic state. Follow Dr. AMEN. I teach nutrition. He knows what he is talking about. Please avoid dairy and meats like pork and red meat. Stick to fish

    Comment by Lisa Felty — January 3, 2020 @ 8:16 AM

  6. 1. Do word puzzles or anything else that makes your brain work harder.
    Do something you enjoy

    2. Join clubs and be involved with people on a regular basis.

    3. Have fun with family and friends

    4. Stay away from people who annoy you or make you feel bad

    5. Believe in yourself and love yourself…you will feel better

    Comment by Margaret Lee — January 3, 2020 @ 10:48 AM

  7. Happy “2020” New Year,

    I’m allergic to most sea food… been told to omit and stay away from it…went into a severe allergic reaction swelled for 8 days… what other sources may I get omega 3.?



    Comment by Madeline — January 3, 2020 @ 10:51 AM

  8. If I was you I’d follow the suggestions Daniel Amen gives and get on his Brain Power Max suppliment as it provides a wide range of nutrients your brain needs to function optimally. I’d also look into some of the superfoods blends created by Organifi as they are anti inflammatory and will help your brain. Organic green tea and 70% and above Cacoa should help as well, he has plently off writing available. Invest his books, they really informative! Hope your condition doesnt worsen. X

    Comment by Harry Pinnick-Gray — January 3, 2020 @ 10:56 AM

  9. I just wanted to add my two cents about Gluten-Free Whole Oats. These oats should also be organic since non-organic oats have been treated with glyphosate to speed up the harvesting process. And glyphosate can wreak havoc on the human body (other living organisms too).

    Comment by Lisa Boisvert — January 3, 2020 @ 4:36 PM

  10. Very disappointed in your jumping on the “Pot” bandwagon by calling hemp seeds a brain food.

    Would you tell people to eat apple seeds which are poisonous?

    Lots of other ways to get the other nutrients in hemp seeds without any THC.

    Very disappointing.

    Comment by Katherine Adelaide — January 4, 2020 @ 4:07 AM

  11. Madeline, research hemp oil, hemp seeds. Also algae oil. All good sources of Omega 3,6 &9 in the correct ratio.

    Comment by Neerana-Grace — January 4, 2020 @ 4:43 AM

  12. Ultra Dha fish oil capsules are excellent. Start at your closest Health food store. Mine gives me super advice and a generous discount. Also the library has a fabulous range of books and a large range of Amen books also. I have studied and followed how to keep my brain alive and am delighted with the results.
    I do not tell friends why I do what I do and that is a wise decision. I started by trusting God to show me the way and followed all the prompts given me. KD New Zealand You can do it too.

    Comment by There is an excellent range 0f great brain supplements available including ultra DHA fish oil capsules. Start at your closest health food shop. Mine gives me a good discount and excellent advice. K — January 4, 2020 @ 4:52 PM

  13. I am also allergic to seafood and my daughter is a vegetarian. We take a vegan omega 3 algae oil epa-dha supplement. I buy them on Amazon.

    Comment by Lori — January 5, 2020 @ 4:45 AM

  14. Flax seed is an excellent source of omega 3. Use the oil to make salad dressing, store the oil in the refrigerator. Grind the seeds and add them to cereals, homemade breads, salads, etc.

    Comment by Devorah Olam — January 5, 2020 @ 7:52 AM

  15. Despite its medical usefulness, many Americans’ attitudes towards cannabis shifted at the turn of the century. This was at least partly motivated by Mexican immigration to the U.S. around the time of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, according to Eric Schlosser, author of Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market.
    “Police officers in Texas claimed that marijuana incited violent crimes, aroused a ‘lust for blood,’ and gave its users ‘superhuman strength.’ Rumors spread that Mexicans were distributing this ‘killer weed’ to unsuspecting American schoolchildren.”
    Another case of zenophobia. Why is oxycontin still legal? Profit.

    Comment by Paul — January 5, 2020 @ 8:25 PM

  16. Cheryl makes a great point. Where in the Boston area do you recommend for cognitive help for people with high level learning disabilities from Mercury, lead, mold, and possibly Lyme? Any suggestions for the Boston area would be great we need help up here Dr Amen.

    Comment by Paul — January 25, 2020 @ 7:17 AM

  17. Wanted to share about my Mother. My Mom was sharp in her thinking. Mom & Dad, after we Children were out of the home, they played Miniture Golf, became Champs & was given Year round passes. Owners wanted them to join Miniture Golf Championship Games. But my parents only played for their enjoyment. Another thing they did was Cross Word puzzles all the time. If they couldn’t figure out words, they went to investigating till they understood. No puzzle went unfinished. My Mom didn’t drive, she was a walker. Mom took care of my Dad through 2 open heart surgeries. Dad had narrowing of his veins, thus the heart surgeries. Mom also, read her Bible faithfully,. Unfortunately, I didn’t know of Dr. Amen and his work to help my parents. My Dad passed at 83, Mom passed at 101!! Mom was quick in her thinking, physically lived in her own Apartment till she passed. My Mom’s diet may have helped her live to be 101. Mom loved her Avocados, Hazel nuts, Peas, Oats & Fish, Fruits. My Mom never had completely gray or white hair, people accused her of using hair color, but she didn’t. Reading her Bible all the time, Crossword puzzles, Good food choices, Walking were no doubt contributors to her long life. Mom was active & clear minded two days before she passed in her own home. Had I known about Dr. Amen, I would have been implementing his findings as much as Possible with my Parents.

    Comment by Carole Christine Flynn — March 20, 2020 @ 1:03 PM

  18. I am 63 and suddenly started with explosive night time poos. I have no diagnosis yet. I am a vegan. Do you have any suggestions to help. My daughter is a big fan of yours

    Comment by Christine Robson — December 16, 2021 @ 5:07 AM

  19. 1. Hemp seeds do not contain THC or CBD and are not mind-altering in any way. They are very nutritious.
    2. Yes, eating organic is extremely important.. yes, on most commercially grown, non-organic glyphosate is used at harvest time, turning grain and legume crops into poison. Word to the wise.

    Comment by Julie Pastore — March 23, 2022 @ 9:23 PM

  20. Been on Prednisone for 15 years for Rheumatoid Arthritis , also on Xeljanz, many attempts to get off meds, but cannot. Pain is horrific, also low thyroid. Any suggestion, am 81 years old, have read all your books..Dr. Gundry says Oatmeal even gluten-free is poison because of lecterns.

    Comment by Waltraut Lupi — January 2, 2023 @ 7:12 AM

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