'I'm a Neurologist—This Is the Afternoon Snack I Eat Almost Every Day'

For most people, there comes a point in the afternoon when powering through gets difficult and you just need a snack. Chances are it’s something you’ve experienced first-hand: First comes the trouble concentrating, followed by starting to mentally catalog what you have in the kitchen that you can munch on.

If you’re going to reach for a snack, you might as well make it one that works in your favor, supporting your brain health both in the present and the future. That way, you’re able to concentrate better on what you need to get done and you’re helping to lower your risk of experiencing cognitive decline in the future. Talk about a win-win!

Keep reading to find out what brain-healthy snack a neurologist herself eats almost every day and more tips on how to eat with brain health in mind.

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A Neurologist’s Favorite Snack for Brain Health

There’s one brain-healthy snack in particular that Dr. Elana Clar, MD, a neurologist at New Jersey Brain & Spine, says she always keeps with her at work: berries. “I always have cartons of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries in my little fridge at work,” she says.

There are a few different reasons why Dr. Clar says she likes snacking on berries. One is that it satisfies her craving for something sweet in a healthy way, unlike ultra-processed snack foods high in added sugar, like candy. Scientific research shows that foods high in added sugar are detrimental to brain health both in the immediate and long-term, linked to reduced cognitive function, worse memory performance and a higher risk of cognitive impairment.

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Regularly eating berries, on the other hand, has been scientifically linked to protecting against cognitive decline. Dr. Clar explains that a major reason for this is because berries are high in antioxidants, which help lower inflammation in the brain and fight cellular damage, which she says are crucial for keeping the brain healthy.

Tips for Making Brain-Healthy Snack Choices

In general, if you want to keep your afternoon snacking good for your brain, Dr. Clar says to opt for real, whole foods as opposed to ones that are ultra-processed. She believes that the healthiest foods are ones that don’t come with a nutritional label. Fruits, vegetables, roasted chickpeas seasoned with spices, and air-popped popcorn are all examples of label-free, nutrient-rich, brain-healthy snacks.

When you keep these guidelines in mind, snacking is better for brain health than not having a snack at all. Scientific research shows that healthy snacking is associated with better mental health as well as helping to maintain a healthy diet in general. The brain needs nutrients to function properly. Going hungry can lead to low energy and brain fog. So if you’re hungry, have a snack!

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You can even craft your afternoon snack to boost your mood. Scientific research shows that eating fish, beans, legumes, leafy greens, vegetables and nuts are all linked to promoting mental health. With this in mind, consider pairing your berries with a handful of your favorite type of nuts. (Psst! A neurologist told us walnuts are especially good for brain health.)

Remember: There are lots of foods that support brain health that you can integrate into your regular snack rotation. Berries are a great one because they’re full of antioxidants and don’t require any prep whatsoever, but if there are other fruits, veggies, nuts or other brain-healthy foods you prefer, those are great options too. The key is choosing foods high in nutrients and antioxidants (which protect against inflammation in the brain) and low in sugar and other additives that are pro-inflammatory.

By putting this into practice, you’ll be supporting your brain with every snack you eat. It definitely makes this advice worth keeping in, well, mind.

Next up, find out what blood test is important for staying mentally sharp, according to neurologists.