A healthy diet as you're growing up may help you have a higher IQ, while a diet high in processed foods, fat and sugar may result in a lower IQ, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in February 2011. Many of the same foods typically recommended for a healthy diet may also be good for your IQ.
Fish and Omega-3 Sources
Omega-3 fats, found in many types of fish and seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, are important for infant brain development. An article published on the Association for Psychological Science website notes that children given omega-3 fats have higher IQs than those who don't consume much of these essential polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats may also help protect against dementia as you get older. Oysters are also a good seafood choice, because they're rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency may adversely affect brain development, according to a review article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013.
Children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to contaminants in fish, so choose those that are high in omega-3 fats but low in contaminants, such as wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, mussels and rainbow trout for the recommended two servings per week of seafood to maximize benefits while minimizing risks.
Fruits and Vegetables
Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and orange and red fruits and vegetables, may help protect your brain function and your memory as you age because of the beta-carotene and vitamin C they contain.
A diet rich in herbs, legumes, raw fruits and vegetables and cheese resulted in a higher IQ in children than a diet that included higher amounts of sweet and salty snacks, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in July 2012.
Another study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2009, came to a similar conclusion, showing that children who ate higher amounts of fruits, vegetables and home-prepared foods had higher IQs.
Iron-deficiency anemia may impair your attention span, IQ and ability to concentrate, so eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Increasing iron intake only appears to help IQ when children are deficient in iron, however, according to the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article. Iron-rich foods include lean meats, oysters, beans, tofu, spinach, sardines and fortified breakfast cereals.
Other Protein-Rich Foods
Diets higher in protein and lower in fat may help improve your concentration because of the dopamine your body releases with protein consumption. Soy protein may be particularly helpful, since it also contains lecithin, which may improve memory and brain function. Lowfat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes are all nutritious sources of protein.
Get Plenty of B Vitamins and Choline
Foods containing folate, vitamin B-12 and choline may also help keep your brain healthy, limiting your risk for dementia, depression and neurological disorders. They are also important for cognitive development, so if children don't get enough of these vitamins they may have a lower IQ. Folate is available in fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, beef liver, rice, asparagus, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and avocado, and most animal-based foods contain vitamin B-12. Good sources of choline include beef, eggs, scallops, salmon, chicken breast, cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
- Daily Mail: The IQ Diet
- European Journal of Epidemiology: Dietary Patterns at 6, 15 and 24 Months of Age Are Associated With IQ at 8 Years of Age
- Association for Psychological Science: Diet, Parental Behavior, and Preschool Can Boost Children’s IQ
- Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: Are Dietary Patterns in Childhood Associated With IQ at 8 Years of Age? A Population-Based Cohort Study
- Frontiers in Human Neuroscience: The Role of Nutrition in Children's Neurocognitive Development, From Pregnancy Through Childhood
- Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry: Dietary Patterns in Infancy and Cognitive and Neuropsychological Function in Childhood
- Nature Reviews Neuroscience: Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function
- Colorado State University Extension: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- Linus Pauling Institute: Choline