I recently finished reading neurologist Dr. David Perlmutter’s book “Brain Maker,” in which he states that everything about our health, how we feel emotionally and physically, depends on the state of our microbiome (the vast population of organisms that live in our body, basically the insects in our gut).

He says that our microbiome is the ultimate creator of the brain and that the bugs in our gut are just as vital to our health as our heart, lungs, liver, and brain.

To dig a little deeper, it traces each type of disease back to inflammation (for example, diabetes, cancer, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, dementia, etc.). Our immune system controls inflammation and the microbiome regulates the immune response.

Eating for Optimal Brain Health

Before we get into the 50 specific foods, here are a few principles Dr. Perlmutter recommends we live by:

Choose organic, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, high-quality fats, and foods free of toxic ingredients and antibiotics.

A diet rich in fiber-rich sources of whole fruits and vegetables feeds good gut bacteria.

Your main entree should be mostly fibrous fruits and vegetables, with protein on the side. The ideal plate is a sizeable serving of vegetables (2/3 of your plate) and about 3-4 ounces of protein.

Brain-Maker Foods


  1. Leafy greens and lettuces
  2. Spinach
  3. Broccoli
  4. Kale
  5. Mushrooms
  6. Cauliflower
  7. Brussel Sprouts
  8. Green Beans
  9. Radishes
  10. Jicama

Low Sugar Fruit

11. Avocado

12. Bell peppers

13. Cucumber

14. Tomato

15. Zucchini

16. Squash

17. Eggplant

18. Berries

Fermented foods / Probiotics (eat at least 1 fermented food daily)

19. Live-cultured yogurt

20. Kefir

21. Kombucha Tea

22. Kimchi

23. Sauerkraut

24. Pickles (must be pickled in brine, not vinegar)

25. Picked fruit and vegetables (e.g. carrot sticks)

Healthy fat

26. Extra-virgin olive oil

27. Coconut oil

28. Organic or pasture-fed butter

29. Almond milk

30. Olives

31. Nuts and nut butters

32. Cheese (except for blue cheeses)

33. Seeds (flaxseed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds)


34. Whole eggs

35. Wild fish (salmon, black cod, mahimahi, grouper, herring, trout, sardines)

36. Shellfish and mollusks (shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, clams, oysters)

37. Grass-fed meat, fowl, poultry, and pork (beef, lamb, liver, bison, chicken, turkey, duck)

Herbs, seasonings, and condiments

38. Mustard

39. Horseradish

40. Salsa

41. Herbs and seasonings

Nature’s healthy indulgences

42. Coffee (2–5 cups daily)

43. Wine (1 glass per day for women, 1–2 glasses for men)

44. Dark chocolate (no more than 2–3 squares per day)

45. Tea

Prebiotics (12 grams daily)

46. Raw Jerusalem artichoke

47. Raw garlic

48. Raw leek

49. Raw or cooked onion

50. Raw asparagus

And one more “drink” for good measure

51. Filtered water (chlorine-free)

If you’re interested in the role of the gut in determining the health of your brain, I highly recommend reading “Brain Maker.” Dr. Perlmutter goes much deeper into the science behind this phenomenon, as well as how the microbiome can be damaged throughout life and the specific types of foods to avoid. But I hope this “cheat sheet” clarifies how to eat to protect and preserve your brain.