Foods That Increase BDNF for Brain Health & Weight Loss

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, also known as BDNF, is a neurotrophin (a growth factor protein) that plays a vital role in brain health and the flexibility of the central nervous system. BDNF acts as a fertilizer for the brain cells, helping them grow during early development as well as supporting adult neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells in adulthood). BDNF also maintains brain circuits (through neuroplasticity). Lack of this neurotrophin leads to impaired learning, depression, anxiety, as well as many neurological conditions including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders. 

Since 1995 we also know that BDNF is connected to weight loss. A study showed that brain infusion of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) induces weight loss in rats through appetite suppression. [1] Another study showed that BDNF could modify circuits important to eating behavior and energy expenditure. [2]

Intermittent fasting and regular exercise help increase BDNF levels.

But fortunately for us, certain foods are also known to supply nutrients that increase BDNF levels. Increase these foods in your diet, and you ensure healthy functioning of your brain for the long term. There are two nutrients especially known to increase BDNF levels. These nutrients can be found in a number of food sources mentioned below: 


The first is Resveratrol, a polyphenol known for its properties of anti-aging and widely used in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Studies suggest that Resveratrol has neuroprotective effects on the body by supplying higher levels of BDNF. [1] This nutrient may also be taken as a supplement. However, care should be considered in people using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and blood thinners as Resveratrol supplementation may increase bleeding. It is best taken through food sources.


The second is Omega-3. We need omega-3 as an essential healthy-fat which has many functions throughout our bodies, some of which include their neuroprotective effect on the brain by normalizing as well as increasing BDNF levels and reducing oxidative damage in the brain. [2] Omega-3 fatty acids also increase BDNF synthesis and signaling between neurons and synaptic plasticity. [3]

Foods Rich In These BDNF Supporting Nutrients: 

1. Berries

In all their varieties, berries are a fabulous way to introduce Resveratrol into your diet. It is effortless to start consuming the berries whether in oatmeal porridge or as part of a fruit salad. Strawberries, blueberries, mulberries, cranberries and some other berries you might never have heard of, are high in this “time reversing” antioxidant.

2. Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a popular superfood, and there are many reasons why. Chia seeds are rich in essential omega-3 fats, which increase BDNF levels and are an integral part of cell membranes throughout our entire bodies. These tiny seeds also contain other fatty acids such as omega-6 and omega-9 with perfect proportions between the different fatty acids to support health. 

3. Grapes

Grapes are another food that we can include in our diets to consume Resveratrol. Other options can consist of red wine or red grape juice. Both of which contain high amounts of this critical antioxidant. Although my recommendation is to go for the whole black or red grapes. Although green grapes contain very low levels of resveratrol, they do contain catechins with very potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits also crucial for brain health.

4. Walnuts

This healthy snack food is packed with beneficial nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids. We commonly consume these nuts along with dried fruits and other nuts. It is a favorite go-to snack when you are on the run, so eat up. Each walnut is a rich source of healthy omega 3 fatty acidosis well as fiber which helps digestive function.

5. Dark Chocolate

A 100g serving of dark chocolate also contains 0.035mg of Resveratrol. So, this delicious treat is also good for brain health, although it can be very addictive for most people. If you are not one who becomes addicted to cocoa, then you might also enjoy adding raw Cocoa Powder to your oatmeal or making yourself a cup of hot cocoa with almond milk.

6. Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds may be small, but they are large in nutritional value. Not only are they a good source of omega-3 fatty acids they are also rich in protein, fiber, magnesium and vitamin B1. Next time you prepare oatmeal, soups, or any hot dishes, you can throw in a spoonful for the added benefits.

7. Peanuts

The least of the appreciated nuts, maybe because it is really not a nut, but a legume. Peanuts can offer us tremendous benefits when it comes to providing Resveratrol. Peanuts, as well as peanut butter, contain high quantities of Resveratrol. They are also rich in protein, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, B vitamins 9, 1 & 3  and iron. Just make sure you are eating them from organic sources and if you choose peanut butter, check the ingredients for added sugars and oil.

8. Curcumin

Turmeric is a root rich in a compound that has an almost endless list of health benefits. When BDNF levels are concerned, curcumin has been found to increase brain levels of BDNF. Black pepper along with the spice turmeric help the absorption of curcumin in the body to get its many health benefits.

You will agree that all of these options sound delicious. Adding this kind of variety to your eating plan is vital for brain function and support in the long term as well as being a natural preventative measure for many neurological disorders. 

I talk about this amazing growth factor extensively in The Guerrilla Diet & Lifestyle Program book in chapters 10, 11 and 15.

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’d be honored if you would share it with your family, friends, and followers by clicking the Like, Tweet, and Share buttons. If you are serious about improving your health no matter what your age or circumstances, and are ready to finally achieve optimal health and lose the weight you’ve been struggling with, then click HERE to check out my online Guerrilla Diet Bootcampfor Healthy and Lasting Weight Loss.

If you are not already on my mailing list where you will receive my weekly articles packed with scientifically based health, and nutrition content, as well as many FREE bonuses and special offers, and much more, then  click HERE to subscribe.

Thank You, 🙂

Galit Goldfarb


1. Rahvar M, Nikseresht M, Shafiee SM, Naghibalhossaini F, Rasti M, Panjehshahin MR, Owji AA. Effect of oral resveratrol on the BDNF gene expression in the hippocampus of the rat brain. Neurochem Res. 2011 May;36(5):761-5. doi: 10.1007/s11064-010-0396-8. Epub 2011 Jan 9.

2. Wu A, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F. Dietary omega-3 fatty acids normalize BDNF levels, reduce oxidative damage, and counteract learning disability after traumatic brain injury in rats. J Neurotrauma. 2004 Oct;21(10):1457-67.

3. Knochel, Christian & Voss, Martin & Gruter, Florian & Alves, Gilberto & Matura, Silke & Sepanski, Beate & Stäblein, Michael & Wenzler, Sofia & Prvulovic, David & Carvalho, Andre & Oertel-Knöchel, Viola. (2015). Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Novel Neurotherapeutic Targetsfor Cognitive Dysfunction in Mood Disorders and Schizophrenia?. Current Neuropharmacology. 13. 1-1. 10.2174/1570159X13666150630173047