Best foods to eat for baby brain development

9 Foods To Boost Your Baby's Brain Development During Pregnancy – feedmomandme

Written by: Co-Founder Amanda Capriglione, RDN, CDN

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO

In this article

Every parent naturally wants their baby to be healthy and grow up to be smart. Scientific research suggests that your diet during pregnancy can help boost fetal brain development. Optimal nutrient intake will not only have you flourishing but also your growing baby. We will be discussing the nutrients and foods that help boost a baby’s brain development while pregnant.


Taking a daily complete prenatal plus DHA multivitamin will help you get those extra nutrients you may not be getting in your everyday diet. Look for a prenatal with DHA and Choline, both essential for baby’s brain development. We recommend taking Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal + DHA Multivitamin.

Vitamins supplements are meant to supplement your well-rounded diet regimen. They help enhance your intake of nutrients and vitamins along with your everyday food intake. Vitamin supplements aren’t meant to be used in place of real food.

For more information on prenatal vitamins, please check out our Benefits of Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal with DHA Multivitamin Blog. To purchase our Prenatal Vitamins, click here! You got this mama, you and your little one are going to thrive!


Active forms of omega-3 fatty acids are docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are vitally important for your developing baby’s brain & retina during pregnancy. DHA is the critical component of the cell membrane in the brain, eyes, and nervous system. It also supports the development of the cerebrum, cerebellum, and brain stem.

The fetal’s brain growth accelerates during your second trimester and continues growth for several years after birth. During pregnancy and lactation, it is recommended women’s daily intake of at least 200 mg of DHA. Both DHA and EPA are primarily derived from seafood and algae. Consuming 1 to 2 servings of seafood per week and a daily prenatal with DHA will help with your omega-3 intake.

  • Fish such as Salmon, Mackerel, Tuna, Herring, and Sardines. (No more than 12 ounces per week)
  • Fortified Eggs
  • Flax and Chia Seeds

★ A good prenatal vitamin with natural DHA will smell a little fishy.

Read more on DHA in our blog, All You Need To Know About Prenatal Vitamins And DHA.


Choline is vital for the proper development of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. It also helps form the neurotransmitters in the brain, which the nervous system uses to transmit messages between neurons, and/or neurons to muscles. It also influences lifelong memory functions for your developing baby.

  • Lean Beef, and Poultry.
  • Fish such as Salmon. (No more than 12 ounces per week)
  • Dairy Products such as Eggs.
  • Potatoes
  • Vegetables such as Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, and Cauliflower.
  • Some Grains such as Quinoa.
  • Some Nuts such as Peanuts.
  • Read more on choline in our blog, Choline during pregnancy.


    Vitamin B complex plays a critical role during pregnancy for your developing baby’s brain. They help aid the production of numerous aspects of brain function, including energy production, DNA/RNA synthesis/repair, genomic and non-genomic methylation, and the synthesis of numerous neurochemicals and signaling molecules. They can also be considered a potent antioxidant capable of protecting the brain’s cellular membranes.

    • Poultry, Lean Beef, and Meat.
    • Fish such as Tuna and Salmon. (No more than 12 ounces per week)
    • Dairy Products such as Eggs, Milk, Yogurt
    • Nuts and Seeds such as Peanuts, Sunflower Seeds, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Cashew Nuts
    • Legumes such as Chickpeas, Black-Eyed peas, and Kidney Beans
    • Whole Grains such as Whole Wheat, Brown Rice, and Oats.
    • Enriched and Fortified Foods such as many Breads and Cereals.
    • Vegetables such as Mushrooms (especially shiitakes), Avocados, Potatoes, Asparagus, and Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli.
    • Leafy Vegetables such as Spinach and Mustard Greens.
    • Fruits such as Papaya, Oranges, and Banana.
    • Dried fruits such as Apricots and Prunes.


    Antioxidants protect your developing baby’s brain tissues and cellular membranes from damage and free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells. Produce contains the most amounts of antioxidants that are good for you and your baby. Try to consume seven servings of well-washed fruits and vegetables daily.

    • Dark Chocolate
    • Pecans
    • Berries such as Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries, and Goji Berries
    • Vegetables such as Artichokes, Broccoli, Asparagus, and Squash
    • Leafy Vegetables such as Kale, Spinach, Cabbage, Lettuce, Collard Greens
    • Root Vegetables such as Carrots, Beets, Radish
    • Legumes such as Beans and Peas
    • Avocados

    ★ Dark-colored produce often has more antioxidants.

    6. IRON

    Iron is one of the critical nutrients in developing a healthy baby. It helps your body produce hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen through your red blood cells, delivering life-sustaining oxygen to your baby. Oxygen helps flourish your developing baby’s brain growth. Make sure you stay hydrated when consuming iron to help avoid constipation. Check out our blog on the Top 15 Foods to Help Naturally Relieve Pregnancy Constipation.

    • Lean Meat, and Poultry.
    • Iron-fortified Breakfast Cereals and Breads.
    • Legumes such as White Beans, Lentils, Spinach, Kidney Beans, Peas, and Edamame.
    • Dried Fruits such as Raisins, Apricots, Peaches, and Prunes.
    • Leafy Greens such as Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, and Collards Greens.

    Read more on iron in our blog, Iron during pregnancy.

    7. PROTEIN 

    Every cell in your body requires protein’s numerous amino acids to help your body make new cells and repair cells. Research has shown that proteins are essential for the function of brain cells and the development of your baby’s brain. 

    • Poultry
    • Fish such as Salmon & Shrimp
    • Dairy such as Eggs, Milk
    • Legumes such as Beans, Lentils, Split Peas.
    • Nuts & Seed such as Peanuts, Walnuts, Cashews, Pistachios, and almonds
    • Whole grains

    8. IODINE

    Your thyroid needs iodine to produce triiodothyronine & thyroxine hormones in both your developing baby and you during pregnancy. Iodine plays a crucial role in aiding the formation of your growing baby’s cerebral cortex and neocortex, visual and auditory cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum. The fetal thyroid is not fully active up until the 20th week of pregnancy; therefore, your baby is entirely dependent on maternal thyroxine supply.

    • Seafood & Fish such as Cod, Tuna, Seaweed, and Shrimp.
    • Dairy products such as Milk, Yogurt, and Cheese.
    • Iodized salt

    Read more on iodine in our blog, The importance of iodine during pregnancy.

    9. ZINC 

    Zinc is a key micronutrient that helps with the rapid growth and development of cells and tissue.  Aiding the development of the brain's hippocampal and cerebellar. Making it essential for your baby’s brain development.




    Eggs, Fish, Nuts, Leafy Greens

    As a mother, it’s never too early to start thinking about your baby’s brain and what you can do to promote healthy development. Maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet throughout pregnancy is one of the best ways you can promote the proper growth and development of your baby. This is especially true with regards to their brain development. Some of the nutrients that are essential to the proper growth and development of your baby’s brain include folate, choline, iron, plenty of antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and more.

    There are many foods you can eat during pregnancy that include these nutrients. Think foods that are scientifically proven to help boost brain development and improve your baby’s memory and learning capacity. Sign us up, right?! As moms, all we really want is to know that we’re giving our little ones the best start in life possible. So with that being said, we’ve created a list of different foods that pregnant women can eat to support fetal brain development. All in an effort to give our baby the happiest and healthiest start possible!

    Leafy Greens

    Leafy greens like spinach, asparagus, kale, and turnip greens are an excellent source of several vitamins and minerals. They all pack a major punch and promote healthy fetal brain development. Leafy greens are a great source of folate. Folate contributes directly to the development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord.

    Folate has also been proven to help prevent brain and spine-related birth defects, also known as neural tube defects, like anencephaly and spina bifida. In addition to folate, leafy greens are also rich in antioxidants, which are both good for mom’s health and help to promote the healthy growth and development of the baby’s brain.

    Nuts & Seeds

    Nuts and seeds are rich sources of healthy fats, antioxidants, protein, folate, and zinc. Plus, they’re super easy to add to any meal and they’re one of many healthy snack ideas for pregnant women. Zinc is used by the mother and baby to create new cells and is involved in DNA synthesis. It’s an essential building block of the baby’s brain and is also known for supporting both the mother and baby’s immune system.


    Eating high-quality seafood, like tuna and salmon, helps to promote the baby’s brain development big time. They are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. According to research, omega-3 fatty acids are an essential building block of the baby’s brain and eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids are absolutely necessary for the proper growth and development of your baby’s brain, retinas, nerves, and more.

    While high-quality fish is recommended during pregnancy, it’s important to remember to focus on low-mercury seafood choices during pregnancy. For more information about consuming seafood during pregnancy, you can check out our blog about safe seafood during pregnancy.


    Legumes contain many vitamins and minerals that support healthy fetal brain development. Plus, they’re some of the easiest foods to work into any recipe. Legumes like lima beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, and black-eyed peas contain folate, fiber, protein, and iron. According to the Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Nutritional Status During Pregnancy and Lactation, iron is essential to the healthy growth and development of the baby and the function of your placenta. Adequate iron intake can also help prevent iron deficiency or anemia during pregnancy. Iron deficiency or anemia could increase the risk for complications during and after delivery, such as preterm birth or postpartum depression.


    Berries like blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries are excellent sources of many essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. We LOVE berries for pregnant women for this reason. Plus, they’re great for combatting sweet cravings. Berries contain folate, fiber, vitamin C, and most importantly, they contain tons of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to prevent brain tissue damage, promote new tissue growth, and may even reduce the risk for childhood behavioral problems. Antioxidants can also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the mother’s body throughout pregnancy.


    And last, but definitely not least, eggs are an important food to support the development of a baby’s brain. Eggs are one of the best sources of choline. In fact, two large eggs provide more than half the daily recommended amount of choline for pregnant women. According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, 90% of children, pregnant women, and adults aren’t getting enough choline. The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends at least 450 mg per day of choline during pregnancy.

    Choline helps with the baby’s brain development and is specifically involved in creating the memory portion of the brain. Like folate, it also helps to prevent neural tube defects and has been compared to folate in its importance during pregnancy. Eggs are also a good source of protein and other nutrients.

    Pregnancy Food List For Baby Brain Development

    What are your thoughts on this food list to support baby’s brain development?

    Would you add anything to the list? These are our top six foods we recommend during pregnancy to support your baby’s brain development. Research has proven that consuming the above foods during pregnancy can have a positive effect on your child’s learning, memory, and cognitive functioning throughout childhood and possibly, their entire life. For some inspiration on how to add these foods to your diet, check out these healthy pregnancy lunch ideas for work or these healthy breakfast ideas for pregnant women…both include a variety of meals that feature some of the foods that promote healthy fetal brain development.

    And, as always, don’t forget to join The Prenatal Nutrition Library and check out our app too; available in both the App Store and Google Play Store. You can search any topic instead of googling it and ask questions to a pregnancy-registered dietitian!

    Food for the mind: foods that improve brain function at different ages smarter even in old age. Of course, it is better to “feed” the brain correctly throughout life, starting from the prenatal period.

    What does our brain need?

    Although our brain is only the size of a small head of cauliflower, it is the most voracious part of the body. By weight, it makes up only 2.5% of our total weight, and absorbs up to 20% of the calories we consume. There are several types of important foods, the regular use of which throughout life improves brain function, provides it with high-quality raw materials for the formation of new cells, and thus preserves our intelligence, preventing mental decline. To satisfy the "brain" hunger, you need two types of food. Firstly, the fuel necessary for the daily work of brain cells and replenishing energy reserves. And, secondly, substances that would support his daily activities. nine0003

    The following nutritional recommendations will help extend the life of our brain.

    Before birth (fetal development)

    Getty Images/Tetra images RF

    What the brain needs

    Children today are often diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Scientists have found out how the quality of the food of a pregnant woman affects the development of this syndrome in an unborn child. In particular, they turned their attention to omega-3 fatty acids. One of the leading experts on ADHD, Dr. Alex Richardson of the University of Oxford, says that there is no specific treatment or diet for this type of disorder yet, but foods rich in omega-3s can help relieve symptoms and improve overall health. After all, in order for the 100 billion brain cells with which a child is born to develop, a sufficient supply of folic acid, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine, iron and zinc is required. nine0003

    What products contain it?

    Bread, cereals, green vegetables, oranges or fruit juice are needed even during pregnancy, as these foods are rich in folic acid. Doctors also recommend that pregnant women take 0.8 mg of folic acid every day until the 12th week of pregnancy, and preferably at least 4 weeks before conception. Since some women require higher doses, it is best to discuss this with your doctor.

    Fatty fish such as sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel are the best source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA, DHA, DPA). And canola, flaxseed, and walnut oils provide us with ALA, another type of these fats. nine0003

    Use iodized salt. Table salt is recommended for cooking pasta and vegetables, and sea salt can be added to ready-made dishes. Other sources of iodine are fish, dairy products, eggs, and baked goods with iodized salt.

    Red meat is the most affordable source of iron. If you don't eat meat or fish, include plenty of legumes, fortified breads and cereals in your diet. For better absorption of iron from these foods, take them with fruit juice, but not tea - it impairs the absorption of iron. Most of these products will also provide you with zinc. nine0003

    Be careful!

    Meat is a great option, but don't overdo the liver. It is an excellent source of iron, but it contains too much vitamin A. Too much of it can damage the brain development of the unborn baby. It is enough to eat liver dishes once a week. And be careful with fish oil supplements, they are also too high in vitamin A. Before taking them during pregnancy, check with your doctor.
    Smoking and alcohol abuse are also dangerous for a child's brain development. During pregnancy, it is really important to give up bad habits. nine0003

    Children under 3

    Getty Images/Blend Images

    What the brain needs

    At birth, a baby's brain has about 100 billion cells, but it is only 15% developed. As they say, "the lights are on, but no one is home." The cells are already there, but there are no connections between them yet. The brain will be almost fully developed by the baby's third birthday, and in the first 3 years of life, impulses should begin to pass from one cell (neuron) to another. To ensure proper development of the baby, the process of connecting these brain cells must begin already in newborns. For this to happen, children need omega-3s, iron and zinc. nine0003

    What products contain it?

    Breastfeeding is the best food for young children as it provides them with everything they need during their growing season, including omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA.

    Iron-rich foods are just as important, if not more so, for babies than for pregnant women. Babies are born with a supply of iron that lasts about 6 months. After that, they require dietary sources of iron. Meat purees should be introduced at the age of 6-7 months. Baby cereals, vegetables, beans and lentils also provide us with iron, as does fish, which can be introduced from about 8 months. Most of these products also contain zinc. nine0003

    The use of these products during the first 3 years of life and beyond is very important so that the brain cells can work to their full potential. Do not rush to transfer a child from breast milk or infant formula to cow's milk, poor in iron - this may affect his health in the future.

    But food for a child's brain is not only food. All the experience accumulated by a child in 3 years affects his ability to learn and behavior in the future. Children need a safe and comfortable home with a variety of intellectual stimulation options. Talk, read, sing and play with your children, let them feel that you love them. nine0003

    By the way!

    Food alone is not enough to improve brain function. Scientists recommend doing exercises for the brain - neurobics. The basic idea is simple: do the usual things in an unusual way, and you will not let the brain "wither". The more varied and non-standard tasks that you set for yourself, the better. In scientific terms, this is what will happen: new synapses-connections are formed between neurons, the cerebral cortex thickens and becomes more tortuous. In general, the brain is literally "pumped". Read more about neuroscience here. nine0003


    Getty Images/iStockphoto

    What the brain needs

    At this age, the brain processes a lot of new information every day. Proper nutrition has a positive impact on children's school performance. These conclusions were reached by researchers from Canada, who studied the diet of 5,200 honors students. Children whose diets were rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, dietary fiber, protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin C performed better in reading and writing than those whose diets were rich in saturated fat, salt, and "empty" carbohydrates nine0044 . Previous research has shown that malnourished children were uncollected and did worse in school. Conclusion: in school years, the brain needs proteins, carbohydrates, omega-3s and various vitamins and minerals.

    What products contain this?

    Breakfast, heavy or not, gives the brain fuel to work. Toast, porridge, eggs, fruit or yogurt is a great start to the school day.

    Any protein food, such as meat, fish, nuts, cheese or milk, makes the student attentive. It stimulates the feel-good hormone dopamine, helping him enjoy lessons he usually doesn't enjoy. nine0003

    A peanut butter sandwich helps to transmit impulses from neuron to neuron as quickly as possible. If the student cannot tolerate peanuts, replace them with an egg, lean meat, or cheese.

    Oily fish is important for both academic success and growth. Canned fish is suitable for sandwiches or rolls, which can be given to the child with him to school.

    Try adding fruits and vegetables to every meal to ensure you get a full complement of brain-friendly vitamins and minerals. It's also a good solution for a healthy break snack. No proper food can replace a good night's sleep. At the lesson, at the stadium or at the exam, the child will be able to do much more if he gets enough sleep. nine0003


    Getty Images/E+

    What does the brain need?

    About 2/3 of each brain cell consists of fats. To effectively send messages, its walls must be flexible, which depends on their content of omega-3. If there are too few of them, the cell walls become rigid, if there are too many, they become soft and sluggish. It all depends on the right amount. The ratio between omega-6 and omega-4 is also important as these two types of fat compete with each other. Omega-3s will be neutralized if they are dominated by omega-6s. Since we get a lot of omega-6 from food (from vegetable oils), it is recommended to eat more food containing omega-3, such as oily fish. nine0003

    With over 40 years of experience, we want to think as clearly and quickly as possible. To perform at its best, the adult brain needs a continuous supply of energy throughout the day. Only starchy carbohydrates can provide this.

    What products contain this?

    Wherever you eat: at home, in the car or at work, breakfast is just as important for an adult as it is for a student. Eating only air, you will not be able to fully work.

    If morning tea is part of your workflow, pair it with a fruitcake, a sausage roll, or a large biscuit from a local café.

    Drinks containing caffeine, such as coffee and tea, are helpful throughout the day. The caffeine burst will help you in meetings and conferences, but keep in mind that it only peaks an hour after you've had coffee or tea.

    Eat at regular intervals during the day, this will help you keep the fuel for the brain at the proper level. Find time for lunch. Keep an emergency supply on your desk in case you can't go to lunch. Canned fish, beans, fruit or rice pudding keep well, and crackers, nuts, or low-calorie granola bars will do as well. nine0003

    Avoid chocolate or muffins in the middle of the day when energy levels are low. But don't give up sugar altogether. After lunch, take a walk around the office or get some air to stimulate the brain. If you weren't able to eat lunch, eat a sandwich or fruit for a long-term energy boost.

    The elderly

    Getty Images/Image Source

    As we age, our brain becomes more like a sieve. Brings memory, reactions. It is more difficult for us to remember, even more difficult to remember, analyze, focus on the thought process. And this, in essence, is a natural phenomenon: our gray matter, like the whole body, is subject to the process of oxidation - the same one that corrodes metal with rust, or covers an overripe apple with brown spots. This is why as we age, more than ever, our brains need antioxidants and B vitamins, especially choline. nine0003

    What products contain it?

    The main allies in the fight against brain aging are antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables. By the way, they also help to slow down oxidative processes throughout the body, moreover, without any plastic surgery. Include carrots, beets, broccoli, tomatoes, kiwi, blueberries, avocados in your diet. In addition, the “menu” of a mature brain must include nuts and seeds, cereals, butter and dark chocolate (necessarily of high quality). These products inhibit the oxidation of gray matter. nine0003

    To get the vitamins of group B necessary for the normal functioning of the brain in old age, you need to eat various types of meat, citrus fruits, vegetables, grain bread. The most useful product for the brain of an aged person is an egg, a source of choline. It has been scientifically proven that people with Alzheimer's disease and senile dementia have a lower content in the body of such an important substance for the functioning of the brain as acetylcholine. You can prevent its decrease in the body by eating eggs, milk, liver and red cabbage. There are a number of studies proving that the so-called "Mediterranean diet" (fatty fish, fresh fruits and vegetables) is useful for older people to prevent the development of senile dementia. nine0003

    Don't forget about the benefits of an active lifestyle in adulthood - no matter how good your diet is, but adequate exercise for the brain is also important.

    10 products, beneficial for the brain at any age:

    • BLACK

    • Cranberry

    • Fat fish, tuna, sardins, salmon

    • 901 901 901 901 901 901 901 901 Nuts: hazelnuts, peanuts, cashews

    • Claires and MURULY

    • Bread

    • Eggs

    • Red -haired cabbage

    • Yogurt

    9000 9020

    Anna Borisova, Svetlana Lyuboshits

    5 best foods for the development of the child's brain and memory

    Our energy directly depends on what kind of lifestyle we lead and what we eat. It is clear that you will not feed your child with fast food, and if you do, it will not lead to anything good. The diet of any person, not just a child, should be as balanced as possible. Energy consumption should be approximately equal to its consumption. In simple words, we move more, lead an active lifestyle - then we need to consume more energy-rich foods. nine0003

    Healthy baby - happy parents!

    Most children, as a rule, have their own internal energy motors, so it is very important that their nutrition is as balanced and rational as possible.

    Rational nutrition in this case is a diet that contains the correct ratio of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins and all this in sufficient quantities.

    Consider a list of foods that affect the mental activity of a child. nine0003

    Top 5 foods that should be in the diet of every child


    In the first place, of course, there will be nuts.

    Why are nuts the real food for the mind?

    Nuts contain a large amount of vitamins and minerals that are indispensable for mental stress, affect the growth and development of children, improve concentration and memory. These are polyunsaturated fatty acids, amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron, iodine. nine0003

    Despite the fact that nuts are extremely healthy, they are strong allergens, so it is advisable to introduce children into the diet no earlier than 3 years and dosed, after grinding.


    Vegetables and herbs should always be in the diet of any child.

    What are the unique properties of spinach?

    Spinach improves vision, normalizes digestion, strengthens the immune system, promotes the formation of bones and teeth. It also stimulates the brain due to lutein, which helps to better remember information. And this is not a complete list of its useful properties. Spinach can be given to children from the age of six months in the form of juice. Starting from the year you can give the leaves themselves. nine0003


    Everyone knows that eggs are a easily digestible source of protein that strengthens bones and muscles.

    However, not everyone knows that eggs contain choline , which has a beneficial effect on the functioning of the nervous system and regulates enzymes necessary for mental health.

    Therefore, eggs are very useful for children. Just remember that, unlike the yolk, protein can be given to children from 1 year old so as not to cause allergies. nine0003


    Tuna can be called the champion among fish in terms of the amount of nutrients it contains. It is very difficult to overestimate its merits. This fish contains a huge amount of trace elements (magnesium, iron, zinc, calcium, phosphorus, iodine and others), as well as a large amount of B vitamins, vitamins A, E, D. Tuna contains polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is a real treasure for our body.

    Can children give tuna? nine0203 You can! Start dating at 3 years old and with minimum servings of 50 grams.

    What specific benefit does tuna have?

    Tuna improves visual acuity, has a calming effect on the nervous and cardiovascular systems, activates the activity of the brain. It also contains iodine, which has a positive effect on the intellectual development of the child.


    Yes, you didn't think it was chocolate. It can be given to children. Of course, it will not replace fruits, dried fruits and natural juices as a healthy treat, but when the child once again tries to beg you for a candy - buy him dark chocolate .

    Chocolate contains serotonin, acting on certain areas of the brain, it increases mental abilities and forms interest in new knowledge. Oddly enough, chocolate even contains B vitamins, which have a positive effect on the nervous system.

    Chocolate can be given to children as alternative healthy treat from the age of three.

    Learn more