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Healthy Cognitive Cocktail Recipe

January 9, 2013 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

There are countless supplements that claim to enhance cognitive performance. Some even hint at providing protection against age-related cognitive decline. But, what if you’re just looking for a little extra “brain nutrition”? Perhaps you simply want to improve your attention, reaction speed or short-term memory. Or maybe you’re thinking down the line about natural ways to optimally nourish your brain before any signs of decline appear. The following recipe is valuable for virtually all brain stages. I suggest this very formula to many of my clients who are looking for everything from greater mental sharpness to strides in academic performance.

Every ingredient in my cognitive cocktail has been scientifically validated as both effective and safe with regard to enhancing brain function. Controlled trials and population studies indicate that blueberries reduce the rate of cognitive decline in seniors and support various measures of neurocognitive benefit including: associate learning and word list recall. Pure cocoa powder, a rich source of flavanols, supports blood flow to the brain and insulin sensitivity. For these reasons and others, interventional studies indicate the cocoa extracts are useful for those with mild cognitive impairment and those who need to perform at a peak level during cognitive tasks such as test taking. Coconut milk is an abundant source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), fats that are used to produce ketones in the body which act as an alternative energy source for the brain. Studies in animals and humans suggest that frequent MCT consumption can preserve brain function in at-risk populations such as type 1 diabetics and older, memory-impaired adults. The last component of my brain boosting concoction is walnuts. Walnuts are an underappreciated reservoir of antioxidants (polyphenols) and omega-3 fatty acids (alpha linolenic acid). A recent evaluation in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease reports that regular walnut intake may promote more robust working memory.

Healthy Fellow Cognitive Cocktail

1 1/2 cups Purified Water
3/4 cup Organic Frozen Blueberries
1/4 cup Organic, Raw Walnuts
1/4 cup Organic Coconut Milk
2 Tbs Organic, Pure Cocoa Powder
5 to 10 drops NuNaturals’ Alcohol Free Stevia *

Nutritional Information: Calories: 485. Protein: 10 grams. Fat: 36 grams. “Net” Carbohydrates: 21 grams. ** Fiber: 9 grams.

* Sweeten to taste. Other non-caloric sweeteners such as erythritol and luo han guo are fine alternatives for those who don’t enjoy stevia.

** “Net” carbohydrates refer to non-fiber carbohydrates. In my experience, this shake has a minimal impact of blood sugar levels.

I suggest using a powerful blender or “food extractor” to get the most out of this recipe. As you’ll see, the ingredient list is very straight forward. However, you can, of course, add more water if desired to thin out the consistency. This will not negate any of the beneficial properties of the formula. If you don’t drink the entire shake all at once, make sure to refrigerate the leftovers. In that case, you’ll likely need to reconstitute the mixture with extra water or unsweetened almond milk due to a natural thickening effect that occurs over time because of the high fiber content. In terms of actual instructions, they couldn’t be easier: combine all the ingredients into a blender and process until smooth. This shake can be used as a meal replacement.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Dietary Intakes of Berries & Flavonoids In Relation to Cognitive Decline (link)

Study 2 – Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults (link)

Study 3 – Benefits in Cognitive Function, Blood Pressure, and Insulin Resistance(link)

Study 4 – Steady State Visually Evoked Potential (SSVEP) Topography Changes (link)

Study 5 – The Effect of Flavanol-Rich Cocoa on the fMRI Response to a Cognitive (link)

Study 6 – Medium-Chain Fatty Acids Improve Cognitive Function in Intensively (link)

Study 7 – Effects of β-Hydroxybutyrate On Cognition in Memory-Impaired Adults (link)

Study 8 – Dietary Supplementation w/ Medium-Chain TAG Has Long-Lasting (link)

Study 9 – Polyphenol-Rich Foods in the Mediterranean Diet are Associated with … (link)

Study 10 – Grape Juice, Berries, and Walnuts Affect Brain Aging and Behavior (link)

Flavanol-Rich Cocoa Increases Cerebral Blood Flow

Source: J Agric Food Chem. 2010 April 14; 58(7): 3996–4000. (link)

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Posted in Food and Drink, Memory, Recipes

9 Comments & Updates to “Healthy Cognitive Cocktail Recipe”

  1. JD Says:

    Sounds good, will have to try- thanks!

  2. JP Says:


    I hope you benefit from it and enjoy it as much as I do!

    Be well!


  3. Naomi Says:

    I am a huge fan of natural drinks such as this. Based on the ingredient list, it will not only be very healthy, but tasty as well!

    Thanks for a really great idea!

  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Naomi. Enjoy!

    Be well!


  5. rob Says:

    That recipe has giving me a large craving for one. lol.

  6. JP Says:

    Update 05/12/15:


    JAMA Intern Med. 2015 May 11.

    Mediterranean Diet and Age-Related Cognitive Decline: A Randomized Clinical Trial.

    Importance: Oxidative stress and vascular impairment are believed to partly mediate age-related cognitive decline, a strong risk factor for development of dementia. Epidemiologic studies suggest that a Mediterranean diet, an antioxidant-rich cardioprotective dietary pattern, delays cognitive decline, but clinical trial evidence is lacking.

    Objective: To investigate whether a Mediterranean diet supplemented with antioxidant-rich foods influences cognitive function compared with a control diet.

    Design, Setting, and Participants: Parallel-group randomized clinical trial of 447 cognitively healthy volunteers from Barcelona, Spain (233 women [52.1%]; mean age, 66.9 years), at high cardiovascular risk were enrolled into the Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea nutrition intervention trial from October 1, 2003, through December 31, 2009. All patients underwent neuropsychological assessment at inclusion and were offered retesting at the end of the study.

    Interventions: Participants were randomly assigned to a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extravirgin olive oil (1 L/wk), a Mediterranean diet supplemented with mixed nuts (30 g/d), or a control diet (advice to reduce dietary fat).

    Main Outcomes and Measures: Rates of cognitive change over time based on a neuropsychological test battery: Mini-Mental State Examination, Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT), Animals Semantic Fluency, Digit Span subtest from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, Verbal Paired Associates from the Wechsler Memory Scale, and the Color Trail Test. We used mean z scores of change in each test to construct 3 cognitive composites: memory, frontal (attention and executive function), and global.

    Results: Follow-up cognitive tests were available in 334 participants after intervention (median, 4.1 years). In multivariate analyses adjusted for confounders, participants allocated to a Mediterranean diet plus olive oil scored better on the RAVLT (P = .049) and Color Trail Test part 2 (P = .04) compared with controls; no between-group differences were observed for the other cognitive tests. Similarly adjusted cognitive composites (mean z scores with 95% CIs) for changes above baseline of the memory composite were 0.04 (-0.09 to 0.18) for the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil, 0.09 (-0.05 to 0.23; P = .04 vs controls) for the Mediterranean diet plus nuts, and -0.17 (-0.32 to -0.01) for the control diet. Respective changes from baseline of the frontal cognition composite were 0.23 (0.03 to 0.43; P = .003 vs controls), 0.03 (-0.25 to 0.31), and -0.33 (-0.57 to -0.09). Changes from baseline of the global cognition composite were 0.05 (-0.11 to 0.21; P = .005 vs controls) for the Mediterranean diet plus olive oil, -0.05 (-0.27 to 0.18) for the Mediterranean diet plus nuts, and -0.38 (-0.57 to -0.18) for the control diet. All cognitive composites significantly (P < .05) decreased from baseline in controls. Conclusions and Relevance: In an older population, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with olive oil or nuts is associated with improved cognitive function. Be well! JP

  7. JP Says:

    Updated 07/16/15:


    Obes Facts. 2015 Jul 1;8(4):261-272.

    Diet-Induced Weight Loss Alters Functional Brain Responses during an Episodic Memory Task.

    OBJECTIVE: It has been suggested that overweight is negatively associated with cognitive functions. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a reduction in body weight by dietary interventions could improve episodic memory performance and alter associated functional brain responses in overweight and obese women.

    METHODS: 20 overweight postmenopausal women were randomized to either a modified paleolithic diet or a standard diet adhering to the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations for 6 months. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine brain function during an episodic memory task as well as anthropometric and biochemical data before and after the interventions.

    RESULTS: Episodic memory performance improved significantly (p = 0.010) after the dietary interventions. Concomitantly, brain activity increased in the anterior part of the right hippocampus during memory encoding, without differences between diets. This was associated with decreased levels of plasma free fatty acids (FFA). Brain activity increased in pre-frontal cortex and superior/middle temporal gyri. The magnitude of increase correlated with waist circumference reduction. During episodic retrieval, brain activity decreased in inferior and middle frontal gyri, and increased in middle/superior temporal gyri.

    CONCLUSIONS: Diet-induced weight loss, associated with decreased levels of plasma FFA, improves episodic memory linked to increased hippocampal activity.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Updated 10/27/16:


    Nutrients 2016, 8(11), 668; doi:10.3390/nu8110668

    Effects of Walnut Consumption on Mood in Young Adults—A Randomized Controlled Trial

    Walnuts contain a number of potentially neuroprotective compounds like vitamin E, folate, melatonin, several antioxidative polyphenols and significant amounts of ω-3 fatty acids. The present study sought to determine the effect of walnuts on mood in healthy volunteers. Sixty-four college students were randomly assigned to two treatment sequences in a crossover fashion: walnut–placebo or placebo–walnut. At baseline mood was assessed using Profiles of Mood States (POMS). Data was collected again after eight weeks of intervention. After six-weeks of washout, the intervention groups followed the diets in reverse order. Data was collected once more at the end of the eight-week intervention period. No significant changes in mood were observed in the analyses with both genders combined and in females. However, we have observed a significant medium effect size improvement in the Total Mood Disturbance score (−27.49%, p = 0.043, Cohen’s d = 0.708) in males. In non-depressed healthy young males, walnuts seem to have the ability to improve mood.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Updated 10/06/17:


    Nutrients 2017, 9(10), 1097.

    A Walnut-Enriched Diet Reduces Lipids in Healthy Caucasian Subjects, Independent of Recommended Macronutrient Replacement and Time Point of Consumption: a Prospective, Randomized, Controlled Trial

    Studies indicate a positive association between walnut intake and improvements in plasma lipids. We evaluated the effect of an isocaloric replacement of macronutrients with walnuts and the time point of consumption on plasma lipids. We included 194 healthy subjects (134 females, age 63 ± 7 years, BMI 25.1 ± 4.0 kg/m2) in a randomized, controlled, prospective, cross-over study. Following a nut-free run-in period, subjects were randomized to two diet phases (8 weeks each). Ninety-six subjects first followed a walnut-enriched diet (43 g walnuts/day) and then switched to a nut-free diet. Ninety-eight subjects followed the diets in reverse order. Subjects were also randomized to either reduce carbohydrates (n = 62), fat (n = 65), or both (n = 67) during the walnut diet, and instructed to consume walnuts either as a meal or as a snack. The walnut diet resulted in a significant reduction in fasting cholesterol (walnut vs. control: −8.5 ± 37.2 vs. −1.1 ± 35.4 mg/dL; p = 0.002), non-HDL cholesterol (−10.3 ± 35.5 vs. −1.4 ± 33.1 mg/dL; p ≤ 0.001), LDL-cholesterol (−7.4 ± 32.4 vs. −1.7 ± 29.7 mg/dL; p = 0.029), triglycerides (−5.0 ± 47.5 vs. 3.7 ± 48.5 mg/dL; p = 0.015) and apoB (−6.7 ± 22.4 vs. −0.5 ± 37.7; p ≤ 0.001), while HDL-cholesterol and lipoprotein (a) did not change significantly. Neither macronutrient replacement nor time point of consumption significantly affected the effect of walnuts on lipids. Thus, 43 g walnuts/d improved the lipid profile independent of the recommended macronutrient replacement and the time point of consumption.

    Be well!


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