Optimal Nutrition to Fuel Your Brain

This article was written by Dr. Jessica Hehmeyer, DC, MS, LDN, CNS. Dr. Hehmeyer is a Functional Medicine clinician through her firm Well-Empowered LLC. On a shared mission to introduce more women to functional wellness products and change philosophies, she is a frequent contributor and thought partner to Equilibria. 


Core nutritional principles


For optimizing your focus, attention, and memory, be sure to follow these 3 core nutritional principles:


  1. Eat for blood sugar stability: a steady flow of nutrients to the brain = a well-functioning brain.
  2. Nourish your brain with nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and B vitamins.
  3. Reduce excitotoxins such as MSG, sugar, artificial sweeteners and alcohol.


High-Level Rules of the Road


1. Meals: Eat your PFC’s together: combine protein, healthy fat and nutrient dense carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar stable.


2. Snacks: Never eat a carbohydrate alone. For example, pair an apple with a handful of nuts, carrots with hummus, chips with guacamole, etc. 


3. Discover your ideal cadence: Try out eating within one hour of waking and every four hours and then intermittent fasting. What works best for you?



4. Sugar down to elevate your brain: avoid desserts and other high sugar foods including high sugar fruits such as dates, bananas and mangoes.


5. Avoid low-fiber, simple carbohydrates: These types of carbohydrates are sure to put your brain on a blood sugar rollercoaster. While items like pretzels, bread, pasta, white rice, and white potatoes may not taste sweet, they’ll put your brain on the blood sugar rollercoaster just as high sugar foods do. 


6. Avoid drinking calories: Juice, fancy caffeinated beverages, sodas, and alcohol will throw your focus, attention, and memory for a loop.


7. Avoid MSG and artificial sweeteners: MSG and artificial sweeteners such as sucralose or aspartame, which act as excitotoxins, can damage your brain and its function.


8. Fiber up: Ensure you are eating the proper amount of fiber, or 25-30 grams/day for women, 35-40 grams/day for men.


Cheat sheet…




  • Fish, turkey, chicken, pork, bison, beef, eggs, soybeans/edamame/tofu
  • If possible, select organic, grass-fed, wild, non-GMO
  • PORTION SIZE: The size of the palm of your hand at each meal


Healthy Fats:


  • Nuts and nut butters, avocado and guacamole, coconut and coconut oil/coconut butter/coconut milk, olives and olive oil
  • Select nut butters with no added sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc
  • PORTION SIZE: Roughly 1.5-2 handfuls, including dressing/sauces as well as “chewable” fats 


 Nutrient Dense Carbohydrates (high fiber): 


  • Beans, lentils, quinoa, sweet potatoes with the skin, raw vegetables, fruit, and black rice (10x more delicious than brown or white rice, with more fiber and antioxidants!)
  • PORTION SIZE: The size of the palm of your hand maximum per meal


Nutrient Dense Carbohydrates (high in vitamins and minerals): 


  • Colorful vegetables and beautiful berries! Aim to eat the rainbow in vegetables and berries every day, consuming a combination of raw and cooked. 
  • PORTION SIZE: ½ plate of veggies, 2x/day and ½ cup of berries/day


Progress over perfection!


  1. Start where YOU are.
  2. Play a better game vs. a perfect game.
  3. If you fall off the monkey bars of change, get right back on them (and see what you can learn in the process!)


* This article and the ideas herein are the intellectual property of Dr. Jessica Hehmeyer dba Well-Empowered