Ask The Pharmacist: Grow a new brain with blueberries, chewy food and Super Mario

Suzy Cohen

If you want to know how to grow a bunch of new brain cells termed “neurons” and keep them as healthy as possible, let me tell you one quick thing about neurogenesis. 

Neurogenesis is the science of spurring the growth of neurons in your brain. Without neurogenesis, you’d be dead. In fact, we can grow as many new neurons as 700 a day. Scientists have found that several things actually help spur on neurogenesis, the bigger challenge, however, is keeping your new neurons. 

Some relatively simple actions may actually keep your brain healthy.

Neurogenesis is a dynamic process that reduces risk of Alzheimer’s, insomnia, anxiety, dementia and other cognitive problems. Avoiding foods high in glutamate and MSG will help you, and so will eating a clean, fresh diet of foods filled with a lot of what I call “light foods” meaning plant-based salads and veggies that contain light from the photosynthesis process. Contrast that with ‘dead’ foods.

Additionally, there are foods that are particularly adept at growing bran new neurons in our brains, while also activating protective pathways to nurture them and keep them thriving. It’s hard to believe but it’s true, what we choose to eat impacts our mind to some degree. The most potent neuron-loving foods include:

  • Green tea, berries, citrus apples, and dark chocolate due to the flavonoids.
  • Blueberries (due to the flavonoids and anthocyanin).
  • Red grapes (because the skin has resveratrol).
  • Wild-caught salmon and other fatty fish due to the DHA fish oils.

Researchers have oddly found that eating chewier foods as opposed to soft, mushy foods are helpful to neuronal growth. As you eat a baked potato (instead of mashed potato) figure that one out! On the topic of food, we also have well-designed trials to show that intermittent fasting, caloric restriction and exercise promote the growth of new brain cells for you. So keep that up too.


Everyone talks about enhancing BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor) as a method of growing new brain cells and while that is still important, there is some new research that suggests that the hormone that makes you feel hungry, called ghrelin, may be the thing that triggers the whole birth of new neurons in the first place. 

On the topic of exercise, I definitely want you to go to Body Pump and Zumba, but you should also be exercising your brain too. By that, engage in puzzles, math problems and spatial video games. This brings me to my next idea for you.  How about playing Super Mario 3D? 

This particular video game (and also Super Mario 64) have been used in two important research studies on the brain, where it was proven that spatial video games increase brain activity in the hippocampal region and help you create new neurons. This gives us a whole new perspective when it comes to healing the brain and growing new healthy brain cells. 

So, try a big bowl of blueberries, a long workout, and then crash on the couch for some fun video gaming, and just feel your mind ignite with newfound brainiac-ness.

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Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. The information presented here is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Visit