Many people are looking for simple ways to boost their focus, memory, and productivity. That’s why nootropics, or “smart drugs,” are growing rapidly in popularity.
Nootropics are a class of natural or synthetic compounds that may improve your brain function. While hundreds of nootropic supplements are available, several beverages contain natural nootropic compounds.
What’s more, other drinks boast ingredients, such as antioxidants or probiotics, that may support your brain function.
Here are 15 juices and drinks that may boost your brain health.
Coffee is probably the most widely consumed nootropic beverage. Most of its brain benefits come from caffeine, although it contains other compounds like the antioxidant chlorogenic acid that may affect your brain as well.
One review noted that caffeine may improve focus, alertness, reaction time, and memory in doses of 40–300 mg, which is the equivalent of about 0.5–3 cups (120–720 mL) of coffee.
Coffee may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. In a weeklong mouse study, a dose equivalent to 5 cups (1.2 liters) of coffee daily, or about 500 mg of caffeine, helped prevent and treat Alzheimer’s.
However, human studies are needed.
Keep in mind that caffeine is known to be safe at levels up to 400 mg per day, or about 4 cups (945 mL) of coffee.
Green tea’s caffeine content is much lower than coffee’s. Yet, it also boasts two promising nootropic compounds — l-theanine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
Studies suggest that l-theanine may promote relaxation, as well as that l-theanine combined with caffeine may improve attention. A review of 21 human studies found that green tea as a whole may support focus, attention, and memory.
Additionally, EGCG is able to enter your brain through the blood-brain barrier, meaning it could exert beneficial effects on your brain or even combat neurodegenerative diseases. Nonetheless, more research is necessary.
Kombucha is a fermented drink usually made from green or black tea, plus fruit or botanicals. Its major benefit lies in introducing beneficial bacteria called probiotics to your gut.
Theoretically, improved gut health may boost brain function via the gut-brain axis — a two-way line of communication between your gut and brain. However, little research supports drinking kombucha specifically to bolster brain function.
You can make your own or buy bottled brands of kombucha.
Orange juice is rich in vitamin C, with 1 cup (240 mL) providing 93% of the Daily Value (DV). Interestingly, this vitamin may offer neuroprotective benefits (10Trusted Source).
One review of 50 human studies found that those with higher blood levels of vitamin C or a higher self-reported vitamin C intake had better attention, memory, and language scores than those with lower blood or intake levels (11Trusted Source).
However, the downsides of sugary orange juice may outweigh its benefits. The juice is much higher in calories than the whole fruit, and a high added sugar intake is linked to conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (12Trusted Source).
A better way to obtain this vitamin is simply to eat an orange. The whole fruit is lower in calories and sugar, as well as higher in fiber, than orange juice — while still providing 77% of the DV for vitamin C (13Trusted Source).
Blueberries are rich in polyphenol plant compounds that may provide brain-boosting benefits. Anthocyanins — antioxidants that give these berries their blueish-purple hue — may be largely responsible.
Likewise, blueberry juice is loaded with these compounds.
Green juice combines green fruits and veggies, such as:
- dark leafy greens like kale or spinach
- green apples
- fresh herbs, such as lemongrass
Green smoothies may also contain ingredients like avocado, yogurt, protein powder, or bananas to add creaminess and nutrients.
While the brain-boosting potential of green juices or smoothies depends heavily on the ingredients, these drinks are often rich in vitamin C and other helpful antioxidants.
Simple green juice recipe
Makes 3–4 servings
- 1 head of celery
- 2 medium cucumbers
- 1 handful of lemongrass
- 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach
- 2 small green apples, cored and sliced
- 2 limes, peeled with seeds removed
- Wash all produce thoroughly, then cut it into small enough pieces for your juicer to manage.
- Run each ingredient through the juicer and capture the juice in a large jar or pitcher.
- Mix well and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.
Simple green smoothie recipe
Makes 1 serving
- 2 handfuls of raw kale
- half of a banana, peeled and sliced
- half of an avocado
- 1 cup (245 grams) of vanilla Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup (120 mL) of milk (dairy or plant-based)
- a handful of ice
- Wash the kale thoroughly.
- In a blender, combine all ingredients. If the smoothie is too thick, try adding more milk. If it’s too thin, add more banana or avocado.
Sometimes called golden milk, turmeric lattes are warm, creamy drinks featuring the bright yellow spice turmeric.
Turmeric contains the antioxidant curcumin, which may increase your body’s production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
Low BDNF is associated with mental deficits and neurological disorders, so raising BDNF levels may improve brain function. However, you should note that turmeric lattes provide much less curcumin than what’s often administered in studies.
Otherwise, consider making your own at home.
Turmeric latte recipe
Makes 2 servings
- 2 cups (475 mL) of milk (dairy or plant-based)
- 1.5 teaspoons (5 grams) of ground turmeric
- optional sweeteners like honey or stevia
- optional toppings like ground cinnamon or black pepper
- Over low heat, slowly warm the milk until hot.
- Whisk in the turmeric and remove from heat.
- Pour the lattes into mugs and add sweeteners or toppings, if desired.
Like turmeric lattes, adaptogen lattes are warm, savory drinks packed with unique ingredients. Adaptogens are foods and herbs that may help your body adapt to stress, thus improving brain function and decreasing fatigue (18Trusted Source).
Many adaptogen lattes are made with dried mushrooms, ashwagandha, or maca root.
Because these drinks contain ingredients that may be difficult to source, such as dried mushrooms, it’s easiest to buy a premade mix.
Beets are a deep red root vegetable that’s naturally rich in nitrates — a precursor to nitric oxide, which your body uses to promote cell oxygenation and improve blood flow.
Although many people drink beetroot juice before their workouts for its blow-flow-boosting qualities, it’s less clear whether beetroot juice provides any brain benefits.
Still, nitric oxide signaling may play roles in the areas of your brain responsible for language, learning, and advanced decision-making, and beetroot juice may boost these effects by increasing nitric oxide production.
You can drink this juice by mixing powdered beetroot into water or taking a dose of concentrated beetroot juice. Typically, the dose for concentrated beetroot drinks is only 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) per day.
Shop for Human Super Beets beetroot powder or Dynamic Health concentrated beetroot juice online.
Certain herbal teas may provide a brain boost. These include:
- Sage. This herb may support memory and mood, among other mental benefits.
- Gingko biloba. A review of studies in over 2,600 people found that this plant may ease symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive decline. However, most of the available studies are of low quality.
- Ashwagandha. This popular nootropic herb may protect against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
- Ginseng. Some evidence supports using ginseng for neuroprotective properties and to promote brain function, but other studies show no effect .
- Rhodiola. This plant may help improve mental fatigue and brain function.
Keep in mind that teas offer much smaller doses of active ingredients than the supplements or extracts used in scientific studies.
Like kombucha, kefir is a fermented beverage packed with probiotics. However, it’s made from fermented milk rather than tea.
It may aid brain function by promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut (26Trusted Source).
You can make kefir yourself, but it may be easier to purchase a ready-to-drink option. Alternatively, choose drinkable yogurt, which also boasts probiotics.
Shop for Lifeway kefir online.
Drinking nootropic beverages may seem like an easy way to support brain health.
However, although some of these drinks may help boost brain function, high quality evidence is lacking to support drinking any of these beverages to improve focus, performance, or memory.
Regardless, these drinks offer other health benefits and may be worth trying to see whether they work for you.