As anyone who has ever arrived late to an important meeting can attest to; frantically looking for the house keys for 15 minutes prior to stepping out the door, all thanks to a memory lapse, can be quite frustrating!
And although a few slip-ups don’t necessarily mean you’ll soon be faced with full-fledged senility, you might be happy to know that there are ways to kiss forgetfulness goodbye. Or, at the very least, greatly diminish it.
Eager to learn how? Read on to get acquainted with 25 of the best brain foods as well as the many ways in which they can help improve your memory.
Memory depends on getting brain cells to make new connections, which happens best when they are highly excited.
This is also why events that happen when we are feeling intellectually or emotionally stimulated are the ones we tend to remember best.
One key player in keeping brain cells excited is the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, whose existence depends greatly on the amount of choline available in our bodies to produce it. In fact, lower levels of choline in the blood have been linked to lower brain function (including impaired memory).
When it comes to keeping blood choline levels up, eggs don’t have much competition! They are one of the greatest food sources of choline, closely followed by organ meat and soybean oil.
As a bonus, eggs are also a rich source of phosphatidylserine, a nutrient that is known to help the brain boost its cell-to-cell communication!
Did you know that our brain cells are made up, in big part, of fat molecules? This is why too low of a fat intake negatively affects the function of our central processor! But it’s not only a matter of quantity; it’s also a matter of quality.
Proving this is a study conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital which, perhaps unsurprisingly, found that women who ate the most saturated fats (from foods such as red meats and butter) performed worse on test of thinking and memory than women who ate the lowest amount of these fats.
So what should you opt for instead?
Avocados, of course! Rich in monounsaturated fat, this fruit helps increase the level of good fat in the blood, contributing to a healthy flow of nutrients, such as fuel and oxygen, to the brain. This, in turn, can help maintain important aspects of brain function, including memory.
What’s more, good fats such as those found in avocados, also help prevent high blood pressure, which, when left uncontrolled, can lead to a decline in brain ability.
Keep in mind, though, that despite their health benefits, avocados remain fatty fruits – which means more is not necessarily better. So, for best effects, aim to limit your daily portion to 1/4 – 1/2 of an avocado per day.
While we’re on the topic of healthy fats… fatty fish are another top brain food we could all gain from adding to our diet.
This might be old news to you but it’s definitely worth repeating; fatty fish are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids (mainly DHA and EPA) which several studies have shown to help decrease rates of dementia and improve memory recall. Low DHA levels have even been liked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimers and memory loss.
So, exactly how much of these good fats should you aim for? Let me answer your question with an interesting fact!
Researchers at the Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago followed more than 6,000 people for four years to see how diet affected their memory and found that those consuming fish at least once per week had a 12% slower memory decline than those who snubbed the aquatic creature.
Main sources of fatty fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.
Not a fan of fish? Opt for a daily omega-3 supplement containing 300-500mg DHA + EPA per day.
Blueberries and Grapes
Berries are antioxidant powerhouses, able to protect the brain from nasty oxidative damage, which, when not prevented, can lead to premature aging and memory-impairing dementia.
Flavonoids found in blueberries may also improve the communication between neurons, which, in turn can improve many aspects of brain function including learning, memory, reasoning and decision-making! Yep, stuff we can all benefit from! One study even found that those who drank blueberry juice every day for two months significantly improved their performance in learning and memory tests.
Red grapes, on the other hand, are loaded with resveratrol; another memory-boosting compound. I hear you – red wine is another way to stack up on resveratrol! Just aim not to exceed one glass per day for women or two glasses per day for men, as, above these levels, the beverage’s alcohol content may have opposite effects when it comes to short-term memory or decision-making skills…
Yes, you’ve read that right! No need to say goodbye to Tuesday night’s takeout favorite! Curcumin, a primary ingredient in turmeric and curry powders commonly found in Indian food may be able to slow the formation of plaque deposits in the brain. And that’s great news, as these plaques have been linked to the development of memory-impairing diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Now, who’s up for some Channa Masala?
Beets contain nitrates, a useful compound that has the handy ability to help dilate your blood vessels. This vascular dilation is exactly what makes beets so advantageous to the brain. The more dilated the blood vessels, the more oxygenized blood can reach the brain, and thus, the more improvements in mental performance!
An additional benefit ; more dilated blood vessels also results in lower blood pressure! So go ahead and add this lovely autumn veggie to soups, salads or main dishes, and enjoy!
Spinach, Kale & Collard Greens
Leafy greens are well-known to contain disease-fighting antioxidants, for example vitamin C, which was specifically shown to help reduce age-related memory loss. But a little less known fact is that they also contain a large amount of folate.
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