I think I can speak for us all when “that guy’s name is on the tip of my tongue,” or when I play random trivia games I can’t pull the information from my brain, but I still know the answer.
My memory at times is sometimes scattered and information is lost. I used to remember people’s phone numbers and now my brain doesn’t get a workout because of my iPhone storing most of my important information.
It’s even somewhat difficult for me to remember what I had done last weekend with my friends. I usually tend to blame it on how busy I am, but in reality, I have a hard time remembering certain things.
We are constantly being reminded about how good nutrition and food can improve our health. But, wouldn’t it be great if we could improve your memory at the same time? Wouldn’t it be great to finally win that game of trivia we always lose by eating power foods?
When I was growing up I was told to eat my veggies to help me grow and develop, and boost my vitality.
There is no denying that this is true.
There are numerous links between nutrition and improved health and memory:
- Calcium improves our bone health
- Vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies
- Iron plays a role in the production of our hemoglobin and red blood cells
But good nutrition does more than just improve your health. It plays a role in your brain’s functioning. Great nutrition can improve your focus and concentration.
The answer to brain power and boosted memory could lie in the foods that we eat. So, once again, I had to do some research through numerous nutrition articles and put together a healthy foods list on what brain foods can improve memory.
What Is Good Nutrition?
Everyone has their own definition of what ‘good nutrition’ is. Surprisingly, picking the right food choices directly relates to your health.
You might be the one who…
Considers good nutrition to be eating less sugar, while others define good nutrition as eating more vegetables and good healthy meals.
In a meta analysis those who drank sugared beverages had a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. For those eating 8 or more servings of veggies, they were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
Obviously both group’s ideas are not wrong, good nutrition consists of a good diet in eating foods that have a high nutrient density and low-calorie density.
Nutrient density is the relative ratio of total nutrients in a food, compared to its total calorie content, per 100g. Calorie density is the total ratio of calories of the weight of the food, per 100g. More on this in another post…
The sole focus of good nutrition should not be how much you weigh; rather good nutrition should focus on:
- Improving your body’s composition
- Overall health
- Physical endurance
- And of course strengthen your mental ability.
Brain Foods and Why Are They Important?
Almost everything we eat or drink affects your brain in some way or another.
Numerous studies have found that there might be an association between abnormal metabolism (diabetes type II, obesity and metabolic syndrome) and psychiatric disorders.
In a large study of patients with manic depression or schizophrenia the rate of diabetes was higher (6.3% higher) than in the general population.
The overall prevalence of diabetes in a group of 95 patients with schizophrenia was 15.8%, and this increased to 18.9% as patients grew older.
Something more interesting…
Diabetes in 203 patients with manic depression ranged from 2.9% in patients 30 years old, to 25% in patients 75 – 79 years old.
Now, I don’t personally know anyone with schizophrenia, but it is interesting to me that there is an association between abnormal metabolism and psychiatric disorders.
Particular nutrients influence your cognition by acting on your molecular systems and cellular processes. A brain-healthy diet is therefore essential for keeping your memory sharp and your moods optimistic.
What you and I eat can affect multiple brain processes by regulating:
- Neurotransmitter pathways
- Synaptic transmission
- Membrane fluidity
- Signal-transduction pathways
Dietary lipids, (a good overview on lipids here) which were originally thought to affect the brain through their effects on cardiovascular physiology, are garnering recognition for their direct actions on the brain and memory.
Omega-3 fatty acids are normal constituents of cell membranes and are essential for normal brain function. More on this in a few.
So let’s dive right into our list of power foods to feed your brain.
This list of brain boosters will show you:
- How to boost energy
- How to increase your short-term and long-term memory
- How to increase brain power
List Of Brain Foods:
Oxidative stress is a chemical reaction that leads to cell destruction that is believed to explain aging of your brain.
Antioxidants help prevent this decline in cognitive function by fighting against the oxidative stress. I wrote an article on foods that fight oxidative stress, also known as free radicals.
Did you know…
It is estimated that approximately 50% of cancer cases and 35% of cancer deaths in the United States can be attributed to poor diet.
The reason why tomatoes are healthy for your brain…
Is due to the presence of carotenoids, especially Lycopene. Lycopene is the naturally occurring red carotenoid pigment found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, papaya, guava, and other fruits.
This group of antioxidants exhibit a neuroprotective effect by accelerating brain anti-oxidant defense mechanisms.
As a result, lycopene from tomatoes is used as an agent in preventing complications in memory dysfunction and boost brain power.
With a highly functioning brain, you are more likely to stay focused and concentrate for longer.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
We know that essential fatty acids (EFAs) are good for your heart health. They help with:
- Decreasing risk of coronary heart disease
- Lowering risk of hypertension
- Aid in prevention of type II diabetes
But did you know…
EFAs also promote a healthy brain function?
Adequate levels of omega-3’s is a proven essential to prenatal and postnatal brain development. Although omega-3 fatty acids are essential, your body cannot make them on its own.
The only way to get omega-3 fatty acids is to consume it through your diet.
(Alex Redmond) Instagram page
According to Dr. Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard, says:
“For brain health, it’s better to eat a nutritious diet and be physically active than to take omega-3 fatty acid supplements or fish oil pills.”
In a study on rats, deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids impaired their learning and memory.
Great sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Oily fish such as salmon
- Soy products such as tofu
- Seeds such as flaxseeds and chia seeds
The brain’s preference for energy is carbohydrates, in the form of glucose. This is what I like to call the “brain grain diet.”
The brain can consume up to 120 grams of glucose daily. Specifically, the brain favors glucose that is slowly released into your bloodstream.
You get glucose that is slowly absorbed into your blood streams from low glycemic indexed (GI) foods.
Low GI foods cause a steady rise in your blood sugar which helps keep us mentally alert for longer periods of time. This helps you and I throughout the day without sudden bursts and increases in blood sugar levels.
Unlike muscles (including your heart), and your liver, your brain cannot use fatty acids, like omega-3 directly for fuel.
Despite this, short-term dips in glucose availability do occur in certain brain areas. These may impair various brain functions such as attention, memory, and learning.
Studies on glucose have demonstrated that administering sugar from whole grain carbohydrates can improve cognitive thinking such as short-term memory and attention.
Sources of low GI whole grains include:
- Natural bran
- Brown rice
I had to add nuts to the power foods list.
Nuts are well-known for their awesome nutrition characteristics, which include:
- Good fats
Did you know…
Nuts are also filled with rich antioxidant vitamins?
Tocopherols is an antioxidant found in nuts that protects your cells from the destructive effects of free radicals (oxidative stress).
Your brain is rich in these vital substances; the fats and lipids, and are therefore highly susceptible to oxidative damage from free radicals.
The brain therefore requires a great deal of antioxidant protection to function adequately to boost energy and memory.
Walnuts contain significant levels of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid also found in fish. A quarter cup of walnuts provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily intake of DHA.
In a 2014 study with rodents, mice were fed custom-mixed diets containing 6% walnuts or 9% walnuts, which is equivalent to 1 or 1.5 oz per day for 13 months.
Researchers compared these rodents to other ones that were not fed walnuts.
What they found…
The mice receiving the diets with 6% or 9% walnuts showed a significant improvement in memory, learning ability, anxiety, and motor development compared to the mice who did not eat walnuts.
These findings suggest that walnuts have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, slowing the progression of, and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Another great brain food!
Blueberries, or ‘brain berries’ as they are often referred to, boost your concentration and memory.
Blueberries and other berries contain flavonoids called anthocyanin – which give berries their red and blue colors, similar to Lycopene in tomatoes. These flavonoids activate an enzyme in the body called Endothelial NOS (eNOS), which increases the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain, boosting your concentration and memory.
Recent evidence has shown that these flavonoids may provide powerful actions on cognition and could reverse age-related declines in memory and learning.
This evidence from 2010 suggests that foods rich in flavanols, anthocyanins and/or flavanones, possess the greatest potential to act on the cognitive processes such as memory and brain energy.
Broccoli is a great source of fiber, and also contains vitamin B9, also known as folic acid, folate, or folicin.
Vitamin B9 is directly linked to improving both short and long term memories.
The best part…
Broccoli is filled with vitamin B9 which can help improve your cognitive functioning.
In a study with mice, researchers found that folic acid may improve both short and long term memories, dose dependent.
Broccoli is rich in glucosinolates, a group of compounds that work together to stop or slow down the decline of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter which is essential for your central nervous systems to perform properly.
Im not a huge fan of broccoli, so if broccoli is not your thing, other glucosinolate rich foods include:
- Fruits such as oranges and apples
- Brussel sprouts
Leafy Greens And Kale
Like, broccoli, kale is known for its rich source of fiber. Similar to nuts, kale is also a great source of vitamin E.
It is a rich source of folate, a nutrient that increases blood flow to the brain that prevents mental deterioration.
In a 2006 neurology study, researchers concluded that eating three servings of leafy green, yellow and cruciferous vegetables a day can delay cognitive decline by 40%.
It’s not only vitamin E, but leafy green vegetables like kale are packed with B vitamins, folic acid, B6, and B12. All of these can help lower homocysteine levels. High amounts of homocysteine are linked to cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s, so lowering them can only be a good idea!
Chocolate can improve your memory and focus too. Specifically, dark chocolate.
Just like in blueberries, the cocoa found in chocolate contains flavonoids. These flavonoids increase the flow of blood and oxygen to the regions of our brains that are involved in learning and memory. Specifically these flavonoids target the hippocampus, boosting your concentration.
Flavonoids in dark chocolate may increase the number of, and strengthen connections between neurons in your brain.
I almost forgot…
Chocolate also contains caffeine, a well-known brain booster that also improves our memory, and concentration. Make sure you aim for at least 65% cocoa content if you want to get these benefits.
Yes, food can taste good, but it is important to remember what the purpose of your food is!
Food is more than just providing your palates with pleasure. You need to fuel your body with the right food and focus on great nutrition. If you don’t, your health will begin to plummet.
In this post, I discussed how the food you consume can impact your body and memory.
Dr. Mercola says it best:
If you want to boost your brainpower, one of the best choices you can make is to eat more unprocessed whole foods. Real foods are full of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and countless other phytochemicals that nourish your brain cells (and even grow new ones).
The focus here is on the relationship between food and your brain; certain foods improve your ability to focus and stay concentrated.
A healthy brain, is a healthy you!
How do you boost your memory? Share with us in the comment section below!