People become conscious of the diet when it is time to lose weight or avoid skin problems. And yet not many known that food has a direct link to the brain’s performance as well. This is because brain cells, like those of the others major organs in the body, need a steady supply of nutrients and oxygen to stay healthy and work to their optimum levels. So if you are looking to enhance your memory and increase your mental agility, here are ten foods that you would do well to add to your grocery list.
This fish is not only a healthy source of protein, but one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids. In recent years, a lot of research has been going on in the ways omega-3 fats benefit the functioning of brain and scientists now agree that these fats have a direct positive impact on brain development and mental performance. This is probably because of a biochemical known as DHA, which is found in fish oil and which is beneficial for the development and maintenance of memory performance. Low DHA levels have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and memory loss. In fact a study conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed more than 3,000 men and women for six years to see how diet affected memory. People who ate fish at least once a week had a 10 percent slower decline compared with those who did not eat fish, a difference that gave them the memory and thinking ability of a person three years younger. Fish also contains iodine, which is known to improve mental clarity. Other fish which are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are halibut, shrimp, snapper and scallop while vegetarians can look for it in foods like flaxseed, walnut, soyabean, tofu and winter squash.
Almost every healthy diet today recommends avoiding refined starch and opting for wholegrain foods like such as cereals, wheatbran, wheatgerm and wholewheat pasta. The main difference between refined and wholegrain foods is that in the latter the essential nutrients like folic acid, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B6 remain intact and are not stripped away in the refining process. One study found that women who increased their folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 intake showed an improvement in recalling information compared to women who were not taking a supplement. So while pastries made from refined flour may taste lighter, a cake baked with wholewheat flour will keep you healthier and more mentally alert.
Edible seeds are one of the very few vegetarian foods which are naturally rich in Vitamin E, an anti-oxidant which is essential to reverse the effects of aging. The job of antioxidants is to capture the free radicals in the body and thus prevent oxidation which causes the signs of aging like memory loss along with decrease in stamina, dull skin and hair as well as appearance of wrinkles. So if you want your memory to remain sharp like that of a young adult’s, don’t forget your daily intake of sunflower seeds, an ounce of which providing 30% of your total daily intake. Other sources of vitamin E include wheat germ oil, dry almond, safflower oil, hazelnut, peanut butter, spinach, broccoli, kiwi, and mango.
Another group of foods that are loaded with anti-oxidants are berries that are usually bright and vivid in color like blueberries. Research from Tufts University in the United States and published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that blueberry extract can improve short term memory loss. In fact all berries are rich in a particular kind of antioxidant known as anthocyanin, belonging to the class of phytochemicals, that is especially important in reversing the age-related decline of memory, while having a positive influence on spatial working memory. Together with this, blueberries rank low on the glycemic index scale, making them a good fruit choice if you are trying to control your blood sugar level. For other sources of anthocyanin, look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables like black currents, eggplant, red, black, and purple grapes, plums, rhubarb, red onion, red apples, red/purple cabbage, and red beets.
When Mom told you to eat up your veggies so that you could become smarter, she may have had a point. While spinach may have contributed to Popeye’s awesome muscular power, in you it could lead to greater mental prowess. This is because spinach like other green leafy vegetables is loaded with nutrients which help in the functioning of brain. One 25-year Harvard Medical School study of more than 13,000 women showed that the participants who ate relatively high amounts of vegetables over the years had less age-related decline in memory. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and cauliflower as well as other leafy green vegetables like collard and mustard greens, kale and Swiss chard had the biggest effect on helping women retain their memory during the course of the study.
While red meat has been getting bad press in recent times because of their fat content, actually eating lean beef and in moderate amounts could prove a great way to keep physically healthy and mentally alert. This is because beef contains iron, a mineral that is responsible for ensuring that red blood cells carry ample amounts of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Iron deficiency can have a big impact on brain function and impair learning abilities, eventually putting you at an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. While those on a balanced diet usually get enough iron from their foods, vegetarians and others on special diets should be careful of including enough iron-rich foods in their meals.
Tomatoes are one of the richest sources of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's.
Foods like black-eyed peas and green peas contain one of the most important brain foods, folic acid. Also known as folate, this seems to have a direct effect on memory. In a study conducted at Tufts University in Boston, around 320 men were evaluated for three years. Those who had high blood levels of homocysteine showed memory decline, but if the men ate foods rich in folic acid. The researchers found out that this was because folic acid lowered the levels of homocysteine in their bodies and thus protected their memories. Another Australian study found that eating plenty of foods rich in folic acid was associated with faster information processing and memory recall. After just five weeks of introducing adequate folic acid into their diets, women in the study showed overall improvements in memory. Some of the best foods for folic acid include fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, lentils, soybeans, spinach, artichokes, broccoli, wheat germ, beets and oranges.
While consuming onions may not do much for your social life, they are actually one of biggest memory boosters lying around in your kitchen. This is because all the varieties of onion including red, white and yellow contain high levels of a substance known as quercetin, yet another kind of antioxidant which has been found to have a positive impact on the functioning of brain cells. Other foods that are good sources of quercetin are kale, leeks, cherry tomato, broccoli, blueberries, black currants, elderberries, apricots, red apple with skin as well as red, purple, and black grapes.
While there is no scientific proof that sage can boost memory, traditionally this herb has been associated with greater mental agility in many cultures. And even if it does not show direct result on your ability to recall names and faces, simply enjoy the great aroma and taste that it brings to the food on your table and you will already feel pleasantly alert and aware of your surroundings.