Improving Memory Through Diet and Supplementation

Improving Memory Through Diet and Supplementation

Your brain is the most important organ in your body. It keeps your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and all your body systems functioning. That is why it’s critical to keep your brain functioning optimally. Surprisingly, brain health can be greatly affected by your diet. Some foods and supplements can help support brain function, while others can harm the brain, affecting your memory and increasing the risk of developing dementia and other degenerative conditions.

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So, what are the best foods and supplements for improving memory?

Research recommends following an eating plan that provides a healthier selection of dietary fats and a vast array of plant foods rich in phytonutrients. There still is a lot to learn about what makes a brain-healthy diet. However, for now, the best bet for rich memories is forgoing unhealthy fats and remembering to diversify your plant portfolio.

Foods That Boost Memory

Diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, fish, healthier fats, nuts, and seeds have all been linked with boosting memory function. This includes:

Fruits

Berries: Berries are antioxidant powerhouses that can protect the brain from oxidative damage, preventing premature aging and memory-impairing dementia. Blueberries are a particularly rich source of anthocyanin and other flavonoids that may improve brain function.

Grapes: Grapes are full of resveratrol, a memory-boosting compound. Concord grapes are rich in polyphenols, a brain-accessing antioxidant.

Watermelon: Watermelon has a high concentration of lycopene, which is another powerful antioxidant. It’s also a good source of pure water. This is relevant because even a mild case of dehydration can reduce mental energy, impairing memory.

Avocado: Avocado is a fruit rich in monounsaturated fat, which improves memory function by helping improve blood cholesterol levels when consumed in moderation.

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Vegetables

Beets: Beets are rich in nitrates, which are natural compounds that can dilate blood vessels to allow more oxygenated blood to reach the brain.

Dark, Leafy Greens:  Dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale, and broccoli are known for their disease-fighting antioxidants and have been shown to reduce age-related memory loss. Greens also are rich in folate, which can improve memory by decreasing inflammation and improving blood circulation to the brain.

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Whole Grains and Legumes

Complex Carbohydrates: Cracked wheat, whole-grain couscous, chickpeas, and lentils are all examples of complex carbohydrates. Since brain cells run on glucose derived from carbohydrates and don’t store excess amounts, they need a steady supply of glucose. Complex carbohydrates are preferred brain food, as they provide a slow, sustained supply of glucose. They take longer to metabolize and are high in folate, the memory-boosting B vitamin.

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Seafood

Fatty Fish:  Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards, and kippers are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These have been shown to improve memory when eaten one to two times per week. It’s best to eat these in moderation, as fish consumption can increase your cholesterol levels.

Shellfish & Crustaceans: Shellfish and crustaceans such as oysters, mussels, clams, crayfish, shrimp, and lobster are good sources of vitamin B-12, a nutrient involved in preventing memory loss. These tend to be high in cholesterol, so moderation is important.

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Healthier Fats

Olive Oil: Olive oil provides monounsaturated fat, which can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans-fat. Extra-virgin olive oil is the least processed oil and contains the highest levels of protective antioxidant compounds.

Nuts: Nuts like walnuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. These help lower triglycerides, improve vascular health, moderate blood pressure, and decrease blood clotting.

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Herbs or Seeds

Cocoa Seeds: Cocoa seeds are a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants, which are especially important in preventing damage from LDL cholesterol, protecting your arterial lining, and preventing blood clots. Cocoa also contains arginine, a compound that increases blood vessel dilation. A recent study conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School found that seniors who drank two cups of cocoa daily for a month had improved blood flow to the brain and performed better on memory tests.

Rosemary: Rosemary has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, improving concentration and memory.

Peppermint: This aroma has been found to enhance memory.

Sesame Seeds: These seeds are a rich source of the amino acid tyrosine, which is used to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for keeping the brain alert and memory sharp. Sesame seeds also are rich in zinc, magnesium, and vitamin B-6, other nutrients involved in memory function.

Saffron: Saffron has been shown in recent studies to have a positive effect on individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Those who took saffron capsules for 16 weeks presented significantly better cognitive function on average than patients on a placebo.

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Memory-Boosting Supplements

There are vitamins and fatty acids that are believed to help prevent or delay memory loss. While there is no strong evidence to support these claims, ongoing clinical studies are focused on proving the impact of supplements on brain health and more specifically, memory.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B-12 helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells. A Vitamin B-12 deficiency, most common in older adults and vegetarians, can cause various symptoms, including memory loss. In these cases, Vitamin B-12 supplements can help improve memory.

Vitamin E: A 2014 study in the journal JAMA found that high amounts of Vitamin E can help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

DHA: A 2015 review found that taking supplements with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) resulted in significant improvements in episodic memory outcomes in adults with memory concerns. DHA is one type of omega-3 fatty acid and EPA is another. DHA and EPA are most concentrated in seafood like salmon and mackerel.

Supplements can definitely fill in the nutritional gaps but check with your doctor before you go over the recommended daily intake.

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No matter your age, the best way to combat memory decline is to eat well and exercise your body and your brain. You can improve your brain health by being more mindful of the foods and habits that are damaging, and making special efforts to add brain-healthy foods to your diet.

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