As we age, cognitive function and memory both decline. While there are certain things, we can do to help staunch that decline; such as regular brain-boosting activities, like crossword puzzles and Sudoku, limiting our stress levels and work hours to thirty hours per week or less. There are also quite a few foods we can incorporate into our regular diet, that many researchers believe also boost cognitive function and memory.
Can food improve your memory?
First, a note of caution: Thus far, statements from the National Institute of Health have all been to say that “there is insufficient evidence that food, diet, or lifestyle can prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
That hasn't stopped researchers from looking at how various foods and brain functions are linked, and while Dr Sam Gandy of the Mount Sinai Medical Center's Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center notes, “I can’t write a prescription for broccoli and say this will help—yet,” that doesn't mean there aren't foods that have been linked to cognitive health in one way or another.
As such, we feel okay recommending the following foods for their potential memory-boosting effects.
Check out some of our favourites below:
Though fat often gets a bad rap, avocados are loaded with the good monosaturated fats, and the combination of vitamin K and folate means that not only does this superfood help prevent blood clots in the brain, it also aids cognitive function, particularly in memory and concentration. It's also rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant. Even more importantly, as Dr Martha Clare Morris notes, vitamin E may help protect neurons or nerve cells, which limits the likelihood of developing cognitive degeneration such Alzheimer’s disease. The benefits have been found in vitamin-E rich foods, but not in supplements.
In addition to being delicious little bits of nature's candy, blueberries are also one of the best antioxidants out there. This is important because some research suggests that antioxidants combat oxidation and inflammation, both of which may be factors in neurodegenerative brain diseases. Additionally, some other research suggests that a few of those antioxidants may improve communication between brain cells, as well as boost memory and even potentially delay memory loss associated with ageing.
3. Bone broth
Some natural medicine practitioners believe that gut composition can sometimes be a key factor in brain function, and toward that end, bone broth is a wonderful supplement. As bone broth helps reset microbe balances in the gut, amino acids such as proline and glycine may help boost memory.
Because broccoli is loaded with vitamin K and choline, it's another memory superfood; as an added bonus, not only does that vitamin K help with memory, but the antioxidants in broccoli may also protect the brain.
5. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is one of those pleasures you don't have to feel guilty about, as it's packed with brain-boosters, including antioxidants, caffeine, and flavonoids—a group of antioxidant plant compounds.
Keep in mind, though, that this needs to be dark chocolate, meaning free of additives like sugar and cream and so forth. We recommend shooting for at least 70% dark chocolate.
6. Dark Leafy Greens
Dark leafy greens such as collard greens, kale, and spinach are great sources of vitamin E and folate, and as Dr Morris notes, folate has been linked to better brain health. It's believed folate may work by reducing an amino acid called homocysteine (which can trigger nerve cell death), but more research is yet needed.
While no research has yet proven eggs can help brain health, there's plenty of research that supports nutrients found in eggs are important for memory and cognitive function.
In particular, eggs are packed with vitamins B6, B12, folate, and choline. Choline is especially important, as it helps create a neurotransmitter linked with memory, mood, and mental function, acetylcholine.
8. Fatty Fish
By fatty fish, we mean fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as sardines, salmon, and trout. Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important to our brain, because 60% of our brain is fat, and half of that is omega-3, which is used for brain and nerve cell development, and is key to learning and memory.
As a result, it may not be surprising that omega-3s may slow age-related cognitive decline and limit the incidence of Alzheimer's disease, whereas as deficiencies have linked to learning impairments and depression.
Given that it's also delicious sounds like lots of great reasons to load up on fatty fish to us!
9. Green Tea
In particular, an amino acid called L-theanine increases GABA (an important neurotransmitter) activity, which cuts down on anxiety, helping you to focus while also calming you. Additionally, the polyphenols and antioxidants in green tea have been linked to a lower incidence of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
While there's plenty of science to support nuts improving heart health, only recently has that health translated to brain health and memory. In 2014, for instance, a new study found nuts both improve mental cognition and can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Researchers theorize this is the result of antioxidants, healthy fats, and vitamin E, all of which help slow mental decline. If you have to pick a favourite, though, go for walnuts—they have extra omega-3 fatty acids.
The rich yellow spice that gives curry its colour and some of its flavour, turmeric has been a roll lately when it comes to health benefits. In particular, its active ingredient, curcumin has been found capable of directly crossing the blood-brain barrier, meaning it delivers its many benefits to the brain more efficiently.
That's quite a list of superfoods! Add them to your diet more regularly, and we bet you'll be feeling sharper and more alert in no time.