Memory Boosting Foods—Food to sharpen your memory and improve your mental health

October 2016 View more

Healthy eating not only feels good and makes you look good, but it also lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Now, researchers are trying to determine if eating healthy helps to keep your memory sharp, or even help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“A plant-based Mediterranean diet has been shown it could potentially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It is unclear if it is because of the promotion of fruit and vegetables and plant-based proteins, or because of a higher intake of healthy fats vs. saturated fats,” said Kathryn Wulkow, registered dietitian and clinical oncology dietitian at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “There have also been a few random trials looking into the effects of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on fighting Alzheimer ’s disease. More long-term studies are needed though,” said Wulkow.

Health benefits have been noticed with vitamin E rich foods, but not the supplement. Since vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, it may help protect neurons. “Antioxidants help maintain the integrity of the cells against free radicals and therefore can protect brain cell function,” said Wulkow. On the other hand, studies have shown that saturated fats and refined carbohydrates, such as white sugar, may cause problems. In one study, rats were fed diets in simple carbohydrates and fats for three months. The laboratory rats ended up performing worse on memory tests.

So even if there’s no solid evidence that certain foods prevent Alzheimer’s, medical experts agree that certain foods can keep your body and your brain in top shape.

A plant-based Mediterranean diet has been shown it could potentially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Green Leafy Vegetables

The folate found in colorful veggies like broccoli, kale, and spinach helps the nervous system function properly.

Whole Grains

Fiber-rich whole grains promote cardiovascular health, which in turn promotes efficient blood flow to all organs including the brain.


Sunflower seeds are the best whole food source of vitamin E, according to the USDA Nutrient Database. Just one ounce of oil-roasted sunflower seeds gives you 76 percent of the recommended dietary allowance.


We know berries are powerful antioxidants, they may also help protect the brain from oxidative stress. Recent studies have found that strawberries, blueberries, and acai berries may even help to delay cognitive decline.

Red Wine

“Red wine contains resveratrol, a plant compound similar to flavonoids. Some experts say this promotes heart health and can increase brain function. It can also be found in certain food sources,” said Wulkow. “The Dietary Guidelines for Americans is still one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.”


Avocados are packed with vitamin E and vitamin C. Some research suggests that this combination is associated with lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Nut Butters

Even though they may be higher in fat, they are also loaded with vitamin E. Peanut butter, for example, may keep both the brain and the heart healthy.

Combining regular exercise with healthy eating habits is always a good idea. Studies have found that exercise can stimulate the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones that are important to brain health.

Overall Diet Recommendations

“I would encourage a balanced diet rich in plant-based food choices like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, and lean protein choices. Limit processed foods, saturated fats and trans fats,” said Wulkow. “Consider choosing cold water fish twice a week or go for other sources of omega-3 fatty acids if you do not like fish. Choose nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables and fruits for snacks instead of processed food choices.”

See more of CBS 2 Meteorologist Mary Kay Kleist’s reports at