Need a Brain Boost?—Try These Foods

July 2013 View more

N2013_07_01_005HEALTSchedules, passwords, names, the list goes on. Does your memory sometimes let you down? It happens naturally as we age. That’s why it’s important to eat the right food that can help keep your mind sharp and nourished. Your brain needs nutrients just like your muscles, heart, and organs. New research suggests that you don’t need to eat these foods every day, but if you include them in your diet, you can give your brainpower a boost.

Smart Foods


Certain fish, especially salmon, mackerel, sardines, and herring, are loaded with the memory-boosting properties of omega-3 fatty acids. Eat these once a week, and you’ll be thinking younger. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that adults who ate these fish at least once a week, had memory functions equivalent to a person who is three years younger. “These foods are rich sources of omega-3’s and other key nutrients that in our studies, and others, appear to offer some protection against cognitive decline. These foods do consistently appear as ‘neuroprotective’, but it’s important to remember these are studies that point to associations, not cause and effect,” said Dr. Christy Tangney, Rush University Medical Center.


They’re high in fiber, protein, and omega-3. A study in the journal, Neurology, showed people with low levels of omega-3 had brains that appeared two years older on MRI scans. Nuts and seeds are also great sources of vitamin E. Higher levels of vitamin E equal less cognitive decline as you age. Skip the nuts and seeds with added sweeteners or seasoning blends. Instead, go for almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and Brazil nuts.


Vibrant berries may reverse age-related declines in balance, coordination and motor function. Researchers have found that blueberries also help protect the brain from oxidative stress, possibly reducing the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Harvard researchers found that women who ate one cup of berries per week experienced a 21/2-year delay in mental decline compared to women who rarely ate them.


The avocado is a fatty fruit, but it’s a monounsaturated fat, which contributes to healthy blood flow. The increased blood flow is good for your brain. Avocados can also help lower blood pressure.


Avoiding all fats can increase foggy thinking, mood swings, and insomnia. A diet rich in the right amount of healthy fats is essential to clear thinking, better memory function, and a balanced mood.


Coffee and tea do more than jump-start your day. Studies have shown that key ingredients in both beverages help improve cognitive function as you age.


Kale, collard greens, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of vitamin E, B-6, B-12 and folate. These vegetables are often very high in iron content. If you do not have enough iron in-take in your diet, your cognitive activity declines.


Dark chocolate sharpens your focus because of the caffeine it contains. Scientists have proven that the antioxidant levels in just three tablespoons of cocoa powder is much more powerful than antioxidants found in green tea or red wine. The main antioxidant found in cocoa, flavonols, helps increase blood flow to the brain. Italian researchers discovered that people with mild cognitive impairment who consumed a high dosage of flavonols from cocoa had significantly higher overall cognitive scores than people who took lower amounts.


Yogurt is rich in vitamin B-12. Studies show that people with low levels of B-12 perform poorly on long-term memory tests.


When you become dehydrated, your brain tissue actually begins to shrink. Dehydration can zap your energy and make you feel tired. So with summer in full swing, drink up and give your brain a power boost.