30 Foods That Improve Your Memory

30 Foods That Improve Your Memory
July 22, 2014 10:08 AM

The enigma of human brain! Human brain is the most complex thing known to human beings. Even after years of research and development countless aspects of human brain remain veiled and hidden and researchers even after years of effort have failed to unveil the true complexity of human brain.

But this doesn’t mean that we don’t know anything about human brain. That’s not true. Our understanding about human brain is better now than it was ever before. Human brain is like an enigma, the complexities of which are not completely known. But now we know that human brain is made of billions of small cells called neurons.

These neurons serve as the structural and functional unit of human brain. Human brain control all activities that are either conscious or occur at subconscious level. It controls our sensations, thoughts, actions and processes information at unreal speed- till now no super computer has been created that could work as fast as human brain.

The amount of data that brain stores is unreal as well. It stores tons of data in the form of text, concepts, images, videos, memories and so on. That’s just not it. There are countless activities that brain control of which we’re not even aware of.

Breathing, heart beating, hormonal balance, gut movements, control of circadian rhythms are just a few of the functions of human brain that it controls at sub conscious level without even bothering our conscious part. This is just a handful of functions of human brain.

Brain- A choosy eater!

Like all other cells of your body the cells of your brain require nutrition too and this nutrition comes from the food you eat. Just like physical health, you mental health also requires good food. It may put positive effects on your brain performance. The brain needs nutrients just like your lungs, heart or muscles do. Here is an interesting fact that brain occupies only 2% of our total body weight but consumes more than 20% of our caloric intake.

In other words you can say that brain is the greediest organ (in terms of energy requirements) of the entire body. Some of you might be in love with veggies while other might be in favor of meat. Similarly your brain is a very picky eater. It doesn’t use anything you eat. Rather the structure and metabolism of brain is so designed that it is able to use sugars only.

But before you can rush and start eating junk food with all type of sugars, you need to know that sugars coming from healthy sources like fruits, vegetables and whole grains are something that is healthy for your brain.

Other types of sugars that you get from junk foods, candies and bakery products are certainly not useful for brain. Brain has no means of storing sugars, unlike other organs of your body. That’s why brain needs a constant influx of sugar. As long as your body ensures constant supply of sugar to your brain, it keeps functioning well and by the time the supply of sugar runs out the functioning of your brain starts to derail.

Have you experienced those blackouts after not getting anything to eat for too long? If yes then it’s due to the deficiency of sugar in your brain. Brain can’t use proteins and fats as a source of energy but it doesn’t meant that these ingredients have got no importance in brain functioning.

Basically brain, like other parts of body, is composed of proteins and fats and the proteins and fats that you consume in your daily diet also influence the structure and functioning of brain.

How to boost memory?

Memory is a direct measure of brain function. You can’t just image how much a brain can work and the limits of its functioning. It’s said that a normal human only uses a fraction of his functional brain capacity during his lifetime. Have you observed how memory dements over age? It’s because the structure of brain undergoes significant changes with age and brain doesn’t remain as young as it once was.

You can’t manually alter the structure of brain, can you? So is there a way through which you can alter function of brain and give a boost to your working memory?

Certainly there is. The only factor that you can alter is the food you eat. Let me explain this to you by the help of an example. A car needs fuel for better performance. It’s both the quantity and quality of food fuel that defines the performance of the car. Same is true for your brain too. The constant influx of sugars is important but the quality of your food is equally important as well. And it’s the quality of food that you eat that defines your functional memory and brain function.

Now that you know the basic chemistry of brain and the basic science behind brain boost, we now come to our basic topic. Below is the compilation of top 30 super foods that can boost your memory and can take it to new heights. Also along with each food is explained in detail its constituents and explanation of how it works. So take a deep breath and take the first step towards healthy and improved memory.

Oily fish

Brain needs fats for proper functioning, as already mentioned. But it’s the special kind of fats that best suit your brain. Fats that significantly boost the brain performance include unsaturated fatty acids belonging to the family of Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating foods rich in these fatty acids will definitely make your brain healthier and smarter.

Oily-fish-sprouts

Luckily Sardines, Salmon and different oily fish have rich amount of DHA (Docosa Hexaenoic Acid), a kind of omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for memory and optimum brain performance. These healthy brain fats keep flexible the lining of brain cells so that your memory messages could pass swiftly between cells. Taking high-quality fish oil supplements and eating oily fish three days a week will help you boost up your memory level.

Opt for whole grains

Each and every cell in your body is dependent on continuous supply of nutrients for optimum functioning. You might think that energy demands of a body part might have something to do with its size. This rule of thumb is generally true i.e. larger the organ greater are its energy demands, but things are very different when it comes to your brain. Although brain makes up only few percent of your body weight but still it needs a significant amount of energy.

Why so? You might ask.

That’s because brain is one of the few body organs that functions the most and it never stops working staring from the time of birth till your death. The ability of your brain to focus and concentrate comes from adequate and steady supply of energy – in shape of glucose in our blood to the brain. As mentioned before, your brain is a very choosy eater.

It accepts nothing but glucose as a source of energy. The more you feed your brain with healthy sugar, the better it is for your memory and brain power. The big question here is what are the sources of good sugars? The answer to your questions lies in whole grains. Whole grains are foods that contain complex carbs and have low glycemic index as well. It means that these foods have the ability to release sugars slowly in your body. This makes your brain alert, compliant and receptive for a longer period of time. So opt for, wheat bran, 'brown' cereals, brown pasta and granary bread.

Eggs

Not only is egg a perfect combination of all the essential amino acids but is also a perfect blend of brain friendly vitamins and minerals. Eating eggs frequently will help to enhance your memory. Eggs are one of the simplest sources of B vitamin, which is a vital nutrient that serves a bundle of functions including generation of energy and production of neurotransmitters (certain chemicals that serve to conduct impulses across several areas of brain, also playing an important role in memory and cognition). B vitamins are also found within the sheath that insulates nerve fibers throughout the brain to facilitate fast transmission of electrical impulses.

Green Tea

The Chinese have strong believe that drinking green tea is very beneficial for your memory. Researchers have now discovered that green tea naturally contains high levels of certain chemical EGCG (epigallocatechin-3 gallate). EGCG is nothing but a powerful antioxidant that has the ability to scavenge damaging free radicals and has the ability to resist disease and maladies.

Green Tea

EGCG is also useful in combating age-related chronic sicknesses and might improve psychological features and memory. This was all reviled in the Molecular Nutrition & Food analysis studies. Enjoying around 2 to 3 cups of organic green tea daily is a wonderful way to offer your memory a lift up.

B Vitamins supplements

It’s true that your brain is largely dependent on sugars for functioning properly but brain nutrition is not just about filling your plate with carbs. Adequate brain functioning largely consists of steady supply of vitamins too. Vitamins function to speed up all the chemical processes of brain, helping it to function better. Moreover, certain B vitamins like B6, B12 and folic acid are famously known to decrease the levels of homocysteine within the blood.

Exalted levels of homocysteine are related to high risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and poor memory. A study of was conducted to see the effect of different B vitamins on brain function. For this purpose the study population was divided into two halves. One half of the population was given B vitamins like B12, B6 and folic acid for about 2 years while the other half was given placebo (fake drugs). Brain studies of both halves of the individuals after 2 years revealed that the group using B vitamins had lesser shrinkage of functional brain areas, performed better in cognitive tasks and had superior memory as compared to the group using placebo.

Berries

Here’s a delicious and simple way to improve your memory: Eat more berries than usual! A study was conducted recently to see the effects of daily consumption of berries in age related memory loss in females. Result were very promising in the favor of berries and showed that women who consumed berries had sharper memory that lasted longer as compared to those who didn’t consume berries on regular basis. The magical ingredients in berries that give them the ability to boost memory are called flavanoids and anthocyanidins.

Another ingredient of berries that makes them a super food for memory boost and cognitive spike is vitamin C and trust me all the berries are loaded with vitamin C. But you don’t need to over eat berries to reap their advantages. Apparently, positive effects were observed in those individuals who just ate one cup of strawberries a week or who ate just ½ cup of blueberries.

Almonds

Nuts, particularly almonds, are extremely good for nervous system and brain. They're natural sources of vitamin B6, vitamin E, Omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Vitamin E in almonds has been shown to stop several forms of mental stress (insanity) by cleaning the damaging free radicals, and it improves brain thinking powers too. Almonds naturally contain some anti-nutrients, like phytic acid. Since we have a tendency to consume comparatively small amount of nuts, this isn’t a huge problem. However they are much healthier if you soak them late night (about eight hours) before eating them.

Quinoa

Like legumes, beans and whole grains, quinoa is a superb mean of complicated fiber and carbohydrates to balance blood glucose whereas providing the essential glucose the brain. Quinoa is additionally a good source of iron, which helps in the generation of blood which in turn keeps the brain well ventilated.

quinoa-in-wooden-bowl-uncooked

Moreover B vitamins in Quinoa protect blood vessels and most importantly balance your mood. And, like most grains, seeds, and nuts, Quinoa contains phytic acid. Quinoa conjointly contains saponins; so it is ought to be soaked long before it can be cooked.

Pomegranate juice

Pomegranate juice (you can eat the fruit itself however with its many small seeds, it isn't nearly as easy) offers potent antioxidant advantages, says Kulze, which resist the brain from the disadvantages of free radicals. "Definitely not a single body part is more sensitive to the harm from free radicals as brain," says board-certified medical specialist David Perlmutter, MD, author of the Better Brain Book.

Colorful vegetables and Citrus fruits are high on Perlmutter's list of "brainy" foods because of property of antioxidant "the more colorful the more better," he said. As a result juice of pomegranate has more sugar (to counteract its natural tartness), you do not need to go overboard, says Kulze; she recommends more or less two ounces on a daily basis, diluted with spring water.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate poses powerful antioxidant properties, contains many natural stimulants, as well as caffeine, that increases concentration and focus, and lifts up production of endorphins- chemicals that help to improve mood.

Medically it is proven that eating as much as ½ to 1 ounce dark chocolate daily can provide all the brain boosting advantages that you’ve always desired. But remember excess of everything is bad, so there would be adverse effects if you take this sweet in excess.

Avocados

If someone were to ask me to rank the top fruit then I’ll definitely think of crowing avocados as the king of all fruits. Rightly so because the health benefits of this fruit are unreal and it is fully packed with almost all essential vitamins and nutrients. But when it comes to boosting your brain power, there are many reasons why avocados are second to none.

First, avocados are extremely rich in brain healthy unsaturated fatty acids including Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Second, avocados have a substantial potential to lower blood level of cholesterol and increase the supply of blood to the brain. Last brain benefit of eating avocados is its antioxidant potentials. Not only does it improve the absorption of antioxidants but is also stuffed with several healthy antioxidant compounds of its own, mainly vitamin E.

Beside their ability to increase the overall performance and memory of brain, avocados also have the potential to save the brain from life threatening complications like stroke due to their high content of vitamin K and potassium.

Coconut oil

If you’re still using ghee, butter and cheese for cooking and eating purposes instead of coconut oil then you’re seriously putting your life at risk. This way you’ll not only put extra pound but will also lose a lot of your brain powers as well. Coconut oil constitutes of medium chain triglycerides that your body can use very easily. This way much of the glucose is spared for the brain to use. Moreover, coconut oil also has the tendency to improve the circulation of blood to the brain. Several studies have shown that use of coconut oil decreases the incidence of several diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Beans

Beans are a perfect combination of healthy nutrition including proteins, complex carbohydrates and fibers. Although brain can’t use proteins but it is the combination complex carbs and fibers that is important for brain. The combination of complex carbs and brains allows slow and steady release of sugar in the blood for brain to use. Moreover, beans are also very rich in vitamins essential for brain like folic acid and vitamin B12. The memory boosting benefits of beans don’t just end here. Beans are also rich in antioxidants that make your brain healthier and a better work place.

Legumes

You may or may not be a veggie lover and may or may not agree with the taste of legumes but you’ll have to agree with the brain boosting potential of this green vegetable. What makes legumes so important for brain is its high content of complex carbs, just like beans. Also like beans legumes are very rich in vitamins and antioxidants. So eating beans and legumes on regular basis is the best choice for veggie lovers to boost their brain power and memory.

Broccoli

I still remember skipping my share of broccoli in my meals when I was a child. It wasn’t a very wise decision; I realized this as soon as I grew up and read all the health benefits of broccoli. Broccoli is s super food for your entire body and body systems. But its importance increases significantly when it comes to its brain health boosting abilities.

Broccoli

What makes it an ideal memory boosting food is its nutrition value. Broccoli is very rich in calcium (that helps transmit electrical impulses in brain), vitamin C, beta carotenes (antioxidants that save brain from oxidative stress), vitamin B complex (a combination of B vitamins that control metabolism and several chemical processes taking place in the brain), iron (that increases the supply of blood to the brain), fiber (that ensures that brain gets steady supply of sugar by slowing down digestion), and vitamin K (an important vitamin that reduces the chances of stroke).

In a nut shell broccoli, single handedly, brings all those benefits to your brain and memory that all other foods bring combined. So if you could eat broccoli on regular basis, there can’t be anything better for your brain health.

Chia

Ever heard of chia seeds? If not then let us tell you about the importance of chia seeds in boosting memory and mental fitness. Chia seeds, first of all, contain complex carbs, nutrition on which brain thrives. Also they’re rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, like all other seeds and nuts.

Chia-seeds-in-glass-jar

You remember the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids in brain performance from previous sections right? Moreover it improves the supply of blood to the brain and decreases the damage inflicted to the brain by free radicals due to its antioxidant potential.

Red cabbage

The list of antioxidants that help brain in fighting free radicals and help it achieve a smashing memory is quite long. One member of that list that has shown significant promise in boosting brain power is a group of antioxidants called polyphenols. In addition red cabbages are also very rich in gucosinolates, compound that have the tendency to fight against cancer.

Rosemary

Yes it’s the same rosemary famous for its refreshing scent. But did you know that rosemary is one of the most potent brain boosting ingredients of all? In fact rosemary is so potent that only sniffing its scents has shown to improve brain performance and memory. Unbelievable, right? You might be skeptic of this fact but fact has been scientifically proven.

Rosemary extracts and oils are available in the market. The constituents of rosemary give it the power to improve the supply of blood to the brain. Rosemary, with its characteristic scent, can cause improvement in mood. Moreover, several chemicals in rosemary have antioxidant potential, which function like other antioxidants mentioned before.

Spinach

The odds of having a better memory are certainly in the favor of vegetable users. If you’re a vegetable lover then here is some good news for you. Spinach is another vegetable in our list of super foods that can boost your brain performance. Studies have shown that people who use spinach on regular basis are less likely to suffer from dementia and memory loss as compared to those who don’t eat spinach.

The iron levels are extremely high in spinach, like other green leafy vegetables. Iron, as mentioned earlier, can give rise to blood cells and these blood cells in turn ensure steady supply of blood and nutrients to the brain. In addition, spinach is rich in B vitamins, folate and antioxidants - you know the rest of the story.

Sunflower seeds

Sunflower oil and seeds are a healthy choice for your memory. Sunflower seeds are loaded with proteins, B vitamin complex and Omega fatty acids. In addition, sunflower seeds are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan.

This amino gets converted into serotonin, by means of several chemical process. Serotonin, in turn, helps alleviate mood and makes you more receptive towards learning new things.

Tomatoes

If you thought that our list of antioxidants benefiting brain is running out then you should know that there are still a plenty of antioxidants that deserve mention. One such antioxidant is lycopene, an oxidant that is rich in tomatoes. This antioxidant has proven to act as a tonic for memory and has the ability to boost mood too.

Walnuts

Eating a handful of walnuts is a healthy mid day snack that can provide several health benefits including giving a boost to working memory and brain cognition abilities. High levels of Omega fatty acids and antioxidants are what make it good at giving brain the ability to think at a faster pace.

Peanut butter

I love to kick start my days by eating peanut butter filled slices in the breakfast. Things can’t get tastier than this, right? You might have read somewhere that peanut butter is extremely rich in fat. You may further think that why would we suggest you eating fats when fats are bad for health?

peanut-butter-in-glass-bowl-and-jar
 

Your statement is partially true. Yes, peanut butter is rich in fat but the type of fat they contain is healthy one i.e. peanut butter is rich in unsaturated or good fat. In fact it is after oily fish and nuts when it comes to the content of unsaturated fatty acids in a food.

Brahmi supplement

You might have heard this term for the first time and might be getting confused about what it is. Relax and take a deep breath. Let me explain to you what brahmi is and how it works. Brahmi is an important herb in ayurvedic type of medicine (a type of medicine using herbs and body energy for treatment). This supplement improves the supply of blood to the brain. The users of this supplement do report a significant improvement in their memory. In fact eating brahmi supplements are seen to improve both short term and long term memory.

Ginger

Drinking a cup of herbal ginger tea in the evenings in place of regular colas and soft drinks is a natural, cost effective and proven way to improve brain function and working memory. Why ginger helps in boosting brain is due to its high content of certain antioxidant substances in it.

Ginger-in-wooden-bowl

So when you’re drinking a ginger tea, you’re actually filling your belly with brain healthy antioxidants that reduce brain stress, inflammation and cause a significant improvement in brain memory. In addition to tea, you can use ginger in your regular meals, soups and salads as well.

Red wine

Drinking too much wine doesn’t leave you sober but studies have shown that red wine when used in moderation can actually act as a tool to boost brain performance and memory. So drinking moderate amount of red wine is not a bad idea.

Gingko

Gingko is sometimes called brain herb because this herb can stimulate brain function like no other herb. It can also boost memory. Gingko achieves this by increasing the supply of blood to the brain. Moreover it also decreases the clogging of blood vessels of brain caused by cholesterol.

Beets

Research has shown that eating beet can improve performance and brain memory. It is because beet is naturally high in chemicals called nitrates. Nitrates have the ability to increase the caliber of blood vessels. This way the supply of blood to the brain increases and it ends up functioning well.

Turkey

Here is good news for meat lovers. Turkey is high in L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is converted into dopamine. Dopamine is an amino acid that is involved in the consolidation of memory and improves brain function and mood as well.

Shrimp

Shrimp is seafood that you can use to detoxify your brain and improve its learning capacity. It is high in antioxidants in unsaturated fatty acids.

Mushrooms

Last but not the least ingredient in our list is mushrooms. Mushrooms have the tendency to improve memory due to the higher concentration of antioxidants in them.

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Written by: Michal Vilímovský (EN)
Education: Medical student, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Published: July 22, 2014 10:08 AM
Next scheduled update: July 22, 2016 10:08 AM
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