Are you forgetful? Does the thought of losing your memory make you nervous? Thankfully, recent research shows that certain foods can reverse a poor memory and sharpen brain function. If you’re looking to give your brain a boost, look no further than within your kitchen. Help boost your memory and keep your mind sharp with these five superfoods (bonus – one of them is chocolate!).
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
Simply adding more spinach, kale, or collards to your diet can help to slow cognitive decline. In fact, in reasearch performed on more than 950 adults, those who ate one to two servings per day of leafy green vegetables had the cognitive ability of a person 11 years younger than those who consumed none. The nutrients found to slow this decline in the brain are vitamin K, folate, lutein and beta-carotene, all nutrients found in leafy green vegetables. The vast amount of vitamins and minerals found in these leafy greens also contributes to sustained brain health.
The Take Away:
The American Academy of Neurology states that leafy greens are one of the best foods for brain health. Enjoy a mixture of leafy greens throughout the day to reap the brain-boosting benefits! Toss them into smoothies, on a sandwich or in a salad.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain and body health. Recent studies show that people with low levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their bodies are more likely to have memory problems.
They also scored lower on visual memory tests and abstract thinking than those who had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. This has led to the sugegetion that diets lacking in omega-3 content may actually cause the brain to age faster. Omega-3 fatty acids vary in length, with shorter alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), to the longer chain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Though vital to our health, our bodies cannot make these fatty acids, so we need to consume them in our diets.
The Take Away:
One of the best sources of these omega-3 fatty acids are dark meat fish like tuna, salmon, and herring. Try to incorporate fish into your meals two times a week.
Berries are no secret superfood. In fact, Steven Pratt, MD calls blueberries “brainberries” because of their significance in fighting against oxidative stress and age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It’s not just blueberries that give your brain a boost though. Packed with antioxidants known as anthocyanins, all varieties of berries from blueberries and raspberries, to the lesser known goji berry and mulberry, contain brain-boosting nutrients. In fact, recent research using both blueberries and strawberries shows that these berries may help to protect your brain as you age. In a study of only women, evidence showed that those who consumed more berries in their diet were able to delay cognitive aging by 2.5 years.
This delayed aging is a result of the powerful anthocyanins found in berries, which are antioxidants known as flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect the cells in the body from damage and reduce inflammation.
The Take Away:
Berries are a brain-protecting superfood! Packed with anthocyanins, berries can help to keep your memory from fading as you age. Eat berries by the handful or toss them into your cereal or oatmeal.
4. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil appears to be the perfect brain food, adding yet another health benefit to its long list. Our brains have two primary sources of fuel: carbs (or sugar) and fat. When the brain uses fat for energy instead of carbs, it produces ketones which are found abundatly in medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Can you guess what product boasts a high MCT content? That’s right! Coconut oil does, at roughly 66 percent!
Medium-chain triglycerides are not processed by the body in the same way that long-chain fatty acids are. While fat is normally mixed with bile released from the gallbladder before it can be broken down in the digestive system, MCTs go directly to the liver where they are naturally converted into ketones. The liver then immediately relases the ketones into your bloodstream where they are transported to the brain for quick fuel. This provides energy to the brain without the use of insulin, the hormone that the body uses to get glucose from the blood into cells. It is thought that ketones provide an alternative energy source for brain cells that have lost the ability to use glucose as a result of Alzeimer’s. While studies are still ongoing in regards to coconut oil and Alzeihmer’s Disease, there are many incredible stories of Alzheimer’s patients improving immensley as a result of taking coconut oil.
The Take Away:
Coconut oil needs to be studied further to find out if it’s a real cure for Alzeimer’s, but it does give the brain a quick source of fuel in the form of ketones. Enjoy two tablespoons a day in coffee, smoothies and a variety of other ways for a burst of energy and mental clarity!
5. Dark Chocolate
While you still have to eat it in moderation, go ahead and indulge in that chocolate you’ve been craving! One note – keep it dark. Dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties and contains several natural stimulants, such as caffeine, all of which help to enhance focus and concentration.
It is believed that the antioxidants in raw cacao, known as flavanols, help to improve blood flow to the brain. Studies found that the flavanols found in cocoa increase connectivity and blood flow to a certain region in the brain that is critical to memory. In this study of just 37 participants, the group that consumed a high-flavanol mixture performed better on pattern recognition tests. Though more research is needed, the idea is that flavanols improve function in the cells that line blood vessels, leading to better blood flow and cell energy. This process is what improves cognition.
While it has been found that you would have to eat a lot of chocolate (approximetly 7 bars of it) in order to consume the amount of flavanols this study used, there is no denying the positive health benefits of raw cacao. It might not cure all of your memory issues, but it contains the nutrients needed to keep you awake and focused, all of which are important when trying to recall memories!
The Take Away:
Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols, which help to increase blood flow to the brain, keeping you alert and clear mentally. Indulge in some dark chocolate daily, but be sure that the content is 85% cacao or higher to actually receieve any benefits!
Whether you include these superfoods into your diet or not, there is no denying that our diet has an effect on our brains and their functioning abilities. Give your brain the fuel it needs to function properly by avoiding processed foods, trans fats and sugary treats.
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