by guest blogger Peggy Kotsopoulos, registered holistic nutritionist, culinary consultant, and author of Kitchen Cures: Revolutionize Your Health with Foods that Heal
Have you ever walked into a room and completely forgotten what you came in for? Or bumped into someone on the street whom you’ve met repeatedly, but you still can’t remember his or her name?
At one point or another we’ve all suffered from some form of memory lapse, misplaced something, or made a conversational faux pas. However, there are things you do to help boost your memory power, the number one being to eat healthy. Since it’s food that fuels our brains, eating the right types of foods can support better memory and improve our brain function. Here is my list of the top 10 foods to boost your brainpower this fall:
Turmeric is a root veggie most commonly recognized in its powdered form as a bright yellow spice. Curcumin—the active compound in turmeric—shows neuroprotective properties and is being studied for its ability to help slow down the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Curcumin reduces the number of protein deposits (amyloid plaques) in the brain, which build up over time and affect all of us as we age, gunking up our brains and decreasing our memory and learning abilities. Studies suggest that turmeric can reduce the number of these plaques by half.
Not only do they look like brains, but these nuts pack a powerful mind-boosting punch, too. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E, research suggests that walnuts deliver key nutrients that help improve chemical messenger communication in the brain, protect the brain from oxidative damage, and improve cognitive functioning. Omega-3 fatty acids improve the communication of neurotransmitters (like serotonin), so information is sent and received more efficiently and fluidly, which improves mental acuity and cognitive performance.
The aromatic compounds in rosemary show neuroprotective effects on the brain, which may play a role in the prevention of neurodegenerative brain disorders. Research suggests these compounds increase blood flow to the brain, having a stimulating effect on the mind. Studies have found that just the scent of rosemary improves performance in speed and accuracy tests and improves memory and alertness.
Aside from its infinite list of health benefits, the winning combination of choline and vitamin K in broccoli give it a brain-boosting A+! Choline helps in brain development and may have a role in retrieving stored memories, while vitamin K helps to develop and strengthen cognitive function. Plus, broccoli provides nearly a quarter of your daily folate—another important brain-boosting nutrient.
5. Wild Blueberries
Wild blueberries are rich in anthocyanins, antioxidants that studies suggest helps reverse age-related memory deficits. Anthocyanins are what give berries their dark red, purple, or blue color. The berries’ powerful antioxidant action helps protect the brain from oxidative damage (a factor in age-related memory decline). Anthocyanin has anti-inflammatory properties, as well, which may help to reduce inflammation in the brain, boosting cognitive functioning and protecting the brain from short-term memory loss.
6. Sunflower Lecithin
Lecithin extracted from sunflower seeds is rich in phosphatidyl choline, which is a precursor to acetylcholine production. Acetylcholine is the key neurotransmitter that is responsible for memory. Even if you already have a memory stored in your brain cells, if you don’t have enough circulating acetylcholine, you won’t be able to recall that memory from your files. Try adding sunflower lecithin to homemade pancakes, smoothies, or baked goods for memory boost.
The brain needs glucose to function optimally. The best food sources for brain-powering glucose are complex carbohydrates, such as quinoa. Since quinoa delivers slow-releasing carbs, coupled with fiber and protein, the grain-like seed provides stable, energizing fuel for your brain. Plus, it’s loaded in B vitamins, which are essential for brain function.
This long green veggie is rich in brain-boosting vitamin K, and it also provides a hearty dose of folate—one cup provides roughly 65 percent of your recommended Daily Value. Studies show that a good intake of folate (folic acid in its supplement form) supports better cognitive speed in processing information and improved performance on memory tests.
9. Red Beets
Like blueberries, beets contain anthocyanins, which help boost cognitive function and prevent memory decline. But beets are also are a great source of nitrates, which help increase blood flow to the brain. The more oxygen-rich blood there is flowing to the brain, the better the brain is at information processing and cognition.
10. Sacha Inchi Seeds
Sacha inchi seeds (SaviSeeds) are the richest plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Snacking on SaviSeeds gives you 17 times more omega-3 fatty acids per ounce than salmon! Omega-3 fatty acids improve the transmission of neurotransmitters so that information is sent and received efficiently and fluidly, which increases mental acuity and cognitive performance. SaviSeeds are also high in protein and fiber, nutrients that stabilize blood sugar levels and fuel mental energy and focus, improving concentration. These benefits coupled with the fact that the seeds are also rich in tryptophan, which converts to mood- and memory-boosting serotonin make these the perfect brain-friendly snack!
Happy brain boosting!
Peggy Kotsopoulos is a registered holistic nutritionist (RHN) and culinary consultant focused on teaching real health through lifestyle and dietary choices that are easy and delicious. She obtained her RHN designation from the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, completed her health educator certification from Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida, graduated from Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in California, and founded beVibrant—a food-based wellness consultancy. For more information, visit peggyk.com and follow Peggy K. on Twitter @BeVibranthHealth and on Google+.