Foods For Brain Health + Memory

What you eat does more than influence your gut. It also may affect your brain. Increasing evidence shows that mom was right: You should eat your vegetables, and your blueberries and walnuts, too.

Blueberries serve a wide range of functions for improving mental function. Most notably, regular blueberry consumption has been shown to improve memory function. Furthermore, blueberries are rich in antioxidants, helping to prevent free radical damage. Still not convinced? Research has found that blueberries can also reverse age related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination.

Flax Seeds
Flax seeds are rich in brain-healthy fats that are directly used by the brain to build and protect neurons and regulate the environment of the brain.
To boost your brain to the max, have a tablespoon or two of flax seeds every day. Other brain-boosting seeds are hemp and chia.

Don’t let the avocado’s fat content fool you. It’s a healthy fat that promotes blood flow, keeping your mind functioning at its peak. Avocados are rich in a fatty acid called oleic acid, which helps to build the coating of insulation, known as myelin (found in white matter of the brain.) Myelin helps information travel at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. 

Neurons without myelin (gray matter) process information at slower speeds.
We can make some oleic acid on our own if we have other good fats in our diet, but avocados are a tasty way to include it in our diet.

Oleic acid makes up over a third of the fat in myelin. Thus, avocados (and other sources like olives, almonds and pecans) are helpful for speedy messaging within your brain. 

Chocolate is one of nature's most concentrated sources of theobromine, a mild, natural stimulant and molecular "cousin" of caffeine. However, unlike its cousin, theobromine does not strongly stimulate the central nervous system, nor does it have the same "eye-opening" power. 
Flavanols in chocolate have the ability to help maintain brain function may arise from their ability to protect brain cells, improve brain metabolism and blood flow, which helps preserve memory, the researchers said.

Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function as well as slow the aging process. This means a broccoli-rich diet will keep you young and sharp. Furthermore, the antioxidants found in cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and collard greens helped women in a 25-year study conducted at Harvard Medical School to retain memory function.

Scientists at Wake Forest University determined that natural nitrates in beets can increase blood flow to the brain, thereby improving mental performance.
High concentrations of nitrates are found in beets, as well as in celery, cabbage and other leafy green vegetables like spinach and some lettuce. When you eat high-nitrate foods, good bacteria in the mouth turn nitrate into nitrite. Research has found that nitrites can help open up the blood vessels in the body, increasing blood flow and oxygen specifically to places that are lacking oxygen.

Diets containing two percent, six percent, or nine percent walnuts, when given to old rats, were found to reverse several parameters of brain aging, as well as age-related motor and cognitive deficits, says James Joseph, PhD, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston.
Findings from the studies by Joseph and his colleague Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, show for the first time that shorter chain fatty acids found in plants, such as walnuts, may have beneficial effects on cognition similar to those from long chain fatty acids derived from animal sources, which have been reported previously.

Walnuts are loaded with omega-3s, which make them the ultimate "brain food."Studies have linked low consumption of omega-3s to depression and decreased cognitive function.

Did you know that walnuts also seem to triple melatonin levels in the body? Melatonin is one of the body's sleep regulating hormones, so if you're tired of counting sheep at night, maybe a pre-bedtime snack of walnuts would help you get some shuteye.

Not only is peppermint calming for the stomach, but it also helps better your brain. According to the history, people used peppermint to enhance memory and to treat other conditions even since 3000 years ago.

The main effect of peppermint (the fresh herb, oil or tea)  is represented by a significant improvement of the blood flow to the brain. In addition, peppermint is believed to increase the concentration power. Peppermint contains significant amounts of flavonoids. These are a type of antioxidants that prevent aging of the brain, improve the immune system and neutralize or diminish the action of the oxidative substances.

In the 1990s, researchers at University of Cincinnati found that a whiff of peppermint helped test subjects concentrate and do better on tasks that required sustained concentration. Joel Warm, a professor of psychology who conducted the research with his late colleague William Dember, said there is more than a bit of truth in the peppermint theory.

"Not only do you get an improvement [in focus] with peppermint, you get a change in response that affects alertness in target detection," he said.
Bryan Raudenbush, an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, found that athletes who had a sniff of peppermint performed better than those who didn't.

Is it a coincidence that elderly residents of rural India, who eat large amounts of curry, appear to have the lowest incidence of Alzheimer’s in the world? Researchers find that the widely used spice might contain compounds which can help prevent neurological diseases. Researchers believe that part of the reason for the low level of brain injury in India is that, over a lifetime, consuming turmeric may actually have a protective effect on the brain and nervous system. It's not an easy hypothesis to prove, but Schubert began by extracting several compounds from the spice. He found that at least one compound, curcumin, has protective effects on brain cells of lab animals with neurological injuries. Another study found that folks who reported consuming turmeric from occasionally to very often performed better on memory tests.

Here's a new reason to munch on an apple a day: Apples are a leading source of quercetin, an antioxidant plant chemical that keeps your mental juices flowing by protecting your brain cells. According to researchers at Cornell University, quercetin defends your brain cells from free radical attacks which can damage the outer lining of delicate neurons and eventually lead to cognitive decline. To get the most quercetin bang for your buck, be sure to eat your apples with their skins on since that's where you'll find most of their quercetin.

Beta-amyloid plaques are one of the trademarks of Alzheimer's disease. The other is tangles in the brain made of tau proteins that can cause brain cells to die. Emerging research from the University of California at Santa Barbara reveals that two compounds in cinnamon -- proanthocyanidins and cinnamaldehyde -- may inactivate these tau proteins. While this research is still in its infancy, a sprinkle of cinnamon on your oatmeal or yogurt certainly couldn't hurt.

Yerba Mate
The herbal stimulant yerba mate gives your brain a boost without making you nervous. You feel alert and sharp. Interestingly, it actually works as a tonic for the central nervous system, calming the body and mind. It has been shown to improve mood and concentration, reduce anxiety, and prevent mental fatigue.

Chewing Gum
According to British research, the act of simply “chewing gum,” could make us smarter, enhance our memory, and improve the functioning of our brains. A joint study done by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit, Reading, found that “chewing gum” has beneficial effects on our “thinking, memory and other cognitive tasks.” The results of the study were extremely clear and showed that chewing-gum definitely helps to improve brain functioning! Chewing gum may rev up short and long-term memory by as much as 35 percent. To test the power of gum, 75 British volunteers chewed real gum, pretended to chew, or sat quietly in a room as they were presented a list of words on a computer screen. Gum chewers remembered the most words immediately after seeing the list and 25 minutes later.

Researchers have found that the carnosic acid in rosemary is neuroprotective and may play a role in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative brain disorders. One study even found that just the scent of rosemary improved the memories of office workers.

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is considered one of the best fuels for healthy brain function. Outside of mother's milk, coconut oil is nature's richest source of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are not processed by your body in the same manner as long chain triglycerides. Normal fat metabolism depends on bile salts that have been released from your gallbladder before it can be broken down in your digestive system.

MCTs bypass bile metabolism and go directly to your liver where they are converted into ketones. The liver then immediately releases the ketones into the bloodstream where they are transported to the brain to be used as fuel. Research has shown that the ketone bodies produced by MCTs provide a stable source of energy for the brain during periods of low blood sugar without the neurological risks associated with high blood sugar.

This is why ketones appear to be the preferred source of brain food in patients affected by diabetes or any neurodegenerative condition such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, ALS, & Multiple Sclerosis, etc. One of the leading authorities on MCT research is Dr. Mary Newport. She has shown that ketone bodies may help the brain recover from lack of oxygen induced brain death in newborns through adults. Additionally, ketones can help the heart patient recover from a heart attack and they can effectively shrink cancerous tumors.

Pomegranate Juice
Studies conducted in mice by the Loma Linda University team showed that the antioxidant properties of polyphenols chemicals in pomegranates are very effective in cleaning up the beta-amyloid deposits forming on neurons. The building up of beta-amyloid plaque on neuronal cells is one of the main symptoms of Alzheimer's disease which leads to the decline of cognitive function in patients.

Results of the study found that the group of mice who received supplementation with pomegranate juice (PJ) presented a 50% reduction in the beta-amyloid brain plaque at the end of the trial. In conclusion, active antioxidant compounds in pomegranates can 'ingest' the beta-amyloid deposits in the brain and prevent the decline of cognitive function in people prone to developing Alzheimer's disease.

The vast number of compounds in PJ, along with the evidence that these compounds may act together in a synergistic fashion, suggests that isolated components of pomegranate may not be as effective as dietary supplementation with either the whole fruit or its juice.

Thanks for reading! What do you think?

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