Quick memory quiz:
According to John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, what do they call a Quarterpounder with cheese in France?
When Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm in a diner in When Harry Met Sally, what does the woman at the next table order?
What did you have for lunch yesterday?
Bet you got two out of three right on this one. Why? Because our longterm memories, once they’re formed, are pretty much immobilized in amber. It’s the day to day stuff that slips through our grasp. Not remembering where you put your keys last night, or the name of the person you just met a moment ago, or the combination to your new gym locker, are all signs that the demands of daily life are intruding on your ability to form new memories. But here’s some good news: A few tweaks to your diet might restore your mediocre memory to Total Recall. (The original, not that Colin Farrell remake.)
Over here at Eat This, Not That!, we’re always monitoring breakthroughs in nutritional research, including an exciting new study just released from Columbia University that links high concentrations of the flavanols in cocoa to reversed age-related mental decline in healthy older adults. (Chocolate, you’ll be happy to discover, stars in our definitive 50 Best Snack Foods in America.)
And we’ve uncovered a collection everyday foods that you can throw into soups, pile on salads, and slip into your routine. Boosting your brain health and your memory has never been easier or more delicious. And before you forget, sign up for our free Eat This, Not That! newsletter to get the best nutrition, health and fitness secrets to live better, healthier and happier every day.
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #1: Almond Butter
Swapping peanut butter for almond butter might better your chances of beating age-related memory loss. Almonds (like many nuts and seeds) contain high concentrations of vitamin E, which has been shown to help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. And some studies indicate it can slow the decline caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #2: Leafy Green Salad with Cheese
If you’re constantly forgetting the name of someone you’ve just met, or if “We talked about this…” is a common conversation starter at your house, then leafy greens like spinach or broccoli may be your produce-aisle prescription. They’re packed with vitamin K, which has been has been shown to improve verbal episodic memory, your ability to absorb and remember verbal instructions. Leafy greens also deliver high doses of folate, which works in tandem with vitamin B12 to help improve cognitive function for older adults. Since greens don’t contain vitamin B12, add some cheese or eggs (which do) to a spinach or Romaine salad and you’re good to go.
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #3: Blueberries
Ready to expand your horizons? The flavonoids in blueberries have been shown to improve spatial memory in rats. Their antioxidants help lessen inflammation, which can cause longer-term problems for the brain and its memory function, so sprinkle them over your oatmeal and stock up on frozen bags for smoothie making in the winter! Bonus: Among the things you’ll be remembering are all the compliments you get when people seek your sleek new shape. Berries are one of the Best Fruits That Boost Fat Loss. The more of these you eat, the less of you there will be!
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #4: Green Tea
Drink up. One study found that subjects who drank green tea before a cognitive-functioning test performed significantly better than those who drank a placebo. Researchers who monitored the brain function of those undergoing testing say that the green tea improved brain plasticity—basically, it allowed their brains to learn faster. While you’re showing off your flexible new brain, you can also flex your abs by drinking any of these 5 Best Teas for Weight Loss.
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #5: Salmon or Tuna
It might seem fishy, but DHA—a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fattier fish like salmon and tuna—can improve memory and the time it takes to recall a memory. Researchers tested DHA supplements on a group of 176 adults who had low levels of omega-3s in their diets. (Most of us do, by the way.) Just 1.16 grams of DHA—about what you’d find in a 3 ½ ounce serving of salmon—made a measurable difference.
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #6: Cherry Tomatoes
Bright red and orange vegetables are top sources of a type of nutrient called carotenoids, which seem to improve cognition and memory over longer periods of time. One of the most powerful of these nutrients is lycopene, which is found in high doses in the skin of tomatoes. Lycopene also protects you from depression-causing inflammation, so working it into your daily diet can also boost your mood. Why cherry tomatoes, specifically? Because lycopene is concentrated in the skin, the little red buttons carry more per volume than their beefsteak brethren. Don’t forget to pile your salad high with more of the 11 Foods That End Bad Moods.
BRAIN-POWER FOOD #7: Root vegetables
In a recent study, older subjects (70 years of age and older) were given a dose of beet juice, then hooked up to an MRI machine. The researchers discovered that the beet juice measurably improved blood flow to their brains. The secret: nitrates, which are found in beets, carrots and other brightly colored root vegetables, as well as some greens, and converted into nitrite in the body. Nitrite, by the way, is the stuff that makes Viagra get its groove on. So perhaps more than your memory will be enjoying a boost.
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