Forgot what you’re looking for? Bad with names? Writing down a lot of lists but then misplacing them? Like most people, you’re experiencing some memory loss—and growing older doesn’t help matters. Luckily, researchers all over the world are scouring the earth looking for ingredients that might organically improve human recall. Scan the menu of ingredients below and, if you make the right diet changes, you too could develop a champion’s memory.
There’s a reason that fish is called brain food, says Lauri Wright, PhD, RD, LD, and assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Several studies have shown that a diet containing generous amounts of omega-3 fatty acids leads to decreased rates of dementia and improved memory recall,” she says. Researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed more than 6,000 people for four years to see how diet affected their memory. The frequent fish eaters (at least once a week) had a 12 percent slower memory decline than those who did not eat fish. The fish eaters also saw a 60 percent reduction in the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Wright suggests three four-ounce servings each week of omega-3-rich fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines.
Plan a weekly Indian takeout night: Researchers have found that curcumin, a primary ingredient in turmeric and curry powders, slows the formation of plaque deposits and even destroys accumulations in mouse brains. These plaque deposits—known as amyloid plaques—have been linked to the development of Alzheimers. Curry has also been proven to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
See more: 5 Reasons to Skip Breakfast
Blueberries and Grapes
"Berry fruits and vegetables contain compounds that are important for optimal function and resisting decline with aging," says Robert Krikorian, PhD, who leads the Cognitive Aging Program at the College of Medicine at University of Cincinnati. One of his studies found that those who drank blueberry juice every day for two months significantly improved their performance in learning and memory tests. In another study, he found similar results with Concord grape juice.
Not only are beets super trendy these days, they’re also loaded with nitrates. Great—but what are nitrates? “Nitrates are a form of nitric oxide, which is a natural compound that is involved in vascular dilation (and associated blood pressure lowering),” explains Krikorian. So the nitrates increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, thus improving mental performance.
Spinach and Kale
Leafy greens contain antioxidants and they’re also loaded with a significant amount of folate. “Studies have shown that folate-rich foods improve memory by decreasing inflammation and improving blood flow to the brain,” says Wright. Folic acid has also been proven to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to a higher risk of heart disease. In a study published in the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed 321 men for three years and tracked their levels of homocysteine; those with higher levels showed memory decline and those who ate foods rich in folic acid seemed to fight memory decline.
See more: 5 Weird Signs You’re Vitamin Deficient
If you’re on deadline at work, try popping a piece of Trident into your mouth. During a 2013 study, researchers at Cardiff University had two groups of people each listen to a 30-minute recording of a sequence of numbers. When asked to recall the sequence later, the group that chewed gum had higher accuracy rates and faster reaction times than the group without the gum. “This suggests that chewing gum helps us focus on tasks that require continuous monitoring over a longer amount of time,” the lead author of the study, Kate Morgan, explained.
Can’t remember where you put your phone? (Oh, that’s right, it’s in your hand …) Have a cup—or three—of Joe. Researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Austria found that the caffeine equivalent of about two cups of coffee increased brain activity in two locations, one of which is involved with memory. And a study by researchers at the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research found that women over 65 who drank three or more cups of coffee a day were better at recalling words than women who consumed little or no coffee.
You can swap in a cup of hot chocolate for coffee if you prefer: A 2013 study found that older adults (73 years old, on average) who drank two cups of cocoa every day for a month had improved blood flow to the brain and performed better on memory tests. Or try a bar of dark chocolate (with at least 70 percent cocoa), which is a good source of flavonoids, antioxidants that have been linked to brain health.
By Lisa Freedman
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