Feed Your Brain: Foods and Vitamins to Improve Your Memory
Kevin you asked for it so here is my third article on how to improve your memory. In the first article we have covered how the brain remembers things and the specific locations in the brain, which are memory centers. The second article covered some brain exercises to improve our memories. Now in this article I would like to look at brain food. What kind of food and vitamins will help us keep our mind alert so we can continue to make many more wonderful memories to come?
The mind and body are part of the majestic biological systems that make up humans. We cannot really tease out physical functions from mental functions, they are part of the same systems that keeps us alive and healthy. More and more people are turning to natural ways to keep the body and the mind fit. What better way to do this than to begin to keep our brains and our minds vibrant than by starting with the very foods that we eat.
Phytochemicals are chemicals that are important for good health and good brain functioning. There is much talk in the news today about the affects of antioxidants and phytochemicals. Antioxidants are said to fight off the free radicals in the body. Free radicals provide oxygen to the cells, but this oxygen can also spurt the growth of harmful bacteria and abnormal cell growth. Preventing the growth of free radicals can help prevent the risk of cancer, heart disease, and various signs of aging. As you know memory loss is associated with aging.
So how do we use these phytochemicals and antioxidants to improve our brain functioning? Phytochemicals and antioxidants are rich in Vitamin C and E and beta-carotene, which will convert into vitamin A.
We need to eat our way to a better memory. Research seems to be pointing in that direction. Don’t forget to use great memory exercises I provided in the other article as well.
Foods that provide health benefits for a great memory
The best source of foods for memory is fruits and vegetables. These particular foods listed below contain phytochemicals, particularly anthocyanin and antioxidants.
They are high in anthocyanin and other phytochemicals, which boast memory and other brain functioning.
Apples contain high levels of an antioxidant called quercetin. Recent studies have shown its benefits for Alzheimer’s disease. Most of the quercetin is found in the skin though it is in the flesh of the apple as well. Apples also contain anthocyanin.
Studies in rats showed how it reversed memory loss. Spinach contains folic acid and that is a known memory boaster. It is also believed to help Alzheimer’s and other diseases related to age.
Onions have been used as a remedy to improve memory for centuries. Yellow and white onions contain quercetin, while red onions contain quercetin and anthocyanin.
Broccoli contains quercetin and folic acid.
Red Beets is a good source of folic acid and anthocyanin.
The red, black and purple grapes contain both anthocyanin and quercetin, just be careful on the wine consumption.
Cherries contain anthocyanin.
Eggplant contains anthocyanin and also nasunin, which protects the lipids in the cell membranes in the brain.
Soy is the product of soybeans. It can be processed into milk, which can be fortified with extra soy fiber. Soy is used in many beverages and foods. It is the isoflavones, which convert into phytoestrogens and act similar to estrogen. It is now considered a good natural source for improving memory. Soy is used for preventing diseases of the blood vessels and the heart. It is used for treating high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In addition it is used for type 2 diabetes and different types of cancer such as endometrial, lung, prostrate and thyroid cancer. It is used to help prevent the progression of kidney disease and prevent bone weakness leading to osteoporosis. Soy is used for muscles soreness from exercise, breast pain and preventing breast cancer, premenstrual and menopausal symptoms. It is also added to infant formulas.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What is a discussion about memory foods without Omega-3 Fatty Acids? It appears Omega-3 Fatty Acids have so many health benefits it is a wonder why more people are not getting them into their diet more often. Studies have shown that Omega-3 Fatty Acids is necessary for proper brain functioning and just 400 mgs a day will improve cognitive functioning, verbal learning, spelling and memory. Another study showed that children who consumed Omega-3 Fatty Acids in their diet were able to retain more information in school and took fewer sick days. The antioxidants by way of Vitamin C and E in Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential in preventing free radical damage in brain cells. Vitamin C and E have also been associated with improved memory and concentration. Studies have shown that people suffering from Vitamin E deficiency have bad memories.
Other brain enhancing foods include: milk, black eyed beans (peas), acorn squash, pink salmon, kidney beans, orange juice (fortified with calcium), papaya, bock choy, baked potato, wheat germ, banana, low sodium vegetable juice, tofu, honey, and water.
Vitamins and Herbs
Vitamin B will have all around health benefits. B12, B6, and folic acid (B9) are of utmost importance. One of the functions of vitamin B is to breakdown homocysteine an amino acid that can destroy the nerve cells in the body. Vitamin B has long been associated with being the memory vitamin. Research is pointing into how Vitamin B 12 can help prevent or slow memory loss especially in older people as well as improving cognitive functioning. Each source of Vitamin B carries a different function for improving memory.
Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B 12 promotes healthy red blood cells and healthy nerve cells. Studies have found that people with lower levels of Vitamin B 12 in their bodies have done considerably worse on memory tests than people who do not lack this vitamin. Older people who are at risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias lack enough Vitamin B 12 in their bodies.
Vitamin B 6
Vitamin B 6 promotes the production of myelin, which is the protective sheath around the axons in the brain. It also promotes the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.
Vitamin B 9
Vitamin B 9 or folic acid is important to the development and maintenance of new cells and healthy brain functioning.
Gingko, memory, and more
This herb is often used to help restore memory in Alzheimer’s patients and people suffering from other brain disorders. It is also used in conditions where there seems to be a restriction of blood flow to the brain this is especially important for older people. There are many conditions this herb seems to help besides memory and that includes: headaches, vertigo, ringing in the ears, hearing disorders, mood disturbances, and concentration deficits. Other people use Gingko for pain in the legs associated with walking. It has been used as a treatment for depression, Lyme Disease and other thinking disorders. Some people use if for Raynaud’s Syndrome which is a painful reaction to a cold, causing pain in the fingers and toes. Still other people use it for sexual performance. There is a long list for the uses of ginkgo, which has been around as a treatment for allergies and asthma since 2600 B.C. Be careful if you try this herb. It can react with other medications causing serious side affects.
Choline has similar properties to Vitamin B and it has been used as a treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia where memory loss is the primary function of the disease. It has been used for liver disease, preventing fatigue in sports, bodybuilding, cancer prevention, Huntington's chorea, Tourette's disease, lowering cholesterol, used in baby formulas, and controlling asthma.
Phosphatidylcholine also known as lecithin, though they are not the same, Phosphatidylcholine is a compound of lecithin. Phosphatidylcholine is found in eggs, mustard, soybeans, sunflowers, and other foods.
Interest has been spurred in this area because the body uses Phosphatidylcholine to make a brain chemical called acetylcholine. So research is looking into the possibilities of using Phosphatidylcholine for brain functioning, specifically in the areas of memory loss, Alzheimer’s Disease, anxiety, Bipolar disorders, and tardive dyskinesia, which is a movement disorder. It is also used for other diseases such as circulation problems, high cholesterol, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS); for improving the effectiveness of kidney dialysis; hepatitis, eczema, gallbladder disease, for boosting the immune system; and for preventing aging.
Sage is another herb used in the treatment of memory loss. It is felt that sage may help combat the imbalances in the brain caused by Alzheimer’s Disease. Of course we know all the other wonderful uses for sage such as a remedy for digestive problems, including loss of appetite, flatulence, stomach pain (gastritis), diarrhea, bloating, and heartburn. It is also used for reducing overproduction of perspiration and saliva; It is used for treating depression and it can be applied on cold sores; used for treating gum disease (gingivitis); sore mouth, throat or tongue; and swollen, painful nasal passages. Sage is used for menstrual cramps, and is inhaled to relieve the symptoms of asthma.
Rosemary is believed to improve memory in Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases of the brain because of the carnosic acid it produces. In one study office workers who started using Rosemary had marked memory improvement.
Vinpocetine is manufactured in the laboratory and is similar to the periwinkle plant Vinca minor. This product is sold by prescription in Germany under the brand name Cavington. It is believed that this product will improve blood flow to the brain and thus be helpful for memory retention, and preventing memory loss in Alzheimer’s patients and other conditions causing brain impairment as we age. It is also used for preventing seizures and stroke, premenstrual symptoms, chronic fatigue and motion sickness. Not enough studies have been done to conclude if vinpocetine is effective for use in the USA.