I was recently asked about what one can do to prevent memory loss and improve concentration. Well, the short answer would be consuming a healthy diet rich in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids and working your brain like any other muscle with mind training exercises. In more details,…
1. Do not skip breakfast. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Research has shown that performance and memory improved in subjects who had breakfast as compared to those who didn’t. A high protein low-carb breakfast proved best. Notice the studies don’t say no-carb; after all, glucose is the brain’s favorite fuel. A good breakfast example would be turkey or cheese on whole wheat bread or milk with a bran cereal and fruit.
2. Exercise. Aerobic exercise can help sharpen your brain and keep you more alert by reducing stress and oxygenating brain cells. Exercise also helps you sleep better improving memory and increasing blood flow to all parts of the body.
3. Vitamin E. The latest study published in the Neurology of Aging Journal confirmed the important role of vitamin E, an antioxidant, in cognitive function and in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts including almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts, and seeds such sunflower seeds. Remember though to enjoy the nuts and seeds in their raw state not salted and fried.
4. Flavonoids. Flavonoids are a wide group of plant-derived compounds that several studies have shown to improve memory and learning by protecting the neurons or brain cells from oxidation and inflammation. Flavanols, flavanones and anthocyanins are the most potent sub-groups of flavonoids in improving memory. Berries, especially blueberries, are the most effective in retarding age-related deficits in spatial memory as they contain both flavanols and anthocyanins. Fruits and vegetables that have a yellow, red or blue color are rich in flavonoids. The list includes apples, citrus fruits, grapes, red onions…. Other sources include tea especially green and white, red wine, cocoa and dark chocolate.
5. Folate. Folate or vitamin B9 also known as folic acid when it is found in its supplement form has been linked to faster memory recall. Folate as well as vitamin B12 have been shown to lower homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine levels were found to be higher in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Folate sources include green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, as well as beans, and lentils… Vitamin B12 can be found in meat, fish and eggs.
6. Omega-3. No wonder fish is known to be the brain food! Omega-3 fatty acids ( EPA and DHA) found in fish especially fatty fish such as salmon and sardines have been shown to lower dementia risks and improve memory and thinking abilities. Include in your diet two to three servings of fish per week. Other sources of omega-3 (however, less potent) include ground flaxseed, walnuts and purslane (ba’ leh in Arabic). Fish oil and krill oil supplementation is possible in case you cannot consume fish; however, it’s better to check with your doctor first.
7. Turmeric or Curcuma. India is one of the countries having the lowest rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is partly due to the high consumption of curry sauces rich in turmeric. Lab studies have demonstrated the protective effect of curcuma against dementia and its ability to improve memory. Enjoy curries or if you feel like trying something new, stir a teaspoon/tablespoon of turmeric in a drizzle of olive oil and add it to your yogurt.
8. Rosemary. One study showed that the aroma of the rosemary essential oil showed a significant enhancement in the overall quality of memory of the participants in the test group as compared to the participants in the control group.
9. Supplements. Gingko biloba is a medicinal herb used for years in China for different ailments. However, a review of several lab studies revealed that gingko biloba supplements had little or no effect when it came to improving memory and preventing dementia. L-carnosine is an antioxidant normally manufactured in our body. It is mostly found in muscle, brain and eye cells. It is being studied for cataracts, wound healing and protecting the brain from plaque formation that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Some lab studies on animals have indicated an anti-aging effect; however, this remains inconclusive. Food sources of L-carnosine include chicken and lean red meat.
Here’s an example of a meal to boost your brainpower. Broiled or grilled salmon fillet seasoned with black pepper and turmeric ( salt is optional) with a side of salad composed of spinach, walnuts and a segmented orange with a lemon-olive oil dressing. For dessert or as a snack later on, enjoy a cup of fresh berries.
In conclusion, consuming a healthy balanced diet, exercising (body and mind), enjoying a good night’s sleep, and meditating to reduce stress are all lifestyle factors that will help keep your brain sharp and your heart healthy. Vitamins and minerals should not be supplemented unless they are lacking in the diet and after consulting with your doctor.