Certain foods are known to be good for memory and concentration. Do you know which ones are considered brain and memory whole foods? Are you helping your cognitive processes or hindering them? Read on to find out which whole foods to include and which foods to avoid when considering how to improve your brain health.
By looking at the foods that truly feed our brains we may be able to improve our cognitive functioning, mood and memories. If you’re feeling haggard or just plain stuck in an area of your life, you may want to carefully consider which foods you consume on a daily, weekly and regular basis. Read on to find out why.
What Does Research Says about Whole Foods for Brain Health?
Research shows that cognitive function can be impacted by the foods you consume.
Here is a list of some of the most important nutrients related to the brain and to memory as found in the 2018 summary in Hospital Nutrition:
- Low glycemic index foods seem to help improve memory, attention and functional capacity.
- Simple sugars, or diets high in them, tend to lower attention and concentration abilities. The rise and fall of blood sugars instead of a steady stream of them in the blood helps create this negative impact.
- A stead stream of amino acids for helping neurotransmitter function.
- Normal levels of seratonin (a neurotransmitter) have been found to increase learning, reasoning and memory
- Diets following an adequate ration of omega-6: omega-3 fatty acids (5:1) are usually associated with better memory capacity and lower risk of degeneration. This ratio is commonly found in a diet known as the Mediterranean diet.
- Vitamins B1, B6, B12, B9 (folic acid) and D, choline, iron and iodine exert neuroprotective effects and improve intellectual performance.
- Antioxidants (vitamins C, E, A, zinc, selenium, lutein and zeaxanthin) promote the defense against oxidative stress associated with mental deterioration and the improvement of cognition.
Based on these research findings, we can extrapolate a few things. First, eating whole foods such as vegetables, low glycemic fruits, quality proteins and fats are a first line priority over foods with nutritionally shallow food profiles, such as heavily processed foods and simple sugars.
What foods pack the most dense punch of nutrients and supply the needed nutrients to optimally support the brain and cognitive functions? What are the best brain and memory whole foods?
According to some research, diets that include an optimal balance of omega 6 fats and omega 3 fats are typically found in the Mediterranean diet.
What is the MIND Diet?
The MIND diet stands for the Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet. In a study called the Memory and Ageing Project, 960 participants helped show that components of a certain (brain and memory whole foods) diet provided neuroprotection which resulted in a slower decline in cognitive function across 5 domains. (2)
The MIND diet substantially slowed cognitive decline in an aging population. It is linked with lower incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
The MIND diet consists of:
- Leafy green vegetables, at least 6 servings/week
- Other vegetables, at least 1 serving/day
- Berries, at least 2 servings/week
- Whole grains, at least 3 servings/day
- Fish, 1 serving/week
- Poultry, 2 servings/week
- Beans, 3 servings/week
- Nuts, 5 servings/week
- Wine, 1 glass/day*
- Olive oil
Researcher Dan Buettner in his book “Blue Zones: Lessons for Living longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest” he outlines certain global populations of centenarians (those living to the ripe age of 100+) and observed that many of these groups utilize a diet similar to the Mediterranean Diet; at least one that is plant based with small amounts of mean, and high in antioxidants.
Brain and memory whole foods are nature designed to help you live your best.
What are the Best Brain and Memory Whole Foods?
What whole foods are for the brain? What Whole foods help memory?
As we look at the foods included in the MIND diet, we see that there are several foods that have become known as brain and memory whole foods. Here is an expanded list to include varieties within each category mentioned.
21-Great Northern Beans
Low Glycemic Fruits
Foods high in Omega 3
(Flaxseeds would fall into this category, but I don’t include it because women with hormonal imbalances don’t always fare well on it).
Tea or coffee
(I personally don’t consume coffee, but I do really enjoy the benefits of herbal teas)
39-Herbal teas or decaf green tea
This brain and memory whole foods list is not exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start if you are interested in fortifying your cognitive power.
Should Supplements Be Used as Functional Fuel for your Brain?
Another question that many of you ask is what is the best food supplement for memory?
Sometimes you simply cannot ingest adequate amounts of food to move the needle in effect though sometimes the best way is to gain benefits only from the whole foods themselves. So, which is it?
Turmeric, for example, is highly beneficial for brain health and can help bolster your memory, mood while helping grow new brain cells. But this is seen in levels usually not ingested through food. Therefore, it may be worth finding a high dose formula from your doctor. (3)
Various research studies also show mixed results on the use of varying supplements. One study shows that taking omega-3s as a supplement improved brain cognition, while another did not show any significant improvement. This being complicated by the quality, dosage and prognosis of an ailment being treated vary from supplement to supplement and person to person.
There are products such as brain and memory drops (a nootropic that is meant to provide brain boosters and increased energy), alpha brain whole foods, whole foods blood builder (supplements used to increase red blood cells), alpha gpc (employs the use of choline and has been used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients) , among many others claiming to help your brain focus at its peak.
But, are they worth it? Are they legitimate in the long run? Are they just marketing scams to make a buck? Are they more helpful than brain and memory whole foods coming from nature?
Many supplements claiming to help you haven’t been thoroughly tested or vetted with research studies. Many are new to the market and haven’t been utilized before on a widespread scale. Take this for what it is.
It might be most helpful to start with dietary changes in order to boost your brain’s health, and then look into supplements with the help of a trusted health care provider. Brain and memory whole foods are a great place to start. Nature doesn’t make mistakes. Otherwise, you may be throwing your money away and either find no real health benefits or worse, feel the effects of a bad-for-you supplement.
Other Habits that Promote Brain Health and Memory
In addition to brain and memory whole foods, are there any other things you can do to improve your brain health and memory?
Research has shown that games or memory tricks, along with physical exercise can help bolster the brains function along with memory.
Quick and Clever Memory Tricks
Memory tricks can involve making new associations between subjects, using creative methods such as creating a drawing, writing things down, focusing deeply on something, talking about something with a loved one, etc.
There are many overall habits that have been shown to help ones brain retain its function as a cognitive powerhouse. Keeping mentally active is an overall good strategy to follow.
Clever Memory Tricks Games
Here is a list of games that have been thought to be helpful in keeping ones mind young:
- Turn an activity into something fun in order to remember it better
- Associate what you want to remember with one of the senses. For example, if you want to remember that you have to go to the store to pick up a birthday card, associate it mentally with your car so the next time you see your car, you will also think of the birthday card.
- Activities such as doing puzzles or sudoku have been found helpful in keeping the mind in practice of focus and deep thinking.
Doing physical exercise has been found to help ones cognitive functioning. This is in part because the blood flow helps to stimulate the brain, but moving the lymph and movement in general helps to flush toxin out of our bodies.
The whole process is beyond the scope of this post, but needless to say, physical exercise is an important part of your overall wellness.
Exercise Habits to Improve Memory
Here are a few exercise related habits you may want to consider:
Consistent exercise, such as a few days a week
Deep breathing and meditation
Stretching and strengthening activities
Kinesthetic challenges, such as obstacle courses, HITT workouts, and orienteering for example
As always, find what works best for you and if you aren’t sure, talk with a trusted healthcare provider specializing in physical fitness, taking your body type and health status into consideration. It’s always important to do what feels best for you, even if starting small.
Taking care of your brain through brain and memory whole foods, is a great start to unlocking the puzzle of better feelings and health; though it’s one path towards improved health. Hopefully, you are feeling more interested in taking steps to feeding your body what it craves and it will reward you with energy and optimism.
2) Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Barnes LL, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet slows cognitive decline with aging. Alzheimers Dement. 2015 Sep;11(9):1015-22. doi: 10.1016/j.jalz.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 Jun 15. PMID: 26086182; PMCID: PMC4581900.
3) Jennings, Kerri-Ann. “11 Best Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 18 June 2021, https://www.healthline. com/nutrition/11-brain-foods.