Food For Thought: Memory Boosting Food

Have you ever noticed that there will be times you are forgetful or cannot retain important information for long? This may be especially stressful when you’re facing exams, memorising your speech for a big meeting, or even when trying to remember frivolous information.

Memory is a very complex subject. We’d be filled with questions like why our memories decline, what foods can help in our efforts to have better memory, and what to avoid to disrupt our memory-boosting process. Let’s dive in!

 

Why Do Our Memories Decline?

Memories work through three stages; encoding, storing, and retrieving. Encoding is the process of collecting information, storing refers to retaining the information collected, and retrieving is the process of recalling or accessing stored information. Memories have 2 stages, short-term memory and long-term memory.

Now that we understand what memories are, let’s figure out why we sometimes forget and why we suddenly remember the information we weren’t even looking for.

Emotions & attention

Emotions play a phenomenally large factor in creating a memory. When you have strong emotions like excitement or sorrow, or even physical pain, the information or event will connect with how you feel and burn into your brain and become a memory. However, when you are stressed or filled with anxiety, your brain can find it difficult to retain memories because its attention is focused on whatever is causing you stress.

According to Dr. Douglas Scharre, MD, Director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, “When the mind is otherwise engaged on other topics, the individual does not pay attention to enough a degree to be able to recall things later on.”

 

Age & lifestyle

As much as we hate to admit it, our age takes a toll on our memory. This is because, as we age, we lose brain cells and some chemicals it may need to function at its best. This causes our brain to “slow down” and retaining information gets tougher.

However, the lifestyle that we practice also makes a difference. If you lead a lifestyle with little physical activity and lack of sleep, it disrupts your brain function and alertness. That is why some much younger people can still be forgetful and some older people can still be sharp as a tack.

 

Diets & habits

Are you practising healthy and balanced eating habits? An unbalanced diet with high consumption of processed meat, sodium, and more, can elevate your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels which will eventually block blood vessels in and around your brain.

Are you a smoker or an avid drinker? You might want to kick off these habits because smoking damages your blood vessels and excessive drinking can have serious consequences to your memory.

Regarding nutrition, you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency that can directly affect your memory. In elderly people, the ability to absorb this vitamin from food decreases, which is why it is important to take supplements to prevent this nutritional deficiency. Similarly, magnesium deficiency can also cause concentration problems, memory loss, and insomnia.

 

Memory-Boosting Foods

 

Now that we’ve established that food and diet play an important role in strengthening our memory, let’s see what we can eat to help us remember better!

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Always at the top of the list of food for our brains is Omega-3 fatty acids. According to an article by Singapore Sports Hub, “Approximately 60% of our brain is made of fat, and half of that fat is the omega-3 type. These omega-3 fats are used to build brain and nerve cells, and are essential for memory and learning.”

Good news for fish or seafood lovers – you can easily get Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon, sardines, herring & trout! Omega-3 fatty acids may slow age-related mental decline and help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Polyphenols

Sounds unfamiliar? Well, Polyphenols are compounds naturally found in plants, fruits, herbs, and vegetables. Found in foods such as broccoli, berries, and more, polyphenols act as antioxidants that help neutralise harmful free radicals in our bodies.

Food and drinks with higher levels of polyphenols will help protect the brain from mental decline and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. There are many sources of polyphenols like green tea which will help you even more as it contains caffeine that helps keep your mind alert. Olive oil is another great source of polyphenols. Cooking with olive oils will help you increase polyphenol intake day to day without extra effort. Try the flavourful ones such as the Naturel Extra Virgin Olive Oil range to add depth and flavour in your dishes.

Other foods that contain a higher percentage of polyphenols are foods with a higher content of flavonoids like dark chocolate and higher content of antioxidants like blueberries.

 

Vitamins & boron

Vitamins, particularly vitamins B, E, and C have particular roles in the enhancement and protection of our brains. Foods like eggs, oranges, and nuts are all rich in vitamins and should be part of our daily diet especially when we want to improve our memory or slow down the progression of our mental decline.

Boron is another great nutrient for brain food. They can be found in raisins, apricots, almonds, and more. According to an article written by Susan De Plessis, “Boron is a trace element that improves hand-eye coordination, attention, and memory.”

 

What to Avoid?

When it comes to our brain health, what we avoid is just as important as what we consume. What do we reduce or avoid for us to have better memory?

Saturated fat

According to Dr. Lim Kim En, Neurobiologist, “Research suggests that making the right food choices could protect your brain function and lower your odds of getting dementia. Additionally, for a person with dementia, proper nutrition can keep the body strong and ease behavioural symptoms.” Furthermore, foods that are high in saturated fat can cause weight gain that puts you at risk for other diseases like diabetes.

Foods like red meat, whole milk, butter, cheese, cream, and ice cream are known to have a higher count of saturated fat. However, you do not have to avoid them completely, just consume them in moderation.

 

Sugary drinks & alcohol

An excessive intake of sugary drinks increases the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, which has been shown to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. For those who have a sweet tooth, try replacing sugar with a Low GI natural sweetener like Naturel’s Coconut Nectar when you crave something sweet.

Alcoholic beverages can be damaging to your memory too. Alcohol affects your brain when you drink excessively. People who drink a lot tend to be deficient in Vitamin B-1 which is vital for providing energy to the brain and nerve cells.

 

 

Although we have very limited control over how our memory works, we are fully in the driver’s seat when it comes to enhancing our brain power. A sharper mind can help our brains process information better, and quicker and store it for much longer. One of the best ways to help our brain is to eat right.

Let’s recognise the importance of leading a fit and healthy lifestyle. Being active and completing puzzles and riddles are little ways we can train our brains. Taking small steps to increase brain power will make you feel like you’ve got actual superpowers!