Imagine this—your hair’s done, your outfit is perfect, and you’re finally ready to head out the door. Except, um, where the hell are your keys? You could have sworn you put them on the counter last night. Except somehow they aren’t there. You try to replay last night’s sequence of events in your head but come up with… nothing. In fact, you literally cannot remember what happened after you walked through the door. After 10 minutes of intense searching, the keys turn up (usually under a couch cushion or already in your purse), you bemoan your crappy memory, and head out the door (10 minutes later than planned). And scene.
Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. Memory loss happens for a number of reasons, aging being one of the main culprits. However, just because it happens naturally doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to delay the process. Take the foods for memory ahead, for example. Each of these foods has been proven to help boost memory and brain health. Now, will snacking on berries before a big test going to turn you into the next Stephen Hawking? Probably not. But eating a diet rich in these foods will help your brain function optimally and possibly even delay the onset of memory-related diseases like Alzheimer’s—which is reason enough to stock up. Keep scrolling to get your fill of memory-boosting foods.
The Right Oils
A study from The Annals of Neurology found that women over the age of 65 who consumed the most monosaturated fats (think olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, avocado, and peanut butter) had the best cognition test scores on average compared to those who ate polyunsaturated fats found in corn and vegetable oils.
The healthy oils are also full of vitamin E, which research has found to be a potent antioxidant that may help protect neurons and nerve cells. On the other end of the spectrum, those who reported eating high amounts of red meat and full-fat dairy (aka saturated fat) had the worst scores on reasoning and memory tests. Yikes.
Blueberries, Strawberries, and Açaí
The MIND Diet, a diet that can reduce your Alzheimer’s risk by over 50%, includes a high intake of berries to help your brain health. Blueberries have been proven to boost your memory and concentration because they’re rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant that is supposed to increase blood flow to the brain. A study found that one 200-gram blueberry smoothie was enough to increase the ability to concentrate by as much as 20% a day. Along with blueberries, strawberries and açaí berries have been found to activate a mechanism in your brain that cleans up and recycles toxic proteins that are related to age-related memory loss and other types of mental decline.
Sardines and salmon
It’s not a secret that omega-3 fatty acids are good for your health in a number of ways, but in case you need a refresher, here’s one: In a study from the University of Pittsburgh, a group of young adults from age 18 to 25 saw significant improvement in working memory after taking an omega-3 supplement for six months. And if supplements aren’t your things, go toward the fish aisle: Salmon and sardines great natural sources of omega-3s, so eat up.
We’ve already touted the skin benefits of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes, as well as wine, peanuts, and some berries. But did you know this potent antioxidant can do wonders for your memory, too? A study published in Scientific Reports found that rats who received resveratrol had improved spatial learning and memory, whereas rats that didn’t get resveratrol saw a decline in the ability to make new spatial memories by 22 to 25 months. What does this mean? Basically, resveratrol potentially has the power to improve your memory and mood function when you’re old and wizened if you start incorporating it when you’re middle-aged. Cheers to that.
As if we needed another excuse to eat chocolate—a study conducted by Harvard researchers found that elderly people with impaired blood flow who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day for 30 days had improved blood flow to the brain and better scores on memory and thinking skill tests. Sweet!
Walnuts are the only nuts that contain a high amount of alpha linolenic acid, which can promote blood flow and bring more oxygen to your brain. Plus, a study presented at the International Conference on Alzheimer’s found that mice that were felt walnuts showed “showed significant improvement in learning, memory, emotional regulation and motor coordination compared to the mice with no walnuts in their diet.”
Next time you’re stuck deciding between soup and a salad, choose a salad—and make it kale. A 25-year Harvard study of more than 13,000 women found that those who ate high amounts of veggies—especially leafy greens, like kale, spinach, and collard greens—experienced less age-related decline in their memory over the years.
Next up: Check out what the world’s most productive people eat for breakfast.
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Okereke OI, Rosner BA, Kim DH, et al. Dietary fat types and 4-year cognitive change in community-dwelling older women. Annals of Neurology. 2012;72(1):124-134. doi:10.1002/ana.23593
Morris MC, Tangney CC, Wang Y, Sacks FM, Bennett DA, Aggarwal NT. MIND diet associated with reduced incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimers Dement. 2015;11(9):1007-14. doi:10.1016/j.jalz.2014.11.009
ClinicalTrials.gov. Investigating the Acute Effects of Flavonoids in Blueberries on Cognitive Function.
Narendran R, Frankle WG, Mason NS, Muldoon MF, Moghaddam B. Improved working memory but no effect on striatal vesicular monoamine transporter type 2 after omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid supplementation. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(10):e46832. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046832
Kodali M, Parihar VK, Hattiangady B, Mishra V, Shuai B, Shetty AK. Resveratrol prevents age-related memory and mood dysfunction with increased hippocampal neurogenesis and microvasculature, and reduced glial activation. Sci Rep. 2015;5:8075. doi:10.1038/srep08075
Sorond FA, Hurwitz S, Salat DH, Greve DN, Fisher ND. Neurovascular coupling, cerebral white matter integrity, and response to cocoa in older people. Neurology. 2013;81(10):904-9. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3182a351aa
Muthaiyah B, Essa MM, Lee M, Chauhan V, Kaur K, Chauhan A. Dietary supplementation of walnuts improves memory deficits and learning skills in transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2014;42(4):1397-405. doi:10.3233/JAD-140675
Kang JH, Ascherio A, Grodstein F. Fruit and vegetable consumption and cognitive decline in aging women. Ann Neurol. 2005;57(5):713-20. doi:10.1002/ana.20476