Thursday, July 10, 2008

Avoid brain drain with memory-boosting foods

Improve your mental health with common fruits, vegetables — even coffee

Every cell in your body needs a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to stay alive and work properly, including brain cells. Because oxygen and nutrients are carried in the blood stream, anything that impedes blood flow will starve those all-important brain cells. The plain truth is that a healthy heart makes for a healthy brain. So keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and get at least seven hours of sleep each night.

Compelling research also indicates that certain foods and nutrients can help enhance your memory. Read the facts on fish, berries, leafy greens and coffee — and be sure you remember to incorporate them into your diet.

Fish (3 servings per week)
Research suggests that when it comes to food and memory, fish plays a starring role. Specifically fatty fish like salmon and sardines, thanks to the ample amounts of omega 3 fats they provide. In fact, a study published in the Archives of Neurology in November 2006 found people with the highest levels of omega 3 fats were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with dementia, compared to people with the lowest levels.

Another earlier study conducted by researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago followed more than 3,000 men and women for six years to see how diet affected memory. People who ate fish at least once a week had a 10 percent slower decline compared with those who did not eat fish, a difference that gave them the memory and thinking ability of a person three years younger.

Fatty fish is concentrated in the most potent form of omega 3 fats (EPA and DHA), so go out of your way to incorporate three to five ounces portions at least three times each week.

Best fish to eat (low in contaminants AND high in omega 3 fats): Wild salmon, sardines, lake trout, pacific oysters, and Atlantic mackerel. If that’s not feasible, you can buy fish oil supplements or at the very least incorporate plant based sources of omega 3 fats (significantly less potent than fish): ground flaxseeds, omega-3 fortified eggs and walnuts.

Berries (one cup a day)
Studies that focus on food and memory suggest that the more overall produce you eat, the better. But when it comes to fruit and your memory, berries rate number one! Berries have some of the highest antioxidant concentrations among fruit, and ALL berries are rich in healthy compounds called anthocyanins and flavanols… which may help protect against the breakdown of brain cells.

Plus these days, it seems you can’t say enough about the health benefits of blue-berries. What makes them so powerful? Their deep blue hue — caused by flavonoids — those natural compounds that protect the brain’s memory-carrying cells (neurons) from the negative effects of oxidation and inflammation. Blueberries are one of the best sources of flavonoids around, and encouraging animal studies suggest that diets rich in flavonoids may help reverse memory loss in humans. In fact, a new British study, published just last month, reveals eating plenty of blueberries can enhance spatial memory and learning.

Buy firm-fleshed berries from a farmer’s market, local supermarket, or health food store. For off season months, take advantage of frozen, unsweetened varieties. Berries taste great mixed into plain yogurt, as a topping for hot or cold cereal or right out of the bowl.

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