Brain Food: 5 Foods to Eat & Avoid for Better Memory
Food plays a crucial role in the health of our bodies–and our minds–and new research is constantly emerging, shedding new light on foods that are great for us…and foods that are bad. We asked Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of the New York Times best-selling book S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop pounds and Lose Inches, what her five food picks are for a healthy noggin and why. Plus, she gives some easy eating suggestions, and they’re easy to integrate into holiday dishes and beyond! And to avoid? Read below for recent research that reveals new findings regarding a certain diet we’re surrounded with and its ill effects on the memory and body.
Cinnamon improves the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and this aromatic spice also boosts brain activity. Research shows that just smelling cinnamon enhances cognitive processing. Cinnamon has also been shown to improve scores on tasks related to attention, memory and visual-motor speed.
Eat it: Add ground cinnamon to your morning coffee, whip it into a fruit smoothie, fold it into yogurt along with fruit, nuts and toasted oats, and add it to savory dishes like lentils and roasted eggplant.
A San Diego State University study found that compared to the same amount of sucrose (table sugar) rats fed honey showed reduced weight gain, less body fat, decreased anxiety, better memory, improved levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, better blood sugar control, and less oxidative stress.
Eat it: Use it to sweeten hot tea, swirl it into yogurt, drizzle over hot or cold cereal, whip it into smoothies or enjoy it right off the spoon.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes
These yellow, nutty flakes can be found in any health food store and many mainstream supermarkets. They’re made from an inactive yeast, meaning they can’t be used to make bread rise. This food is a staple in vegan diets because nutritional yeast is busting with B12, which is mainly found in animal-based foods and not getting enough can lead to depression as well as fatigue, nervousness and memory loss. They may look intimidating, but these flakes are easy to use and have a mild nutty, cheesy flavor. Two rounded teaspoons provide an adult’s daily B12 needs.
Eat it: Sprinkle some on hot popcorn after misting with a garlic and herb infused oil, add a generous spoonful to a pasta sauce in place of Parmesan, or whip up a quick curry dip by blending the flakes with firm tofu, onions, cilantro and curry powder or turmeric.
One Japanese study found that compared with older adults who drank less than 3 cups a week, those who drank more than 2 cups a day had over a 50% lower risk of age-related declines in memory.
Eat it: Enjoy it hot or iced, or cook with it. Use brewed tea as a the base of a broth soup or marinade, or to steam whole grain rice or veggies, and use loose tea leaves as a rub along with garlic and herbs or whip them into fruit smoothies.
They’re a good source of folate. A study conducted at Tufts University followed about 320 men for three years and found that those who had high blood levels of homocysteine showed memory loss, but men who ate foods rich in folate (which directly lowers homocysteine levels) protected their memories. Another Australian study found that eating folate-rich foods was associated with faster information processing and memory recall. After just five weeks of adequate folate, the women in the study showed overall improvements in memory.
Eat it: Enjoy them as is or incorporate them into savory dishes, like garden salads and stir frys.
Try these recipes:
Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Sauce
Orange Almond Tuiles (scroll down)
Winter Citrus Salad
Persimmon, Pomegranate & Tangerine Salad with Roasted Shallot Balsamic Dressing
Citrus-Scented Angel Food Cake
And to Avoid…
Animal researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and Arizona State University found that rodents fed a typical American diet high in cholesterol and saturated fat, from foods like meat and dairy, suffer from memory impairment, brain inflammation and the impairment of proteins that impact nerve functions.
Another University of Washington in Seattle study looked at the short term and long term effects on the brains of rodents fed American-style cuisine. Within three days the rats not only gained weight, they also developed inflammation in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates body weight. They also experienced changes typically associated with brain injuries, including stroke and multiple sclerosis.
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