Bet you got two out of three right on this one. Why? Because our longterm memories, once they're formed, are pretty much immobilized in amber. It's the day to day stuff that slips through our grasp. Not remembering where you put your keys last night, or the name of the person you just met a moment ago, or the combination to your new gym locker, are all signs that the demands of daily life are intruding on your ability to form new memories. But here's some good news: A few tweaks to your diet might restore your mediocre memory to Total Recall. (The original, not that unfortunate Colin Farrell remake.)
Over here at Eat This, Not That!, we're always monitoring breakthroughs in nutritional research, including an exciting new study just released from Columbia University that links high concentrations of the flavanols in cocoa to reversed age-related mental decline in healthy older adults.
And we've uncovered a collection everyday foods that you can throw into soups, pile on salads and slip into your routine. Boosting your brain health and your memory has never been easier or more delicious.
Swapping peanut butter for almond butter might better your chances of beating age-related memory loss. Almonds (like many nuts and seeds) contain high concentrations of vitamin E, which has been shown to help reduce the risk of cognitive impairment. And some studies indicate it can slow the decline caused by Alzheimer's disease.
Almond butter contains three times more Vitamin E than peanut butter. For a snack, you can spread a teaspoon over celery, or mix a spoonful into morning oats.
Spinach Salad with Cheese
Spinach packs a three-level punch of vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate to help boost memory function. Folate does the heavy lifting, working in tandem with vitamin B12 to help improve cognitive function for older aults without dementia. Since spinach doesn't contain vitamin B12, add some cheese or eggs (which do) to a spinach salad and you're good to go.
Ready to expand your horizons? The flavonoids in blueberries have been shown to improve spatial memory in rats. Their antioxidants help lessen inflammation, which can cause longer-term problems for the brain and its memory function, so sprinkle them over your oatmeal and stock up on frozen bags for smoothie making in the winter! Bonus: Among the things you'll be remembering are all the compliments you get when people seek your sleek new shape.
If you're constantly forgetting the name of someone you've just met, or if "We talked about this!" is a common conversation starter at your house, then broccoli is your produce-aisle prescription. It is packed with vitamin K, which has been has been shown to improve verbal episodic memory, your ability to absorb and remember verbal instructions.
Drink up. One study found that subjects who drank green tea before a cognitive-functioning test performed significantly better than those who drank a placebo. Researchers who monitored the brain function of those undergoing testing say that the green tea improved brain plasticity—basically, it allowed their brains to learn faster.
In addition to being great inexpensive sources of protein, black beans (and most beans, for that matter) contain a healthy dose of magnesium and folate. Scientists have found that magnesium—at least in animal studies—can help reverse some of the detrimental effects of Alzheimer's disease for mice. And, as the old rhyme says, beans are also good for your heart; a healthier blood flow means a healthier brain.
It might seem fishy, but DHA—a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in fattier fish like salmon and tuna—can improve memory and the time it takes to recall a memory. Researchers tested DHA supplements on a group of 176 adults who had low levels of omega-3s in their diets. (Most of us do, by the way.) Just 1.16 grams of DHA–about what you'd find in a 3 1/2 ounce serving of salmon–made a measurable difference.
Light to moderate consumption of alcohol later in life correlated to increased episodic memory compared to those who abstained, according to one study. Red wine in particular is packed with polyphenols, which give the glass its dark red color and bitter taste, and give your body a protective dose of antioxidants.
Bright red and orange vegetables are top sources of a type of nutrient called carotenoids, which seem to improve cognition and memory over longer periods of time. One of the most powerful of these nutrients is lycopene, which is found in high doses in the skin of tomatoes. Lycopene also protects you from depression-causing inflammation, so working it into your daily diet can also boost your mood. Why cherry tomatoes, specifically? Because lycopene is concentrated in the skin, the little red buttons carry more per volume than their beefsteak brethren.
In a recent study, older subjects (you had to be at least 70 to ride this ride) were given a dose of beet juice, then hooked up to an MRI machine. The researchers discovered that the beet juice measurably improved blood flow to their brains. The secret: nitrates, which are found in beets and converted into nitrite in the body. Nitrite, by the way, is the stuff that makes Viagra get its groove on. Don't say we didn't warn you.