How to improve memory with food
ARE you frustrated because your memory seems to be failing you? It can be quite annoying to have no recollection of something family members remember telling you.
The good news is the answer could be as simple as eating the right food.
Your diet can help your memory improve, says consultant dietitian Goo Chui Hoong (eatwell.my).
According to her the types of food that promote memory and brain function are those which improve blood flow to the brain.
This would include things like fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables and a high-fibre diet.
“There was a study published in the Neurology journal (http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2014/09/17/WNL.0000000000000884.abstract) saying that the DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet have shown that they are associated with a slower decline in cognitive function, where the memory power didn’t decrease as quickly in those who participated in the study,” says Goo.
She explains that the fundamentals of the DASH diet is basically a high-fibre diet, lots of fruits and vegetables.
“It’s about seven to nine portions of fruits and vegetables a day. It’s also low in salt and fat. The Mediterranean diet also focuses on high fruit and vegetable intake and it also includes lots of nuts, seeds and grains, and if there is fat, it’s more of the unsaturated type.
“In principle there are a lot of similarities between the DASH and Mediterranean diets. The study shows that a high-fibre diet, moderate fat intake and where the fat intake is the good type of fat, seems to promote better memory or cognitive function,” says Goo.
According to her, there are also some small studies that indicate you should take a cup of blueberries a day to help promote the reduction in cognitive deterioration.
Taking a look at blueberries and what it is about the fruit that might help slow down the brain deterioration, Goo points out that they are high in antioxidants.
“If you look at the nutritional aspect, it’s actually the anthocyanin, which is a strong antioxidant and you can find this in a lot of blue, purple, black kind of fruits and vegetables. It’s not just blueberries, but blackberries, dragonfruit, brinjals, red cabbage and red spinach. Choosing these types of fruits and vegetables will give you a good dose of anthocyanin which will promote memory and brain function. This group of foods is beneficial,” explains Goo.
Green leafy vege
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale (kai-lan), broccoli, cabbage and lettuce are not left out.
Eating the dark green leafy vegetables corrects a folate deficiency, says Goo.
“If you’re taking a lot of dark green leafy vegetables, you’re making sure you’re not deficient in it.
“In that sense it helps protect you from early deterioration of memory,” she explains.
A study (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204212850.htm), published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, found that folate deficiency was associated with a tripling in the risk of developing dementia among the elderly. The study was conducted from 2001-2003 involving 518 people aged 65 and older.
Avoid inflammatory foods
What would hasten the memory deterioration then? It would be foods that are inflammatory, informs Goo.
“We need both Omega-3 and Omega-6 in our bodies. In a typical diet, you will find the Omega-6 intake is higher than Omega-3, easily by four or five folds of what it’s supposed to be. This is because of the very high meat intake. Omega-6 is found in all meats.
“That is not to say don’t take Omega-6, but you should take more of Omega-3 to balance it out, because Omega-3 is actually anti-inflammatory. So, if you have any free radical damage, Omega-3 is protective of that kind of oxidative stress to the body’s cells.
“So, I would say if you’re taking a high meat diet, then your Omega-6 will be very high and that’s the opposite of protective.”
She explains that Omega-3 can be found in canola cooking oil, flaxseed cooking oil, chia seeds, mackerel, cod, salmon, fresh and canned tuna
“I guess it’s very similar to a Mediterranean diet where you’re promoting more fish, seafood and less red meat. That’s not to say you can’t have it; it’s just a matter of having more of the fish rather than the meat,” says Goo.
For those worried about having too much fish and the possible mercury content, she suggests exercising moderation.
“It’s not a perfect world, so it’s about being sensible about your choices,” she adds.
Good fat such as those from seeds and nuts are also known to be brain food.
However, Goo warns against adding nuts to a normal daily diet.
“A lot of people have their normal diet and then add on the nuts and seeds. So, actually your fat intake increases, which is not right. The intention is to cut back on your normal fat intake and then incorporate the good fat intake in the nuts and seeds. That way you gain the benefits from having the nuts and seeds,” advises Goo.
She says having peanut butter or an ounce of nuts a day is not a bad thing because you’re including a lot of unsaturated fat, the good fat, and you’re cutting out the not so good fat.
How about supplements?
While supplements like ginkgo biloba have been proven in small studies to have some modest benefits, Goo warns against self-medicating.
She says that people should consult their doctor instead of adding on supplements because the complex combination of all their medication and supplements may actually be detrimental to their health.
For those wanting an easier way of remembering what to eat for better memory, Goo suggests having a lot of colour on your plate.
“Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and choose very colourful ones; the more colourful, the more likely you are to get all the different antioxidants. The purple variety give you the anthocyanin, the orange vegetables for carotenoid and the dark green leafy vegetables for folate.
“By doing that you have a colourful plate and that ensures you get all the nutrients,” says Goo.
She also encourages seniors to have a healthy lifestyle because that will encourage good blood flow to the brain and contribute to having better brain function.