The Best Foods to Improve Memory and Stay Focused
The brain remains the mastermind behind our thoughts, movements, breathing, memory, focus, heartbeat and dieticians emphasise certain foods to make it smarter, stronger, and sharper. Our brain and diet ensures longevity. The National Institute on Aging advises what we eat directly impacts inflammation and oxidative stress in our bodies, which affect risk of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Harvard nutritionist and brain expert, Dr. Uma Naidoo shares 5 foods she eats daily to sharpen her memory and focus.
Extra dark chocolate
Extra dark chocolate contains much antioxidants while cacao flavanols preserves healthy brain cells and fiber reduces brain inflammation to prevent cognitive decline. A 2020 study on how chocolate affects memory of healthy young adults revealed that dark chocolate helped in better verbal cognitive functions than white chocolate, possibly due to higher flavonoid content of dark chocolate, which acutely improves cognitive function in humans. Extra dark chocolate should be above 70% cacao or greater. Just don’t overload as the optimal consumption for healthy blood vessels including those supplying blood to the brain is only 45 grams per week.
Berries are super-foods packed with fiber, vitamins, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and minerals. These nutrients ensure memory retention while the fiber content feeds gut microbes to reduce brain inflammation. Choose an assortment of blue, red and black-colored berries. Strawberries are rich with flavonoids and delays cognitive decline; blueberries contain flavonoids linked which prevent oxidative stress; blackberries contain antioxidants to help brain health at a cellular level. Eating varieties of colorful berries in a single cup daily reduces anxiety symptoms and fends off neuro-degenerative diseases like dementia.
Turmeric (with black pepper)
Curry powder contains turmeric, a compound called curcumin, which has brain-boosting benefits and is a powerful anti-inflammatory substance which reduces anxiety symptoms of and lowers cognitive decline with age. Turmeric is good solo, but benefits are better in combination with black pepper. A pinch of black pepper in turmeric is great as piperine, the compound in black pepper, activates curcumin thereby increasing bioavailability to the body and brain. You can incorporate turmeric and black pepper into your diet by adding it to a hearty rice dish, a side of potatoes, a golden milk latte or some oatmeal.
Leafy greens are a must in brain-healthy diets as they contain folate, a B vitamin that supports neurotransmitter function and neurodevelopment. Folate deficiency leads to increased depression symptoms as also cognitive aging. Favorite leafy greens could be Arugula, Swiss chard, Watercress, Dandelion greens, and Spinach. Not a fan of salads, then use them as creative ingredients in favorite dishes like burritos or pizza toppings, or pasta.
Fermentation adds cultured microorganisms to foods which then feed on the sugars creating other products, like lactic acid, that create gut-friendly bacteria. Humans have a gut-brain connection and eating fermented foods to boost gut health, improve cognitive functions. Eat homemade kimchi with celery sticks as a snack, or blend it with salads for extra flavour texture and flavor. Some fermented foods recommended are Kombucha, Kefir, Sauerkraut, Miso, and Yogurt. However, too much fermented foods make you bloated and uncomfortable,; so limit your intake till your gut and body adjust. Always double-check food labels to ensure what you buy is actually fermented, with labels mentioning “live active cultures.”
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