Everyone has memory lapses here and there. But for some people, memory loss can become a real medical problem. When memory loss starts to disrupt your daily life, this is a sign that it might be an overlooked symptom of a dangerous disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia. Luckily, there are some things you can do to lower your risk of not only those diseases, but also the memory loss that comes naturally with age.
Doctors say that one of the most impactful things you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s is to exercise. Other lifestyle changes that may work include reading daily, keeping up with your social life, quitting smoking and getting enough sleep, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. But your diet plays a role, as well. Incorporating more of these nutritious foods into your diet could help to fight memory loss.
Looking for a brain-boosting snack? Almonds (which are actually considered fruits, not nuts) are your answer. Research published in the Brain Research Bulletin shows that almonds can help enhance memory function. They also contain large amounts of vitamin E, which has been shown to play a significant role in preventing cognitive decline.
Avocados contain large amounts of monounsaturated fats, which you should eat more of for a few important reasons. One is that fats offer a boost to your brain. A review from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry showed that monounsaturated fats are essential to healthy brain function. And a study in the journal Pharmacological Reviews showed the anti-inflammatory effects these fats have on the brain, which can be protective against cognitive decline. Like almonds, avocados are also rich in vitamin E, which is another great reason to eat avocado every day.
Broccoli is a healthy green vegetable that works amazingly in salads for all seasons, creamy soups and hearty pasta dishes. But no matter how you choose to eat it, you can’t go wrong adding more broccoli to your diet. Broccoli contains vitamin K, which a study linked to a lower incidence of memory loss in older adults. The vegetable may also have anti-inflammatory benefits, according to research published in BioMed Research International. These benefits can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Cherries are rich with the same antioxidants present in blueberries, and as a result, may have similar brain-boosting effects. According to a study published in the journal Food and Function, tart cherry juice may improve memory and cognitive function in older adults. Cherries taste best (and cost less) during certain times of year, so make sure you know when they’re in season so you can stock up.
Here’s something you might not know about coffee: It’s really good for you. There are a number of significant health benefits, and improving your brain health is one of them. A study published in the journal Practical Neurology linked increased caffeine consumption with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. So you can feel good about your decision to drink more coffee next time you get your fix from your favorite coffee shop.
You might think of dark chocolate as a treat saved for special occasions, but there’s no reason not to eat it every day. Dark chocolate contains brain-boosting antioxidants, which research from the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews shows can help improve learning and memory as well as slow down cognitive decline associated with aging.
If you’re choosing egg whites over the whole egg, you are seriously missing out. Not just on some of America’s greatest breakfast foods, but also on brain-boosting benefits from the nutrients in the yolks. Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient that, according to a report funded by the National Institutes of Health, helps to regulate your memory and could help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The yolks also contain B vitamins, which are essential for supporting cognition and, according to a study published in PLoS One, could slow cognitive decline in the elderly.
Flaxseed is typically used by grinding the seeds into a powder and adding it to smoothies, yogurt or other foods. Doing so can add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet and help to bolster brain health. A study conducted at the Institute of Nutrition in Brazil showed that flaxseed could have neuroprotective effects, which mitigate brain degeneration and damage.
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up that isn’t coffee, here’s an idea — get your caffeine kick from a soothing cup of green tea. The energizing beverage is filled with antioxidants that help out your brain. Research from the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry shows that it may reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s as well. But the effects aren’t just preventative. Green tea might make your current memory capabilities even stronger. A study with green tea extract from the journal Psychopharmacology showed that the substance helped to boost connectivity in areas of the brain that help with memory, which could be part of why another study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found green tea actually improved working memory in healthy subjects.
Kale isn’t just a passing trend — it’s really good for your body, particularly your brain. Researchers from Tufts University found that those who ate about one-and-a-half servings of green leafy vegetables per day had the brain function of people roughly 11 years younger. And a study in the journal Neurology showed that dark leafy greens such as kale could help slow or prevent cognitive decline. If you don’t like salads, try blending kale into a sweet smoothie you’ll actually want to drink.
Vitamin C plays a vital role in protecting against cognitive decline, according to a study in the journal Nutrients, and it may even prevent against Alzheimer’s, according to a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Many people don’t realize this, but one small kiwi has approximately the same amount of vitamin C as a large orange.
Lentils of any and all colors are an excellent source of B vitamins and folate, which, according to a study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, help to improve cognitive performance. These vitamins help to lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that’s been linked to dementia. To cook with lentils, consider making a cozy soup or a vegetable-filled grain bowl.
Mackerel is an oily fish that’s filled with heart-healthy fats from omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are, according to numerous studies including one published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, linked to better brain connectivity and functioning, which may improve focus and memory.
Whole grains are good for your heart and your gut, and research shows they’re good for your brain, too. Oatmeal and other whole grains have large amounts of vitamin E. A 2014 study published in JAMA showed that vitamin E can help people with Alzheimer’s disease preserve memory. Another study published in Nutrients correlated vitamin E intake with better brain function and a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s. Add a few nuts and seeds into your bowl of oats for an extra benefit to your brain.
Yet another reason it’s worth splurging on great-tasting olive oil: It’s really good for your brain. This healthy oil is filled with monounsaturated fats and anti-inflammatory compounds, which could help contribute to its proven benefits. Research published in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology shows that olive oil has promise for preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia, and research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease shows that it could specifically benefit learning and memory.
The vitamin C in oranges is good for more than just your immune system. One of the vitamins many Americans don’t get enough of, vitamin C has protective benefits for your brain and cognition. A scientific review published in Free Radical Biology and Medicine shows that vitamin C is vital for the brain, enabling the functioning of certain brain cells and preventing diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Peanuts are full of functional compounds that your brain needs to perform at its best. In particular, peanuts contain resveratrol, a compound that, according to findings published in the journal Pharmacological Research, can enhance memory performance and improve mood. Go ahead and snack on some roasted peanuts or smear one of the healthiest peanut butter brands on a sandwich.
Pumpkin seeds are nutrient powerhouses filled with vitamins and minerals that are important for brain health. They have zinc, magnesium, copper and iron, each of which have brain benefits of their own. A deficiency in zinc could increase the risk of brain disorders, according to a study published in the journal Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology. Magnesium could help stave off memory loss and neurological diseases, according to a study in Physiological Reviews. Copper, per a study in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, helps support brain processes that stave off Alzheimer’s. And an iron deficiency can negatively impact brain function, causing brain fog and other impairments, according to research in the journal Biometals.
Like mackerel, salmon has many omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon also has B vitamins, which according to a study in the journal Nutrients, are essential for neurological functioning. An antioxidant in salmon called astaxanthin can also protect your nervous system (including your brain) against damaging inflammation, according to another study in Nutrients. Learn how to grill salmon perfectly every time for a dinner that won’t disappoint.
Sardines, another fatty fish with a wealth of omega-3s, have additional brain-boosting benefits. They have a significant amount of vitamin D, which a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests could help protect against memory loss that comes with aging. Another study in JAMA supports this, showing that a vitamin D deficiency could increase the likelihood of cognitive decline.
If you don’t like kale, spinach is a great alternative. Like kale, it has all the brain-boosting power of dark leafy greens and can prevent age-related cognitive decline. The AARP recommends all aging adults incorporate more leafy greens such as spinach into their diets as one of a few smart habits that promote healthy aging.
Tofu is a soy product, which means it contains antioxidants called polyphenols. These compounds can help to support proper brain functioning, according to a study in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. Other studies, such as the one published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience, suggest that these compounds may help to support specific areas of the brain involved in memory creation.
Turmeric is a bright orange-colored spice used in many Asian recipes and, more recently, trendy beverages such as golden milk and other teas. The spice gets its bright red color from curcumin, the active ingredient that’s also responsible for the spice’s health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. Published in the Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology, a study showed that for patients with Alzheimer’s, curcumin helped improve memory. And research in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that the compound helped to clear out harmful plaque buildup characteristic of the disease.
All types of nuts are good for your brain, but walnuts are especially helpful. They contain the omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants present in many types of nuts as well as vitamin E, which supports cognition. A study in the Journal of Nutrition showed that the compounds in walnuts reduce inflammation, remove toxins and improve signaling in the brain. That’s probably part of the reason walnuts are one of the top foods neurologists recommend for better brain health.
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