Our brains demand a constant supply of glucose to function well and complex carbohydrates -- such as whole grain breads, oatmeal and brown rice -- have a low glycemic index so won’t spike blood sugar like, say, leftover birthday cake. Instead, they are absorbed into your body slowly and feed your brain at a steady rate. If you add some protein, and good healthy fat, such as olive oil, the absorption rate slows down even more, providing your brain with fuel for an even longer period of time.
Broccoli and spinach
Both are loaded with Vitamin K, which enhances your brain’s functionality. Researchers at the Dundee University in Scotland have also found that broccoli is also packed with sulforaphane, a chemical that helps keep the brain sharp and fights the deterioration of brain cells.
These tarty bursts of flavor pack a load of antioxidants, the substances that helps ward off free radicals, which attack our cells and cause break down in tissues. Researchers are more and more convinced that the free radicals cause, or help cause, any number of diseases from cancers to cardiovascular disease to dementia. Any dark skin fruit or vegetable -- think plums, winter squash, broccoli, spinach -- are loaded with antioxidants.
Blueberries, in particular, are excellent at helping protect the brain from oxidative stress. Researchers at Tufts University have found that blueberries can improve short term memory loss in aging rodents and reverse the loss of physical balance.
The brain needs fat to function, and wild-caught salmon is a top source of DHA, the primary omega-3 fat in your brain. DHA is believed to help prevent dementia, according the Alzheimer’s Association, and helps regulate neurotransmitters that help you focus. Salmon also has Vitamin D, a hard-to-get and hard-to-absorb nutrient that helps prevent cognitive decline.
Vitamin E is credited with reducing the effects of aging and helping to prevent cognitive decline (especially in older people), according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Nuts are a great and ready source, so if you like hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios, go ahead, have a (small) handful.
More good news about chocolate! It’s not only a benefit for lowering blood pressure but the polyphenols in the cocoa help increase the flow of blood to the brain -- and that helps your neurons fire. In a study conducted by Harvard researchers, elderly people with impaired blood flow drank two cups of cocoa a day for 30 days. After, they did better on memory and thinking skills tests. A couple of dark chocolate kisses a day would do the trick.
Sage has long been a standard British herbal remedy for enhancing memory, and now we have science to back up what the Brits have known for years. In a recent study by Northumbria University, young healthy adults who took sage extract were significantly better able to perform on memory tests than those who took a placebo. Add sage to your savory dishes, or use as an essential oil.
A recent Finish study found that mid-aged adults who drank three-to-five cups of coffee daily were 65 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who drank only a little or none. Why? Researchers attribute the beverage’s ample antioxidants as the likely reason. The caffeine also prompts neurons to fire more easily.
The pick-me-up in brewed tea helps you focus and improves mood. But tea is also loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants that help with that all-important flow of blood to the brain, says nutrition expert Dr. Ann Kulze. Don’t substitute with bottled or powered teas; you must brew tea leaves (tea bags are fine) though you can drink it either hot or cold. Steep for at least three minutes and then either wring out the tea bag in the water or just let it sit in the cup. Do not use milk or cream; the proteins in the dairy bind to the antioxidents. For optimal effects, sip, or slurp, two to three cups a day.
Green tea, in particular, has long been known to help improve long-term and short-term memory.