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5 Foods That Can Stave Off Memory Loss

Written by S.O.

Posted on May 29, 2015 at 6:49 pm

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Who among us couldn’t stand to gain a mental edge?

As a nation that is increasingly, well, getting older, many people are looking for a way to maintain their mental acuity as they move through their golden years. This is especially true when it comes to memory. Something we might take for granted when we are younger, the slow diminishing of our ability to remember stuff, both important and mundane, is among the top complaints of those getting older.

But, if forgetfulness has been slowing down lately, you are in luck. Recently, there has been a relative deluge of studies showing that you can do something about memory loss.

In fact, let’s look at five foods that have been proven to stave off the prospect of impaired memory so that you can stay mentally fit for your entire life.

1. Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Photo by Marcia O’ Connor

While an apple a day is said to keep the doctor away, regularly eating fruits and vegetables has been to keep help keep your memory sprightly and nimble.

A research team from Ontario’s McMaster University and from the National University of Ireland in Galway recently released their findings from an enormous study that followed nearly 28,000 people aged 55 or older from some 40 countries. What they found was that a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables were nearly 25 percent less likely to suffer from cognitive declines compared with their counterparts who skipped their daily doses of said foods.

While the study’s researchers didn’t single out any particular fruits and vegetables – primarily because they conceded they’re still not sure what mechanism accounts for the memory boost afforded by consuming fruits and vegetables – other studies have found a link between fresh fruits rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries and prunes (who knew?), and memory maintenance.

2. Orange Juice

Juiced
Photo by Rob Bertholf

Long relegated to the breakfast table, researchers from the UK’s Reading University recently submitted results from a small study that showed, perhaps, orange juice should be something we drink all day long.

The study, which focused on those between 60 to 81 years old, found that consuming around 500 ml (about a pint’s worth) every single day led to incredible gains in memory. Improvements were seen in as little as two months.

Researchers also saw marked improvements in reaction times and in verbal fluency, culminating in an 8-percent overall improvement in what they termed “global cognitive function.”

The reason for this isn’t OJ’s great taste or refreshing energy boost. It’s because oranges possess high amounts of flavonoids, a substance that also can be found, in various levels, in tree fruits, nuts and beans, and red wine. Flavonoids are thought to improve memory by activating signaling pathways in the part of the brain – the hippocampus – responsible for learning and memory storage.

3. Fats (Olive Oil) and Proteins (Nuts)

The nut/dried fruit capital of the world

No, we’re not suggesting you head out to you nearest fast food restaurant for supersized cheeseburger meal under the guise of ‘improving’ your memory. In fact, researchers have found that very particular kinds of fats and proteins, most often found in Mediterranean diets – and particularly in olive oil and nuts, could help improve memory in those 60-years and older.

Spanish researchers recently issued the results of their randomized clinical trial that looked at the Mediterranean diet, highlighted by the kinds of fats and proteins so ubiquitous in that diet, on folks as they age.

Splitting the participants into two groups – assigning a Mediterranean diet, with extra helpings of olive oil and nuts, to one group, and a low-fat diet to the other group.

While the results didn’t blow away anyone, they did offer hope for those who want to delay the onset of memory loss as they age.

“What we see here is that the control (low-fat) diet group worsened on their cognitive tests,” said the study’s lead author, Emilio Ros, a researcher at the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona. While the control group declined, those eating the olive oil-and-nut-rich diet so common in the Mediterranean cuisine held steady on cognitive test first performed four years beforehand. That is, while they didn’t significantly improve their scores over those four years, the group that ate a diet rich in olive oil in nuts suffered no noticeable decline.

4. Baked Fish

Lots of different types of fish are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid that makes up about 15 percent of your brain’s physical structure. On top of that, low levels of DHA in the brain has been linked to severe memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

A mid-2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that those who weren’t regular fish eaters had about 14-percent less gray matter in their brains (and about four-percent less gray matter in the area responsible for memory) than their fish-eating counterparts. The researchers found that the older one gets, the greater one’s need for DHA increases – either through eating fish rich in DHA or through supplementation.

Interestingly, fried fish did not show the same benefits.

5. Sunflower Seeds

Ai Weiwei, “Sunflower Seeds”
Photo by Marie-Aschehoug-Clauteaux

Foods rich in vitamin E have long been know to improve brain function.

When a patient is suffering from the effects of Alzheimer’s, it is common practice to prescribe high doses of vitamin E. And for good reason: vitamin E is has been shown to improve memory function in the healthy and sick alike, with the added benefit of holding off some of the awful brain degradation seen so often in Alzheimer’s patients.

There are few foods richer in valuable vitamin E than sunflower seeds. You can get up to 30 percent of your daily recommended dose of vitamin E by eating just one ounce of seeds (about a hand full).

By the way, sunflower seeds have been shown to slow the effects of dementia, and are thought to improve overall brain functioning.

As we age, we all can expect some forgetfulness from time to time.

But if you are looking to stop the downward trend, and even (in some cases) improve your memory, consuming plenty of the foods listed above will help you toward that goal.

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