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Foods and Nutrients For Improving Memory

Posted by SoundHealth on Friday, May 01, 2009
Topics: Memory IQ Brain Mind
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The brain, composed of a highly complex network of neurons, is made from what we eat. By giving your brain the right nutrients, you can sharpen your memory, improve concentration, boost your IQ, and keep your mind young. Research shows that healthy, well-nourished and well-educated people show no sign of declining mental function with age, and although brain cells do die with age, you can build new brain cells at any age. This can be achieved by feeding the brain, with the right nutrients and right information.

Numerous studies have found that supplementing with a combination of multivitamins and minerals that ensure an optimal intake of key nutrients, improves IQ scores, and enhances the memory and mind. [1]

Here are some natural mind and memory enhancers:

Brain Fats

Eating the right essential brain fats speeds up thinking processes in the brain. These include the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, and GLA, the most potent omega-6 fat. These fats are found in the largest quantities in oily fish including mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna and salmon.

The key brain chemical for memory is acetylcholine, which is derived from brain fats, the richest dietary sources of this nutrient are found in egg yolks and fish, especially sardines.

Another important brain fat for memory is phosphatidyl serine. The key role of this nutrient is in brain cell communication and studies have found that it is particularly helpful for those with learning difficulties or age-related memory decline. [2]

An important brain chemical that enhances memory and mental function is the amino acid pyroglutamate. Research has found that this nutrient increases the number of brain receptors and improves communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the powerful effects of pyroglutamate on improving memory have been proven in many studies.[3] This nutrient is present is foods like fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables.

The B-Vitamins

The B-vitamins are all important in relation to memory enhancement. Niacin, or vitamin B3, is particularity good for the mind. In one study, supplementation of this vitamin was shown to improve memory by up to 40 percent. [4] B vitamins work together in many ways to help the brain make and use neurotransmitters. Therefore it is important to take B vitamins together for maximum benefit. Food sources include whole grains, bananas, vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables.


Zinc is another brain-friendly nutrient thought to be involved in memory. Low levels of zinc are associated with memory loss, dementia, and learning difficulties in children. Zinc is vital for the growth of both plants and animals, so if you can plant it and it grows its zinc-rich. Therefore, seeds, and seed foods like beans, peas and lentils are all rich in zinc. So are nuts, meat and fish, especially oysters.


Glutamine is a neurotransmitter (chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses), and is an amino acid found in abundance in the brain, from which the brain balances and builds other neurotransmitters, helping to promote memory. Glutamate can be used directly as fuel for the brain and has been shown to enhance mood and mental performance. [5] Good food sources include cabbage, beets, chicken, fish, beans, and dairy products.

Balancing blood Sugar

Keeping an even blood sugar level is critical to intelligence because this affects your ability to concentrate over long periods of time more than anything else. Studies have associated dips in blood sugar levels with lower intelligence and concentration and increased aggressive behavior. [6]

Eating "slow-releasing" carbohydrates such as grains, fruit and vegetables, all take longer to digest and ensure an even supply of glucose to the brain. Also eating small, regular meals is another way to ensure a stable and sustained blood sugar.

Herbs and spices for Memory

Here are a few herbs and spices that have been found beneficial for improving memory.

Gingko Biloba

Gingko biloba is a herbal remedy that has long been used for memory enhancement. Research has shown that it improves short-term and age-related memory loss, slow thinking, depression and circulation, and improves blood flow to the brain. [7] A comprehensive study carried out in France found remarkable improvement in the speed of brain function in elderly subjects, almost comparable to that of healthy young people. [8]

Gingko contains two phytochemicals called ginkgo flavone glycosides and terpene lactones, which give it its remarkable healing properties. It usually comes in capsule form in different strengths of flavonoid concentration.


This herb is sometimes referred to as tonic for the mind and is one of the most widely used and researched energy-promoting herbs. The active ingredients are called ginsenosides, and each of them has specific effects.

A summary of the studies on the uses of ginseng found that participants showed an improvement in intellectual performance with virtually no side-effects. Recent studies have proven measurable benefits for energy and memory in both the young and old. [9]


Turmeric is the bright yellow spice found in most curry powders. It not only adds a punch to food, it has shown to reduce joint pain, boost the immune system, and even have an effect on age-related memory loss.

The spice contains the active ingredient curcumin, which has a variety of powerful anti-inflammatory actions, and is a potent antioxidant. Research from the University of California has found that curcumin is capable of breaking up the 'plaques' that show up in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. When low doses of curcumin were added to human extracts of these proteins, it kept them from clumping and blocked the formation of them. [10]

The Synergy Effect

The effects of enhancing mental performance through diet or supplementation of these 'smart nutrients' is far greater when taken in combination than if taken individually. This is because all nutrients work together in the body, which is why a balanced and varied diet that includes a selection of foods is so important.


  • [1] Schoenthaler SJ et al. Controlled trial of vitamin and mineral supplementation: Effects on intelligence and Performance. Person Individ Diff, Vol 12(4), 1991, pp. 351-2.

  • [2] Ladd SL et al. Effect of phosphatidylcholine on explicit memory. Clin Meuropharmacol Bull, Vol 28, 1992, pp.61-6.

  • [3] Ward D, Morgenthaler J. Smart Drugs and Nutrients, B&J Publications, 1990, pp.42-3.

  • [4] Loriaux SM et al. The effects of nicotinic acid and xanthinol nicotinate on human memory in different categories of age. A double blind study. Psychopharmacology (Berl) Vol 87(4), 1985, pp. 390-5.

  • [5] Shabert J et al. The Ultimate Nutrient- glutamine, Avery Publications (1990).

  • [6] Colgan M, Colgan L. Do nutrient supplements and dietary changes affect learning and emotional reactions of children with learning difficulties? A controlled series of 16 cases. Nutr health, Vol 3, 1984, pp.69-77.

  • [7] Kliejnin J, Knipschild P. Ginkgo biloba. Lancet, Vol 340(8828), 1992, pp.1136-9.

  • [8] Le Bars PL, A placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial on an extract of ginkgo biloba for dementia. JAMA Vol 278(16), 1997, pp.1327-32.

  • [9] Kennedy DO et al. Ginseng: Potential for the enhancement of cognitive performance and mood. Pharmacolo Biochem Behav, Vol 75, 2003, pp.687-700.

  • [10] Fusheng Yang et al. Curcumin inhibits formation of amyloid B oligomers and fibrils, binds plaques, and reduces amyloid in vivo. J Biol Chem, Vol 280(7), 2005, pp.5892-901.

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