There is little more frustrating than not being able to remember something. Especially the stupid little things that you should remember, like the person you talked to yesterday who said they ran into your sister; or, when you meet someone new and forget their first name literally a split second after you shake their hand. Does that happen to anyone else?!
Memory tends to fade as we age. That is inevitable. This is partly due to the natural aging process, partly due to the nutrient deficiencies often seen in the elderly, and partly due to the decrease in brain stimulation that some elderly people experience. I know some elderly people who work hard to retain their memory power by doing things like Sudoku, crosswords, and other brain teasers. No matter what your age, doing activities that make you think – make your brain work a little harder than normal – are all good for memory. We need to keep those neurotransmitters fresh and active! (I have provided a Sudoku below if anyone wants to get going on their brain exercises for the day…).
Nutrition can also be a good tool for improving memory. Some people believe that cognitive function is directly related to nutritional status. In fact, some studies show that Alzheimer’s disease is directly correlated with a low intake of essential nutrients. The B-vitamins are crucial for memory and brain function. Thiamin, or vitamin B1, actually mimics the effects of acetylcholine inside our bodies. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter involved in memory, and supplementation of thiamin has actually shown improved memory function in Alzheimer’s patients. Foods that contain high amounts of thiamin include sunflower seeds, tuna, green peas, black beans, lentils, and pinto beans.
Vitamin B12 is directly linked to nerve function. When someone has a B12 deficiency, they may experience things like tingly or numb hands or feet; memory loss; brain fog; and other cognitive issues. Many studies have shown that B12 levels inside the body tend to decline with age, and supplementation of B12 can be a powerful tool for those with impaired brain function. Foods high in vitamin B12 include calf’s liver, snapper, venison, grass-fed beef, lamb, scallops, shrimp and halibut.
Ginkgo biloba extract is an herb used to help increase memory and brain function. The studies on ginkgo biloba are ongoing, with some seeing positive results and others concluding that it does little for the brain. However, I have spoken with some people who have tried ginkgo biloba and had success. Ginkgo biloba not only increases our brain capacity, but it also normalizes acetylcholine receptors, which helps improve our brain function. Ginkgo biloba extract can be bought in supplemental form at most health foods stores, or ordered online.
Lecithin is a fatty substance found in animal and plant tissues such as egg yolks, soybeans and organ meats. This is one reason it is so important to eat the entire egg, not just egg whites! Since lecithin is made up of fat, and our brain is mostly fat, it makes sense that a diet high in lecithin will help the brain. Our brain depends on these healthy fats to keep the cell walls in tact so proper messages can be sent and received. In addition to brain health, lecithin helps prevent cardiovascular disease by increasing excretion of cholesterol and bile acids, and aiding in proper fat digestion. It also helps keep our liver healthy.
Finally, increased vitamin E in the diet can help protect our nerve cells. It acts as an antioxidant and prevents free radical damage to nerve cells, which are crucial for brain function. Whole food sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, papaya, and leafy greens.