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Foods To Improve Your Memory - And More!

Posted Feb 19 2010 2:19pm
Is your memory getting a little foggy around the edges? A brand new book promises a nutrition prescription for improving your memory, boosting your brain power and a whole lot more!

By Colette Bouchez

Can’t find those car keys? Or worse still, can’t remember where the car actually is? (Double oops if you’re not even sure you still own a car! :)

If you’re over 40 – and particularly if you’re aged 50 or more - your memory may be getting a little blurry around the edges. I like to call it the “soft focus” approach to aging. But in the real world it’s known as age-related memory loss. And sooner or later it happens to almost everyone, at least to some degree.

Well the good news is, later is always better – and now you can play a significant role in controlling how quickly memory loss sets in, how bad it might get, and even whether or not it occurs at all. In fact you may even be able to reverse some of the loss you’ve already experienced!

That’s the promise of Get Smart: Samantha Heller's Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power and Optimizing Total Body Health a brand new fun and informative guide from The Johns Hopkins University Press .

Here, author and registered dietitian and nutritionist Samantha Heller, MS. RD offers us a detailed but easy to follow food and nutrient plan that will not only have you remembering where you put those car keys, but also recalling enough annoying little facts and details to drive your girlfriends simply mad with envy! ( “How did she remember I was really 56 and not 49?”)

“Get Smart is not just about dodging dementia by having a healthy brain. It’s also about having a healthy body. You cannot have one without the other,” says Heller, who each week treats her many fans to two wonderful hours of healthy talk radio on NYU- Langone Medical Center's Doctor Radio on SIRIUS 114, XM 119.

Heller says that by fortifying the body with an overall healthy eating plan, and then supplementing the food on your plate with a few key nutrient supplements you can have a powerful one-two punch that not only improves your memory, but also increases your overall health and longevity. So, you not only live longer and healthier, you actually remember what’s going on during all those extra happy years!

Among her top suggestions: Loading up on antixoidants, the protective neuro compounds found in greatest abundance in fruits and vegetables.

“Fruits and vegetables are huge contributors of the vitamins, minerals, fiber, healthy fats and phytochemicals the body needs for optimal health – but they also support a healthy brain and may offer protection against dementia,” says Heller.

And that, in fact, is one of the conclusions reached in the massive Harvard Nurses Health Study. Here, researchers reported that women who ate the most vegetables, particularly leafy greens, had a slower rate of memory loss, as well as less memory loss in general than women who weren’t eating any.

More Easy-To-Eat Brain Foods!

But it’s not just fruits and veggies that will keep you remembering which store it is that’s offering the 50% discount on the pricey anti-aging cream. Heller says you also need your daily dose of “healthy fats”.

“ Fats are directly involved in the process of inflammation – good fats, like olive oil, reduce it; bad fats like the trans fats found in baked goods and French fries increase it; and since inflammation is a key suspect in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, cutting out the bad fats and replacing them with good fats in one way to nourish your brain and your memory, in a positive way,” says Heller.

In addition to olive oil, she recommends foods high in the Omega 3 group of essential fatty acid compounds – including cold water fish ( like salmon or mackerel), walnuts, flaxseed oil, and soy. Other sources of healthy fats include vegetables, nuts, seeds and most whole grains.

Rounding out your memory-rich menu, says Heller, should also be a healthy daily dose protein.
“Eating too little protein affects the health of your whole body including the ability of the neurons in your brain to communicate,” says Heller. Feeding your brain with a little bit of protein at every meal, she says, is one good way to keep the “brain talk” going – and your whole body feeling good.

But before you toss that burger on the grill, listen up: When it comes to brain boosting proteins, not all sources are alike. Indeed, Heller says you want to avoid the protein sources loaded with those inflammatory saturated fats ( like, say, that juicy burger) and instead look to lean sources of protein-rich foods, like white meat chicken and turkey, fish, nuts and especially vegetable proteins.

“Go for serving sizes of 3 to 4 ounces of fish or poultry or half a cup of cooked beans, two tablespoons of peanut butter, or 8 ounces of non-fat yogurt; if you substitute high fat proteins like cheese, beef and lamb with low fat proteins like fat-free cheese, chicken and tofu, you’ll not only help your brain, but your whole body,” says Heller.

Sweet Memories!

Lastly comes a happy food surprise that boosts your brain power and satisfies your sweet tooth too. Can you guess? It’s sugar!

Yup, it turns out that the sticky sweet stuff we love and crave isn’t the enemy of super brain power after all. And in fact, it can actually help you think better!

“ Sugar is thought of as sinful because it’s usually tied up with junky foods like cookies, cakes, and deep fried Twinkies , soda, candy and other non-nutritive high calorie foods,” says Heller. But in reality she says that the brain needs glucose ( the chemical form of sugar) and it plays a significant role in memory and cognition.

And indeed studies show that consuming glucose improves vigilance, memory, mood and learning. The key to getting that boost, says Heller is avoiding what usually tags along with that dose of sugar – namely those junky , high fat, high calorie carbohydrates like the cookies, cake and candy.

Instead, Heller says "Pump up your glucose levels with whole grains like oatmeal, whole wheat pasta and quinoa - which all break down into glucose plus give you fiber vitamins and minerals too,". And she says, it's really okay to add that spoon of sugar to your coffee or better yet a cup of green tea ( it’s loaded with antioxidants) or pour a little honey over a bowl of fat-free plain yogurt – all of which can give you the brain boost of sugar without losing any of the benefits.

So, the next time you’re wondering around the parking lot trying to figure out where you parked the car, don’t stress out! Instead head for the nearest Starbucks, have a steamy cup of sweet coffee or cocoa and relax. Chances are you’ll remember where your car is parked ….and a whole lot more!

Oh…and remember to pick up a copy of Get Smart: Samantha Heller's Nutrition Prescription for Boosting Brain Power and Optimizing Total Body Health. You’ll not only be educated and entertained, you’ll also get a bonus boatload of FREE brain boosting recipes from some of the world’s top nutritionists including Devin Alexander, Missy Chase Lapine, B.Smith, Frances Largemen –Roth and others! So it's Bon Appetit - and thanks for the memories!

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Copyright by Colette Bouchez 2009 - All Rights Reserved.
In addition to US Copyright, the text of this RedDressDiary article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. All formatting and style elements of this page are not available under this license, and Colette Bouchez retains all rights in those elements.
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