Boosting brain power and keeping a sharp memory are important goals to live a satisfying life. With that in mind, you might want to put down that candy bar and supersized soda and reconsider your options. What you eat (and don’t eat) can affect your waistline, your disease risk and your brain power. Can your diet actually make you smarter? Absolutely. And junk food is not on the list.
What you eat is one of the most powerful influencers on your daily brain skills. The right healthy herbs and foods for brain health can help stave off memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. That’s because good nutrients can keep your brain cells healthy and prevent brain-damaging inflammation. Foods to improve memory and overall brain function are more important than you may realize. Your attention span, your ability to learn and your memory will all benefit from the healthful foods and herbs you choose.
Your brain is like your thinking muscle – it needs a good daily workout, good food and challenging tasks to keep it sharp, clear and humming right along. That’s your three-pronged brain power strategy:
Mental exercises and new activities will keep your mind running on all four cylinders. In fact, a New England Journal of Medicine study found that adults who regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities are 63 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who rarely do these activities. So get out that Sudoku or crossword puzzle and get started. A couple other fun brain teasers?
Count backwards, beginning at 200, subtracting five each time (200, 195, 190…). Or test your creativity (and your smarts) by writing a short story. The catch is use only seven words to tell your tale. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but a lot of fun. After all, Shakespeare had his sonnets, you can have tales suited for Twitter and other social media.
Traditional medicine from many cultures incorporates herbs for all kinds of ailments, including memory and learning troubles. These natural brain power builders and memory boosting supplements are worth trying. Why turn to prescription meds or over-the-counter pills and capsules if you can use something natural for even better results?
1. Sage: This fragrant herb might have you fondly recalling a Thanksgiving meal with dressing accented with sage, rosemary and thyme. Sage is a member of the mint family and a known memory enhancer. It may also protect the brain against certain processes that lead to Alzheimer’s. It has been suggested that it works by protecting acetylcholine, which is a chemical messenger in the brain that’s critical to memory. One British study saw healthy adults improve performance on word memory tests after taking sage-oil capsules.
Sage is also delicious in your diet. As well as turkey, try it on roast chicken and pork, in tomato sauce, squash, and scrambled eggs. Or go for a therapeutic dose of tea, by steeping two teaspoons of dried sage in a cup of boiled water. Strong-tasting, but powerful!
2. Wasabi: Zing! Wasabi is the hot green condiment served alongside your favorite sushi. This is a tasty member of the mustard family that temporarily clears the sinuses. This is part and parcel of the immediate effect of eating wasabi, often called the “wasabi rush.”
It’s an excellent source of a compound found to help nerve cells grow healthy extensions known as dendrites and axons. These help cells communicate with each other to boost brain connections and empower memory and other functions.
Wasabi is wonderful with sushi and a great complement for any fish. Buy it as a powder or in a tube, and you can add a tiny bit into sauces with ginger, teriyaki or peanut bases. It’s also a great kick for coleslaw, egg salad and salad dressings. Be daring!
3. Garlic: Garlic is one of those healing-herbs you just can’t get enough of – it’s great for circulation and cholesterol. This knobby herb from the onion family is also one of the main herbs for improving brain health. It contains compounds thought to help keep neurons strong and in peak condition.
Get the most from your garlic by peeling open garlic cloves and exposing them to air for about 15 minutes or so to release the healing compounds. You can crush them for more exposure, then consume them raw to get the full benefits by adding them to salads. If you can’t handle garlic raw – some find it just too pungent – add sautéed garlic to tofu, chicken, beef, pork, pasta or vegetable dishes. Delicious!
4. Turmeric: Take a health cue from India, where this mustard yellow powder is eaten daily in curries. In fact, in India, the risk of memory loss common to seniors is about 25 percent lower than the risk in the United States. Incredible! Turmeric is an antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory. So it keeps the brain networks healthy and strong.
You don’t have to add a lot to your curry dishes for the benefits. Some people don’t like to break a sweat from the heat when they eat! But you can also add turmeric or curry powder to egg salad, pea soup or lentils. You can add a little to casseroles or substitute it for saffron in paella and Spanish rice.
Knowing how to boost your brain power just got a lot simple. A sharper, healthier mind is as close as your spice rack and your herb garden. Fresh or dried, raw, sautéed or steeped, herbs are nature’s medicine cabinet.
Combine these tops herbs with other healthy foods for brain health, like fish, nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables, and you’ll be able to list all 50 states in America and their capitals!