What we eat every day affects not only our physical health, but also our cognitive functions. For our brain and the rest of our body to function properly we need to maintain a varied and balanced diet.

In this sense, we can incorporate certain foods that will help us to improve memory and concentration , and to prevent certain neurodegenerative diseases in the long term.

Foods that help improve memory

Next, we’re going to talk about 16 healthy foods that improve your memory and concentration.

1. Avocados

Avocados are one of the healthiest fruits and help us improve our cognitive functions. Although they are high in fat, it is important to know that they are monounsaturated , a type of fat that keeps blood sugar levels at bay. In addition, they also lower blood pressure (related to cognitive impairment).

This fruit also contains folic acid, which helps the body maintain and create new cells, and vitamin K, which is essential for preventing blood clots in the brain and maintaining strong bones. In addition, avocados are rich in vitamin B and vitamin C. An essential food in a healthy diet.

2. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate contains cocoa, which is rich in flavonoids , substances with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. Antioxidants are especially important for the health of our brain, since it is very susceptible to oxidative stress, which contributes to age-related cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases.

Research shows that cocoa flavonoids may be essential for neurogenesis and blood vessel growth in various brain areas related to memory and learning. In addition, several studies have shown that eating dark chocolate can improve brain plasticity and that flavonoids may have a positive effect on improving spatial memory.

3. Cranberries or berries

Cranberries and many types of berries contain flavonoids and antioxidants (anthocyanin, caffeic acid, catechin and quercetin) that help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress on the brain .

The latest research indicates that these compounds have a positive effect on cellular communication, produce an increase in neuronal plasticity, and reduce or delay certain age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive impairment that affect memory and other cognitive functions.

4. Coffee

Coffee consumption is widespread and its effects on attention and concentration are well known. Caffeine blocks a substance in the brain called adenosine , which causes drowsiness in the person. Beyond increasing alertness, some studies suggest that coffee may increase the brain’s ability to process information.

Research has found that coffee increases “brain entropy”, which refers to complex and variable brain activity. When this entropy is high, the brain can process more and better the information it receives.

Coffee is also a good source of antioxidants , and its consumption has been linked to a reduction in the risk of cognitive impairment, as well as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Nuts

The consumption of nuts is recommended, as they contain a large amount of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. It has been suggested that a higher general intake of nuts is related to better brain function in old age.

In addition, nuts are a source of vitamin E , a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative stress caused by free radicals and whose effects may contribute to improved cognition and reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

6. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is probably the most versatile oil you can find. It is also used for cooking, hair and beauty treatments. However, apart from these well-known benefits of coconut oil, it is also very beneficial for the brain, as contains high levels of medium chain triglycerides that help break down ketones (by-products that act as fuel for the cells in the brain).

Coconut oil also contains anti-inflammatory properties that help suppress inflammation in cells. Studies have shown that coconut oil is beneficial for age-related memory loss. In addition, it can also act as a probiotic that destroys harmful bacteria present in the intestine.

7. Broccoli

In addition to being a low-calorie source, broccoli has positive effects on our brain. This vegetable is rich in compounds called glucosinolates that, once broken down, produce isothiocyanates, substances that can reduce oxidative stress and decrease the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

Broccoli also contains a large amount of vitamin C and flavonoids, as well as choline and vitamin K , which are essential for maintaining proper functioning of the nervous system and cognitive functions. In addition, according to some research, broccoli may help improve verbal episodic memory.

8. Salmon and other blue fish

Blue fish such as salmon are an important source of omega-3 fatty acids, essential for healthy brain cells, learning and memory. People with high levels of omega-3 have been shown to increase the production of blood flow in the brain. In addition, a connection between this fatty acid and an improved ability to process information has also been observed.

Several studies have linked the lack of omega-3 fatty acids to the risk of depression and learning disabilities. On the other hand, it has been suggested that these compounds may delay age-related cognitive decline and may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

9. Turmeric

Turmeric is a yellow spice used to season many dishes. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been proven to have a number of benefits including anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant effects, improved cognition and memory a, depression relief and increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

10. Olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is an essential product in our diet and a product that is full of antioxidants called polyphenols. Some research has suggested that polyphenols help improve memory and learning. In addition, they may also help reverse age-related diseases that reduce cognitive abilities and combat the toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

11. Eggs

Eggs are a source of nutrients linked to brain health, including vitamins B6 and B12, folic acid and choline. The latter is a micronutrient that the body uses to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and memory, among other functions . In addition, B vitamins and folic acid may help delay age-related cognitive decline.

  • You may be interested in: “Types of Neurotransmitters: Functions and Classification”

12. Green tea

Like coffee, the caffeine in green tea increases cognitive performance, improving alertness, memory and concentration.

One of the components found in green tea, L-theanine, is an amino acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier and helps increase the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is related to anxiety reduction. L-theanine also increases the frequency of alpha waves , which helps you relax without feeling tired.

13. Spinach

Like most leafy green vegetables, spinach also contains nutrients that help improve cognitive functions. This food is packed with vitamin K, which is considered the best vitamin for memory and concentration.

It has also been suggested that spinach may help slow down the decline in memory and cognitive abilities in adults . Spinach is also rich in vitamin A, which helps reduce inflammation of brain cells.

14. Tomato

Tomatoes are the source of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene. This antioxidant helps reduce cell damage that can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Lycopene may also help prevent depression, which can cause more inflammation in the brain. In addition, tomatoes (especially cherry tomatoes) contain carotenoids, nutrients that help improve cognitive abilities and promote memory.

15. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds, like other types of seeds such as flax, chia and sesame, contain numerous antioxidants that protect the brain from free radical damage. They are also an excellent source of magnesium, iron, zinc and copper. These micronutrients act to improve nerve function , to increase cognitive functions such as memory and learning, and to prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

16. Whole grains

Among the most common whole grains we can find oats, quinoa, corn or linseed, among others. These grains contain a large amount of fiber and, according to the latest research, their consumption may be associated with a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment that can progress to Alzheimer’s disease.

Diets that include these whole grains can reduce inflammation, oxidative stress, and other vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, which can play a significant role in increasing the risk of brain and heart disease.

Bibliographic references:

  • Goyarzu, P., Malin, D. H., Lau, F. C., Taglialatela, G., Moon, W. D., Jennings, R., … & Joseph, J. A. (2004). Blueberry supplemented diet: effects on object recognition memory and nuclear factor-kappa B levels in aged rats. Nutritional neuroscience, 7(2), 75-83.
  • Kalmijn, S., Van Boxtel, M. P. J., Ocke, M., Verschuren, W. M. M., Kromhout, D., & Launer, L. J. (2004). Dietary intake of fatty acids and fish in relation to cognitive performance at middle age. Neurology, 62(2), 275-280.
  • Miller, M. G., Thangthaeng, N., Poulose, S. M., & Shukitt-Hale, B. (2017). El papel de las frutas, nueces y vegetales en el mantenimiento de la salud cognitiva. Gerontología experimental, 94, 24-28.
  • Oz, M., Atalik, K. E. N., Yerlikaya, F. H., & Demir, E. A. (2015). La curcumina alivia los problemas de aprendizaje y de memoria inducidos por el cisplatino. Neurobiología del aprendizaje y la memoria, 123, 43-49.
  • Park, S. K., Jung, I. C., Lee, W. K., Lee, Y. S., Park, H. K., Go, H. J., … & Rho, S. S. (2011). Una combinación de extracto de té verde y l-teanina mejora la memoria y la atención en sujetos con deterioro cognitivo leve: un estudio doble ciego controlado por placebo. Journal of medicinal food, 14(4), 334-343.