From berries to oysters, these brain foods boost memory, help us to think clearly, and contribute to overall good health.
The old maxim "You are what you eat," turns out to be true.
Research on so-called "brain foods" shows that some chemicals in the foods we eat go right to our brain cells. Sounds pretty powerful.
But can food really make us more intelligent, give us smarter kids, improve memory, help us think more clearly, and maybe even forestall those so-called "senior moments," or worse, dementia?
The answer is a qualified "yes." Although no one "miracle" food is going to boost your brain power instantly, make your kid a genius, or cure Alzheimer's, regularly adding certain foods to your diet will help you function at your personal best, both physically and mentally, throughout your lifetime.
Brain Food #1: Berries
Berries are full of memory-boosting nutrients. Here's how they work: When we talk about getting "rusty" at certain tasks, we may not be far off. Oxidation, the process that causes metal to rust, can also damage brain cells. This oxidative stress as it's called, plays a part in many diseases associated with aging from dementia and Alzheimer's to Parkinson's.
Getting beneficial anti-oxidative compounds like vitamins C, E, beta-carotene and other nutrients through food may help prevent, or at least curtail, the damage, because they can disarm potentially cell-injuring free radicals circulating throughout the system.
Research has shown that beneficial chemicals called ellagatannis in raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are also found right in the hippocampus, the brain's memory control center. Talk about a direct hit!
Blueberries also contain proanthocyanins, which gravitate toward the striatum, which is more closely related to spatial memory. Scientists believe that that these compounds may enhance the performance of those parts of the brain, and indeed, actual animal studies have substantiated the evidence that they do improve memory.
Brain Food #2: Cherries
Oxidation is not the only process associated with diseases of aging. Inflammation also plays a big role in everything from heart disease to dementia.
Cherries are nature's own little anti-inflammatory pills. They contain Cox 2 inhibitors similar to those found in pain medications such as Vioxx and Celebrex, but they also contain compounds called polyphenols that keep platelets in the blood from clumping together, so they don't produce undesirable side effects -- like heart attacks and strokes -- which are risks associated with the manufactured drugs. Isn't Mother Nature clever?
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