We all know the importance of eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables for our health. But what food can we eat to specifically boost our brain, memory and cognitive abilities?
Once again, we delve into the wisdom and gift of Mother Nature to find the answer. In short, here are the seven science-backed foods that help nourish our brain and boost its function.
Camellia sinensis also known as green tea is rich in bioactive compounds known to have many beneficial effects on human including improving memory and learning (Zheng LT et.al. 2008) 1.
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), one of the most potent antioxidant in green tea helps support neurological cell function (Silvia A Mandel et. al. 2008) 2. Several studies have shown that this catechin compound also has various protective effects on neurons (Mario Caruana et. al., 2015) 3.
The caffeine in green tea also increases the firing of neurons and the concentration of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine responsible for regulating sleep, alertness, and mood (A Nehlig et. al. 1992)4. Studies also show that caffeine and L-theanine in green tea works synergistically to support better brain function (F.L. Dodd et. al. 2015) 5.
Phosphatidylserine and L-alpha glycerylphosphorylcholine (L-α GPC) are important components found in soy lecithin. Phosphatidylserine is required to maintain healthy nerve cell structure and function.
This supports human cognitive functions, including the formation of short-term memory, consolidation of long-term memory, the ability to create new memories, the ability to retrieve memories, the ability to learn and recall information.
It also supports the ability to focus attention and concentrate, the ability to reason and solve problems, language skills, and the ability to communicate (Michael J Glade and Kyl Smith. 2015)6. Studies also show that soy phosphatidylserine supplementation could improve the memory of the elderly.
L-α-GPC is a biosynthesis precursor for the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine in humans, making it useful as a cognitive enhancer, facilitating learning and memory (Adam G Parker et. al. 2015)7.
Numerous studies indicate that panax ginseng helps promote brain health and slows down the aging of the brain while enhancing memory (Ong et. al. 2015) 9. Ginsenosides, the major active ingredient in ginseng has neuroprotective effects and works like a brain tonic by supporting and strengthening it (Xing Huang et.al. 2019) 10.
Ginkgo biloba is well-known for its uses in alleviating age-related cognitive impairment (R. B. Silberstein et. al. 2011) 10. It contains high levels of flavonoids, a strong antioxidant. The neuroprotective actions of flavonoids include the potential to protect neurons against injury and promote memory, learning and cognitive function (Jeremy P. E. Spencer. 2009) 11.
Grape seed is rich in antioxidants, including phenolic acids, anthocyanins, flavonoids and oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). These antioxidants help delay the onset of neurodegenerative problems (Isha Solanki et.al. 2015) 12 and at the same time enhance memory and learning (Zheng LT et.al. 2008) 1.
Flavonoids found in citrus fruits have anti-inflammatory properties that that help soothe the nervous system (Preetham Elumalai et. al 2016) 13. Specific types of flavonoids, including hesperidin and apigenin, have been shown to protect brain cells and improve brain function. Citrus fruits also contain phytochemicals and essential nutrients that help boost memory (Azra Riaz et. al. 2014) 14.
Curcumin, which is found in abundant in turmeric is a powerful antioxidant that help protect cells against free radicals. Numerous studies have found that curcumin also help improve mood and memory in older adults. Other studies have shown that curcumin supplementation supports cognitive function, improves attention span and working memory tasks (Katherine H M Cox et. al. 2015)15.
Zheng LT, Ock J, Kwon BM, Suk K. Suppressive effects of flavonoid fisetin on lipopolysaccharide-induced microglial activation and neurotoxicity. Int Immunopharmacol 8:484-494
Silvia A Mandel, Tamar Amit, Orly Weinreb, Lydia Reznichenko, and Moussa B H Youdim. Stimultaneous manipulation of multiple brain targets by green tea catechins: a potential neuroprotective strategy for Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases. CNS Neurosci Ther. Winter 2008; 14(4):352-65.
Mario Caruana, Neville Vassallo. Tea polyphenol in Parkinson’s disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015;863: 117-37.
A Nehlig, J L Daval and G Debry. Caffeine and the central nervous system: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects. Brain Res Brain Res Rev. May – Aug 1992; 17 (2): 139-70.
F.L. Dodd, D.O. Kennedy, L.M.Riby and C.F. Haskell-Ramsay. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015; 232(14): 2563-2576.
Michael J Glade, Kyl Smith. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain. Nutrition. 2015 Jun; 31 (6): 781-6.
Adam G Parker, Allyn Byars, Martin Purpura and Ralf Jager. The effects of alpha-glycerylphorylcholine, caffeine or placebo on markers of mood, cognitive function, power, speed and agility. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015; 12(Suppl 1): P41.
Ong, W. Y., Farooqui, T., Koh, H. L., Farooqui, A. A., and Ling, E. A. Protective effects of ginseng on neurological disorders. Front. Aging Neurosci. 2015. 7:129.
Xing Huang, Ning Li, Yiqiong Pu, Tong Zhang, and Bing Wang. Neuroprotective effects of ginseng phytochemicals: recent perspectives. Molecules 2019.
R. B. Silberstein, A. Pipingas, J. Song, D. A. Camfield, P.J. Nathan, and C. Stough. Examining brain-cognition effects of gingko biloba extract: brain activation in the left temporal and left prefrontal cortex in an object working memory task. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011; 2011: 164139.
Jeremy P. E. Spencer. Flavonoids and brain health: multiple effects underpinned by common mechanisms. Genes Nutr. 2009 Dec; 4 (4): 243-250.
Isha Solanki, Priyanka Parihar, Mohammad Lukman Mansuri, and Mordhwaj S Parihar. Flavonoids-based therapies in the early management of neurodegenerative diseases. Adv Nutr. 2015 Jan; 6(1): 64-72. Published online 2015 Jan 7.
Preetham Elumalai and Sreeja Lakshmi. Role of quercetin benefits in neurodegeneration. Adv Neurobiol. 2016;12:229-45.
Azra Riaz, Rafeeq Alam Khan, and Hussein A Algahtani. Memory boosting effect of citrus limon, pomegranate and their combinations. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2014 Nov; 27(6):1837-40.
Katherine H M Cox, Andrew Pipingas, Andrew B Scholey. Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population. J Psychopharmacol. 2015 May;29(5):642-51.
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