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Foods to Keep Your Mind Sharp
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Foods to Keep Your Mind Sharp

We've all had little memory flubs. Whether it's forgetting whether we locked the front door, the name of a person we've met before, or where we put our car keys, we all accept little memory goofs as an unavoidable side effect of hectic, busy lives.

But there are other, more serious diseases that affect memory - Alzheimer's Disease and vascular dementia among them - that are on the rise. The main risk factors for Alzheimer's and dementia are well known:

  • Age
  • Heredity (genetics)
  • Family history

Part of what makes Alzheimer's and vascular dementia so frightening is that there's literally nothing you can do about the three factors that put you at greatest risk. But evidence is emerging that there is a fourth risk factor - heart health - that is within our power to control.

Despite advances in medical science, the brain remains mysterious. But science has provided us with evidence that a diet that prioritizes heart health and that's rich in many vitamins and nutrients has the potential to improve brain health and memory throughout our lives, even if serious, age-related memory disorders are largely beyond our power to control.

Learning how to be healthy is about more than losing weight. It's about adopting habits to improve our lives long term. To make sure your mind is at the top of its game, consider adding the following foods and nutrients to your diet:

  • Blueberries. These little fruits are among the best sources of antioxidants out there (the darker the berry, the higher its antioxidant concentration). Studies have shown that eating blueberries may improve memorization skills. If blueberries are unavailable, other dark-skinned berries work too.

  • Fish. The Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and tuna, among other fish, have been shown to slow the decline of memory.
  • Folic Acid. Low levels of folic acid have been shown, in some studies, to be linked with Alzheimer's. Folic Acid - and vitamins B6 and B12 - protect the nerves in the brain from deterioration. People who are experts at how to be healthy know the importance of folic acid and B vitamins. Be one of those people by including lentils, beets, broccoli and spinach in your diet.

  • Cruciferous Vegetables. One study showed that diets rich in cruciferous vegetables - broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, among others - were particularly effective in helping women retain memory.

  • Dark chocolate. Evidence suggests that flavanols dark chocolate may increase blood flow to the brain.

  • Caffeine. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know when I say that coffee increases alertness, and I'm hoping I'll make you cheer when I say you don't have to give up coffee when learning how to be healthy. There's evidence that green tea may actually improve brain function and decrease brain cell death. It's important to drink coffee and tea in moderation, however, or you risk feeling jittery.