good health
Foods that boost memory
Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Your memory can effectively be improved and sharpened with the right lifestyle choices and a basic knowledge of concentration-enhancing techniques

Dr Anjali Mukerjee
by Dr Anjali Mukerjee

Are you among those who tend to forget their specs, leave behind their wallets, fail to recall names or forget to pass on telephone messages? Or you open the refrigerator and stare blankly inside, just what was it that you wanted?

You may wonder what is it- plain absentmindedness, a bout of amnesia, or memory loss?

Distraction, lethargy, dizziness, a ringing in the ears, headaches and emotional disturbances like paranoia, anxiety and depression are some other signs of a failing memory. However, you donít need to despair or go for medical treatment, unless the problem is severe. Your memory can effectively be improved and sharpened with the right lifestyle choices and a basic knowledge of memory-enhancing strategies.

While the heart's job is to pump blood to the body's cells, the brainís primary function is to be able to communicate with its own cells. The more numerous and healthy the brain-cell connections are, the faster the signals can go back and forth and the better the mind and the memory will work. The quality of the diet you eat has a tremendous effect on your brain health and function, including memory. The same poor lifestyle choices and improper food preferences that lead to major health problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer are similarly detrimental to the brain.

A brain-healthy, memory-wise diet should be a well-balanced diet, consisting of whole grains, a wide variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, and moderate amounts of lean protein with the right fats. Here are a few tips to combat memory problems:

1. Consume a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. They contain vitamins, minerals and a range of phyto-chemicals which help to protect the body from damage, disease, and memory impairment.

2. Research suggests that increasing the intake of certain B vitamins, especially B6 and B12, can help enhance memory abilities.

3. Getting enough of vitamins C and E may also help to perk up a flagging memory and to keep it sharp. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants, which help
to ease the stress put on brain cells by free radicals.

4. Magnesium, often described as an "anti-stress" mineral plays an important role in learning and memory. Magnesium is also vital for the production and transfer of nerve impulses, in muscle contraction and relaxation, in protein synthesis, and in many biochemical reactions, which aid in improving memory. Increase your dietary intake of magnesium (green leafy vegetables, nuts, whole grains, soybeans, milk, and seafood) to ensure that you are getting adequate levels for optimum functioning.

5. Cut down on saturated fats and proteins. Processed or junk foods, foods that contain preservatives, saturated fats and sugary foods, not only deplete vitamin B from the body but also create sugar fluctuations, which affects normal brain functioning, thus reducing mental alertness.

6. Exercise regularly as when you exercise, blood flows to your entire body increases, thus making you feel more alert and energetic. Exercising is also a good stress-buster. Under stress, the brain releases certain chemicals which prevent glucose from entering brain cells and without a steady supply of glucose, the brain cannot function at its best.

A diet of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and good fats is healthy for brain7. Experiments and research reveals that gingko, the oldest living tree species, has a promising effect on a wide range of problems related to memory loss and impaired mental functioning. It improves overall mental health, decision making abilities and controls anxiety. Packed with antioxidants like flavonoids, gingko strengthens the capillaries and boosts blood circulation. Thus you get more oxygen, more energy and better efficiency.

8. Another herb called ginseng helps to increase memory, learning ability and mental functioning. It also helps control the release of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Too much cortisol (produced under stress) can damage brain cells.

9. Acetyl-L-Cartinine is helpful. Found naturally in the brain, it improves energy metabolism and reduces intra-cellular generation of free radicals caused by oxidation of fats. It helps people suffering from memory loss and declining mental alertness due to age. It is known to improve moods, logic and reasoning and may be taken in supplemental form.

10. Balance your lifestyle ó although supplements will help your brain think and function better, a healthy lifestyle is quintessential. Battle the demands of the hectic pace of your life by practicing meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. Also, don't compromise on your eight-hour a day sleeping pattern to keep your brain charged. Keeping the brain nimble through puzzles, riddles, and other brain-challenging exercises and activities such as board games, chess, etc helps build new connections between brain cells and strengthen those that already exist.

It is important not to panic or get upset when you can't remember something. It only makes matters worse, and if it was important someone will probably remind you. A few solid steps towards overcoming this problem will bring your brain functions back in action.

ó The writer is nutritionist, Founder Director-Health Total. She treats obesity & other health-related disorders. Her website is