Baby boomers, beware. There is no magic bullet to stave off memory loss. But there are plenty of things you can do, such as exercise, eat right, and supplement–with discrimination. While there are many supplements that may be helpful, they still need more solid scientific evidence and large-scale human studies behind them. The list of promising supplements that could potentially support brain health includes B vitamins (folic acid, B6, and B12), antioxidants (vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10), herbal supplements (huperzine A, ginkgo biloba), and nutraceuticals (fish oil, curcumin, coconut oil). So far, fish oils and vitamin E are the most compelling candidates—each has enough data to suggest they can help support healthy brain function.*
Think of your primary approach to supporting memory as having two wings: regular physical exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet. Multiple studies show that these lifestyle modifications can support cognitive health. Studies have shown that moderate exercise—something as mild was walking—had a big impact on brain health. And in terms of eating your way smarter, a large-scale study published in the journal of Neurology in 2013 suggested that a Mediterranean-style diet helped to support cognitive health in participants.*
The Mediterranean diet focuses heavily on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, olive oil and nuts, and eliminates many of the saturated fats in a conventional American diet. It turns out the diet exerts a neuroprotective effect on cognitive function, perhaps because it’s not one food, but the right group of foods together, that collectively offer the maximum benefit.
Three of the best brain foods:
Ready to put that annoying crossword puzzle down and pick your fork up? Here’s a close-up look at some of the Mediterranean diet’s biggest brain food powerhouses:
Go nuts for nuts
Pecans, rich in omega-3s, are vital for a healthy brain. Pecans are lauded as the most antioxidant-rich tree nut and a USDA ranked them as of one of the top 15 foods with the highest antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants are known to help protect cells throughout the body, including neural cells, from damage caused by harmful compounds known as free radicals.*
Make olive oil your fat of choice
Olive oil contains an abundance of polyphenols, a group of easily absorbed chemicals with antioxidant properties. Plus, olive oil, like pecans, is a good source of vitamin E, which is also a powerful antioxidant.*
Eat fish freely
Fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, herring and trout have potential brain-supporting capacity, due to their omega-3 essential fatty acid content. The long chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are well known for their ability to help maintain cognitive function and healthy mood.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.