Food For Thought: How Does Food Affect Our Memory

We already know what sort of impact the different foods can have on our bodies. But, what about our brains? They too, are affected by the food choices we make. Our brains cannot function unless we feed them properly also.


Harmful Stuff To Avoid

Personally, I love red meat. However, red meat has a tendency to be loaded with Saturated fats. Those saturated fats will increase the unhealthy fats in our bodies. The LDL, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, is the unhealthy count.

Research has also shown us that eating some of the wrong foods can increase our risk of getting dementia as we age. The LDL continues to build up and will damage our hearts and arteries. Trans Fats will do the same thing to our bodies.

We knew that those unhealthy fats are bad for our hearts, now research shows that it can also damage our brains. When a person thrives off a diet filled with high cholesterol foods, this will ultimately build up the formation of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain. It is these sticky protein clusters that are to blame for the damage that occurs in the Alzheimer’s patients brains.

One study that performed on women at Brigham and Young showed that women who had a diet of red meats and saturated fats in the food, did not score as high on the memory and thinking tests. While the ones who focused on healthy foods performed well on the same tests.

It is not just our smarts that food affects. It can affect our memories, our cognitive thinking and more. This research that was done, does not explain what the connection is, but they do suspect it lies in a gene called APOE. This is the gene that has been associated with the saturated fats in your blood.

What is evident is how the blood vessels that travel to the brain, but are damaged by cholesterol build up that can cause damage in the brain cells. This damage is caused by silent strokes or by harsher and more catastrophic strokes.

Positive Foods

So it would be likely that if the trans-fats and saturated fats are the villains when it comes to destroying our memories, the polyunsaturated, as well as the monounsaturated may be the unlikely heroes we did not expect. Foods that are high in unsaturated fats, such as those in the recommended Mediterranean Diet are recognized as those associated with lower rates of Alzheimers and Dementia.

            Some of these heroes are:

  • Fish
  • Olive Oil
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains     

All of those foods will help improve the health of your blood vessels, which ultimately reduces your risk of a devastating stroke that will affect your memory. Fish is higher in the Omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to lower levels of the beta amyloid in the blood proteins.

Moderate consumption of alcohol is also linked to higher levels of HDL, high density lipoproteins. Alcohol also lowers the resistance to insulin, which allows it to lower the blood sugars or Glucose index more efficiently.  As we have learned, insulin resistance is linked to dementia.


We know a few types of foods that will not be beneficial to your memory. Are there others that are as helpful as those in the Mediterranean Diet? Or some that are not part of the Mediterranean Diet? What can we do to preserve our memory? To keep our brain active?          

To be perfectly honest, there has not been near enough research done to let us know the exact answers to that. It would not be as easy to come up with a brain healthy diet as it was to determine a heart healthy way of eating.          

We are also beginning to realize that many of the foods that are good for the heart, can also be good for the brain. This is based on the idea that many of the cardiovascular issues that affect the heart, also have a part in degrading the memory. Such as with dementia or Alzheimer.           

Some of the factors that have shown to be contributing factors in memory issues are high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. It would go to show that when you reduce the risk of these issues, you would also be reducing the risk of memory loss as in dementia or Alzheimer.


There are plenty of companies that will advertise their products as the type to improve your memory, increase your concentration and your focus. These supplements claim to contain many of the components of the Mediterranean Diet. Components such as Omega 3-fatty acids and antioxidants.

There is no evidence based on scientific research. The information just has not been proven. The research they will spout involves tests against a placebo. However, there is, once again, no evidence to support the claims.

Good Foods           

In order to keep our brains running the way they are meant, it is recommended that we focus on heart healthy foods and try to avoid the others. Let’s see which foods are on the top of the list of those that are known as beneficial for our hearts, therefore also our brains.

  • Fatty Fish

In order to obtain those all important Omega 3 fatty acids, you need to eat fatty fish. This would include sardines, herring, salmon, trout and Tuna.

  • Coffee

Yes, all you coffee addicts, you can celebrate to a certain extent. You would be one of the lucky if you drink 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day. The caffeine and antioxidants help to reduce the risks of neurological diseases.

  • Blueberries

Filled with antioxidants, some that are brain specific, these juicy little treats deliver anti-inflammatory effects as well as antioxidants.

  • Turmeric

In the popular portions of the news recently is turmeric. Curcumin, a compound of turmeric, is acknowledged for crossing the blood-brain barrier. This means that it can enter directly into the brain and help your brain cells. Turmeric, or curcumin is known to contain anti-inflammatory agents and also can help with depression.

Some tests show that it also aids in new brain cell growth. However, these tests use much more curcumin than what we would obtain by using Turmeric in our foods. So in this case, a supplement with a Physician’s guidance may be beneficial.

  • Broccoli

Mother always said to eat your broccoli. She knew it was filled with Vitamin K and antioxidants. Vitamin K is known for packing brain cells with sphingolipids. These are formed thanks to Vitamin K.

  • Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are not something many people consider eating. The pumpkin, yes, the seeds; not so much. However, the seeds are loaded with good stuff. Magnesium, Copper, Iron and Zinc. These components help the brain fight free-radical damage.

  • Cocoa and Dark Chocolate

If the dark chocolate is 70% or more of cocoa, it provides brain boosting compounds along with the great taste. There is caffeine, flavonoids and antioxidants found in cocoa. There are a number of tests that show flavonoids work in the brain areas of learning and memory.

  • Nuts

Nuts contain a number of healthy fats that have shown to be beneficial in lowering the risk of cognitive decline. Walnuts top all other nuts as most beneficial since they also contain Omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Oranges

Not just oranges, kiwi, tomatoes, guava and  strawberries all contain Vitamin C. You get almost a complete daily requirement of Vitamin C by eating just one orange. Vitamin C is known as helping memory, focus, concentration and reasoning ability.

  • Eggs

Eggs contain a type of choline that is known to be beneficial for regulating your mood and your memory. It is also linked to studies in regards to a better memory and  better mental function.

  • Green Tea

Green Tea has been on the radar for quite some time. It is known to promote awareness, alertness, performance and your focus. There is also L-theanine in green tea which helps you to relax without making you drowsy. Green Tea is also rich in polyphenols and antioxidants.

Foods To Avoid


It would truly be pointless to mention all the good foods we should be consuming in order to assist our brain function, if we do not also list some of the bad foods that are usually  a part of our daily lives. The following do not benefit your brain, they do not benefit your heart, nor do they benefit any other part of your body. These are the ones that you should be working on eliminating as quickly as possible.

  • Sugary drinks

The sodas, carbonated waters, sports drinks and even fruit juices contain way too much sugar for your body to deal with easily. These can actually increase the risks of diabetes and obesity, which in turn can damage your brain functions.

  • Refined Carbohydrates

This would be all products made with white flour. Try to switch to whole grain products and see the difference it makes for you.

  • Trans Fats

These nasty trans fats only cause damage to every part of our bodies. This type of unsaturated fat has been shown to have a detrimental effect on brain health.

  • Others to avoid would include: artificial sweeteners, fish that is high in mercury, alcohol and highly processed foods. Apparently, we had it right generations ago….Natural foods are best all the way around.