There’s a popular category of dietary supplements known as nootropics that claim to boost memory and help with cognitive function. Much of the research on these supplements has been industry funded — meaning the companies that create the supplements pay for the research — and since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements, you can’t always be sure of what’s in them.
But you don’t need to take nootropic supplements to get memory enhancing benefits. Plenty of foods can be considered nootropics, and these same foods have plenty of other health benefits as well. Before you purchase expensive supplements to boost your cognitive abilities, try including these brain-boosting foods into your diet.
When researchers followed 2,500 men in Finland for 22 years, they found that men who ate the equivalent of one egg a day during those years performed better in certain cognitive tests than men who ate fewer eggs. Eggs contain a good amount of choline, which the brain converts into acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps brain cells communicate and keeps memories intact.
In addition to brain-benefiting choline, whole eggs include calcium, iron, zinc, selenium, phosphorous, and vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Turmeric contains the compound curcumin, which doctors say could improve memory in those who suffer from mild cases of memory loss. In a 2017 study, researchers gave half the participants curcumin and half a placebo for 18 months. Those who were given curcumin had a 28 percent improvement in memory and attention — plus they showed improvement in mood as well.
Turmeric’s other benefits include having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as helping with arthritis pain, aiding digestion and fighting heart disease. It also may help prevent those with pre-diabetes from getting diabetes. Try drinking a turmeric latte before bed, a ritual that may help you sleep better.
Blueberries contain super-antioxidants called anthocyanins, which boost the signaling and cognitive functions of the brain. They also protect the brain from damage caused by aging. In fact, one study found that people who ate one or more half-cup servings of blueberries every week were mentally sharper than those in the study who didn’t eat berries.
Often referred to as a superfood, blueberries are also a good source of vitamins C and K, manganese and dietary fiber.
Salmon and other fatty fish
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon and other fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, herring and sardines may improve the brain’s ability to send and receive messages. One study showed that when older adults who don’t have dementia ate three to five ounces of fish high in omega 3s each week, they experienced less brain shrinkage than those who rarely ate fish.
Salmon, which is packed with protein, can also lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and it’s great for keeping your hair healthy.
The flavanols in dark chocolate (70 percent or higher) may help ward off memory loss due to aging. Researchers found that people who drank a high-flavanol chocolate drink every day for three months had better results in memory tests and higher levels of activity in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain linked with memory.
Unfortunately, it would take a lot of dark chocolate to get the same amount of flavanols that study participants were given, but green tea and apples are also high in the compound. By adding all three to your diet regularly, you can boost your flavanol intake.
Dark chocolate may also be good for your heart health and even help to lower stress levels.
5 nootropic foods to boost brain function
You can get all the brain-boosting benefits from these nootropic foods instead of taking supplements, which aren't regulated.