This is the the only one on the list that can actually work pretty much immediately. More energy = higher attention = better memory. That’s according to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, PhD, Chief Medical Officer of Neurocore Brain Performance Center, who tells BuzzFeed Health that drinking a cup of coffee or tea can improve your memory, even if only temporarily.
As long as it’s fortified with vitamin D, that is. This important vitamin provides us with energy and the heightened attention we’ll need to remember things more efficiently. It’s often called the “sunshine” vitamin because exposure to the sun’s UVB rays is necessary for producing it in the skin.
But let’s assume you’re outside soaking up the sun every day. Fotuhi says that over time, vitamin D-fortified milk can help improve overall brain function, including memory. Both whole and reduced-fat milk can be fortified with vitamin D. Keep in mind when choosing which to drink that having a balance of saturated and unsaturated fats is optimal for health. You can learn more about healthy fats here.
3. Fatty Fish
Of all the memory-boosting foods, Fotuhi and Somer both agree that those with DHA are the best. DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found in certain fish — such as salmon, mackerel, herring, tuna, and anchovies — and the brain prefers it over other fats because it can be used to build cells capable of communicating more effectively, Somer says. Without it, the brain will source fat from other parts of the body — fats that aren’t as good.
But wait, there’s more! Fotuhi says DHA also increases oxygen-rich blood flow to the brain (20 percent of the oxygen we consume is used in the brain), and it reduces inflammation and levels of beta-amyloid — clumps of protein that have been associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Altogether, this builds a bigger and healthier brain.
Citing a study on older adults, Fotuhi says people who eat enough DHAs every week (two fatty fish meals) for three months will see improvements in their memory six months later. Just don’t fry the fish, Somer says, because the oil you use will offset the benefits. Broil, bake, or poach it instead.
5. Dark leafy greens
Spinach, kale, chard, and collard greens should be your go-to. Basically, the darker the better, says Somer. They’re way more nutrient-rich than other leafy greens like iceberg lettuce, which she calls “just crunchy water.” Dark leafy greens are also high in carotenoids like lutein and xanthine, which act like antioxidants (we’ll get into those later) to cross the blood brain barrier (a selectively impermeable substance that protects the brain) and improve cognition.
To get the fullest effect from these greens, try sautéing them with some olive oil. “We know that if you add a little bit of fat to spinach or almost any other vegetable, it increases the absorption of all the good nutrients in there,” she says. Or, if you’re eating a sandwich, add avocado to it — they’re another good source for monounsaturated fat.
8. Fruits, but specifically berries.
Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, all berries. Somer says these rank highest on the ORAC scale, which rates the levels of antioxidants foods have. Antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, work to protect the brain’s cell membranes and our bodies’ internal organs from free radicals, which can come from the air we breathe and even our own internal processes.
But you basiclally can’t go wrong with colorful fruit and vegetables. Carotenoids also have antioxidant capabilities, and they can be found in watermelon (lycopene) and plums (carotene). “There’s not a lot of black-and-white issues in nutrition, but there is one, and that is the more colorful fruits and vegetables you eat, the better off you are,” Somer says
A good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, Somer says “this vitamin shows promise in protecting white matter in the brain, which is associated with improved memory.” It’s also a “major antioxidant for the fatty areas of the brain, like the cell membranes,” which are vulnerable to oxidative damage.
While all nuts are full of vitamin E, walnuts might be the best, nutritionist Rania Batayneh, author of The One One One Diet, tells BuzzFeed Health. They have higher levels of alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) — another omega-3 fatty acid.