Learning Strategies Blog

Eating your way to a better memory

by JJ Virgin, Health & Wellness Expert
[I began working with nutritionist JJ Virgin back in the fall of 2008. The results that I personally experienced were so powerful that I continue consulting with her today. I asked JJ to write a post for us on how foods can support (or weaken) your memory and general brain function. Pete]

Check for food sensitivities

I regularly review food sensitivity tests and have discovered that approximately 50% of my clients are reacting to dairy and/or eggs and 30% to gluten. These reactions create an inflammatory response that can result in brain fog, memory loss, and moodiness. Physical reactions include joint pain, weight loss resistance, skin issues, and gas/bloating.

You can either test for these sensitivities via an easy to use in-home test kit that asks for a blood spot and saliva sample OR you can completely (and I mean 100%) eliminate all dairy, eggs, and gluten from your diet for one month. After the month check to see whether you have noticed improvements. You can reintroduce the foods slowly by eating a food item over a four-day period and noticing the effects and then going on to the next food item over the next four days.

Load up on Dietary Antioxidants

A number of studies have shown that consistent consumption of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables significantly reduces the risk of developing cognitive impairment. Oxidative stress creates inflammation, accelerates aging, and is at the core of every disease process. I recommend taking a comprehensive antioxidant supplement twice daily and incorporating the following foods, drinks, and spices into your daily diet.

Here are my favorites: Dark chocolate, red peppers, cherries, kiwi, beets, oranges, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green tea, curcumin (turmeric), rosemary, and garlic.

Be sure to go organic because pesticides are toxic to your brain!

Make an Oil Change

Fish has long been touted as great brain food. In a study published in the British Medical Journal, French researchers reported that there is a significantly lower risk of developing brain problems among older people who eat fish or fish oil at least once a week.

The right types of fats also reduce inflammation, improve satiety, and support good bone remodeling as well as healthy hair, skin and nails. These fats include avocado, raw nuts and seeds, cold water fish (go literally wild here and choose salmon, halibut, scallops, sardines and sole most often), and coconut.

Calorie restriction

Substantial animal research indicates that a calorie-restricted diet with optimal nutrition is helpful for both brain and life longevity. Eating less helps you live longer. It controls weight, decreases risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke from obesity (a major risk factor for all of these illnesses), and it triggers certain mechanisms in the body to increase the production of nerve growth factors, which are helpful to the brain.

The challenge is that it is very difficult to live this way. Fortunately a key nutrient, resveratrol, that is especially high in red grapes, has been found to give the same benefits as calorie restriction. It mimics the positive effects of caloric restriction without having to suffer! You can take resveratrol via pill form. Alternatively, a glass of Pinot Noir (note more is not better here as too much alcohol is definitely bad for the brain!) can also give you a nice dose of resveratrol.

Increase water intake

Given that your brain is 85% water, the first rule of brain nutrition is to consume adequate water to keep your brain hydrated. Mild dehydration, even as little s 1-2%, can elevate the hormone cortisol which, over time, is devastating to the brain, because it shrinks the hippocampus and impairs memory and learning.

I recommend that you drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Yes, a gallon of water! Sodas, tea and coffee don’t count—in fact, I think of them as “anti-water,” because the acidifying affects of them require even more water to buffer your pH balance back to normal levels.

Be sure to limit your fluid intake with meals to 8 ounces or less so you don’t dilute your stomach acid and impair protein digestion. I like to jazz up my water with an Emergen-C packet twice a day to give it some flavor and get a nice hit of Vitamin C to support healthy adrenal function.

Here are my favorite brain nutrients:
ALCAR (Acetyl-l-carnitine) improves memory and neuronal communication
Gingko biloba improves brain circulation, memory and is a powerful antioxidant
PS (Phosphatidyl serine) protects the hippocampus from stress and helps lower cortisol
GPC (glycerophosphocholine) reduces cognitive decline and supports neurotransmitter function, improves growth hormone response, improves memory
These nutrients are available on my website as the following formulations:
Brain Vitale 2 per day
Contains GPC, PS, ALCAR and Gingko
Detox Antiox 2 per day
Contains green tea, resveratrol and curcumin
XanthOmega 2 per day ***
High powered Omega 3 supplement with added antioxidants from Krill Oil

– JJ Virgin