Food For Thought: Nutrition For Memory & Focus

A healthy brain allows for clarity, improved memory and decreased risk of brain diseases such as attention deficit disorders, Alzheimer’s or dementia. From students to seniors, it’s certainly popular to learn how to improve memory and concentration. Indeed, with good memory and good focus, you can learn (and catch up with your lessons) fast and you can also make better and wiser decisions in your career or in your business. Memory is important in quality and safety of activities of our daily life such as tasks at hand, directions to a location or that we left the kitchen stove on. If you are interested in learning how to improve memory and concentration, here are a few things that you might want to keep in mind.

An obvious, but often overlooked way of maintaining a sharp memory is through proper nourishment. What you consume, and equally as important - what you refrain from consuming - alters the chemistry of your brain. Your brain, much like your body, has certain demands that can only be quenched by a good diet. A healthy diet provides you with the building blocks to maintain mental clarity, low stress and anxiety levels, and a properly functioning memory.

Despite the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables, to maintain cognitive health, your diet must contain healthful dietary fats. The controversy surrounding fat makes no sense to me. Today, with more than 60% of the population overweight, fat has become a demon. Conventional thinking is eating low-fat and keeping your blood cholesterol levels as low as possible. However, becoming fat-phobic is arguably the worst situation for your brain. Removing dietary fat from the diet deprives the brain of one of its most prominent building blocks. Researchers from Boston University recently completed a review of information on more than 2,000 men and women who originally participated in the Framingham heart study.

Published results showed that not having ENOUGH dietary cholesterol could create a measurable loss in cognitive functioning. The participants with the lowest levels of cholesterol performed poorly on memory, concentration and word fluency tests in 80% of the cases when compared to the high-cholesterol(240-380) levels.

Healthy fats contain essential fatty acids (EFAs). These are called essential because our body cannot make it and must be obtained from diet. EFAs are used to build omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are required for the normal functioning of all tissues of the body. Deficiencies in these EFAs have been associated with short-term memory loss, mood swings, and sleep problems! An excellent source of EFAs include wild salmon and studies show fish oil can prevent cognitive decline. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flaxseeds, walnuts, wheat germ oil and fish oil. Meanwhile, omega-6 fatty acids are more concentrated in plant sources such as leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, vegetable oils (e.g., sesame, sunflower, hemp), black currants and borage.

Particularly significant for brain health is a nutrient called choline which is necessary for the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Acetylcholine is involved in producing a good mood, mental alertness, concentration, focus, memory and storage of information, and controls brain speed. Some important sources of brain nourishing foods containing healthy fats or choline are egg yolk, sunflower lecithin, grass-fed beef liver, spinach, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, Swiss chard, cauliflower, asparagus, shrimp, scallops, salmon, cod, wheat germ oil, nuts and seeds.

Eat the right kinds of foods and practice a healthier lifestyle. Sharp memory is not just about practice. You also have to make sure that you are feeding your brain with the right nutrition to make it more active even as you age.


Elias PKElias MFD'Agostino RBSullivan LMWolf PA. Serum cholesterol and cognitive performance in the Framingham Heart Study. Psychosom Med. 2005 Jan-Feb;67(1):24-30.