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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into your golden years. There are certain foods that improve memory, work wonders in reducing inflammation in the brain, and increase focus.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter. But first, check out Lifehack’s free guide for focus: End Distraction and Find Your Focus. It will help you learn how to focus on what’s important, which you’ll need once the following foods help your brain develop a longer attention span.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts and Seeds

One stud was able to link higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

If you want to up your intake of vitamin E, Nuts like walnuts and almonds are good sources. Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

2. Blueberries

When it comes to foods that improve memory, blueberries have been shown to offer great brain benefits and are great memory-enhancing foods. One study on older adults found that those who drank blueberry juice showed improvement in paired associate learning and word list recall[2].

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When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits that can offer improved cognition.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients. Tomatoes are also great because you can sneak them into just about anything, including sauces, salads, and meat dishes as a side.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage, and antioxidants help eliminate this threat, so many foods that improve memory include these antioxidants.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter, and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function[3]. Specifically, vitamin K is “involved in sphingolipids metabolism, a class of lipids that participate in the proliferation, differentiation, and survival of brain cells.”

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattiest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory[4].

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids, so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel, and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory. Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants, which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging, making it one of the tastiest foods that improve memory.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B Vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid, and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark, leafy greens.

B6, B12, and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and those with a high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed that when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[5]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils, and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down, and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking, so foods that improve memory will often include this important element. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory[6].

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Ginkgo Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in Eastern culture and is best known for its memory-boosting brawn. It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply, and removing free radicals[7].

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Research suggests that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients[8]. This makes them great foods that improve memory.

Both teas appear to have the same effect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its effects last a full week, versus black tea, which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here.

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in various studies[9]. Pair some of the above foods that stimulate the brain with these amazing herbs in soups, salads, or even in teas!

The Bottom Line

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating foods that improve memory as part of a healthy diet really can do wonders. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients to improve your brain health, memory, and focus.

More Tips on Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Ravi Sharma via unsplash.com

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Sarah Hansen

A corporate-sales professional turned entrepreneur

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Last Updated on April 28, 2021

What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

What Is a Fixed Mindset And Can You Change It?

I sometimes think that I will never be a good cook or that I just was not born to be bilingual. Occasionally, I catch my daughter saying that I cannot do it. And I hear people say things such as they are not good at math or not cut out to be in business.

These are all examples of a fixed mindset, and we are all guilty of it from time to time. Fortunately, a fixed mindset does not have to be forever.

What is a Fixed Mindset?

Psychologist Carol Dweck is one of the leading experts on mindset and the author of the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Early in her career, she identified two mindsets: growth and fixed. These two mindsets explain why some people face challenges head-on while others are crushed by it.

People with fixed mindsets think that their skills or abilities are set in stone and determined at birth. If you think you are bad at math, not good at sports, or a born musician, you are demonstrating a fixed mindset.

People with a growth mindset think that their skills and abilities can be improved and refined through effort and perseverance. When you take steps to improve yourself and stick with it, you are exhibiting a growth mindset.

False Growth Mindset

Dweck clarified her work by explaining that everyone has a fixed mindset at one time or another about one thing or another.[1] People do not permanently have either a fixed or growth mindset.

I might work hard in the gym to get stronger and more flexible while giving up on my piano lessons because I think I am not a musical person. This example shows that I have a growth mindset regarding my fitness but a fixed mindset regarding my piano playing.

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It is also an oversimplification to say that a growth mindset is just about effort. Dweck explains that effort and strategy are needed for a true growth mindset. It is not enough for me to just keep trying and failing. A true growth mindset involves effort, reflection, reassessment, and then more effort.

Self-awareness is a critical component of a growth mindset because you have to accurately assess your current progress to make appropriate changes toward meeting your goals. Just showing up is not going to cut it.

Fixed Mindset Triggers

A fixed mindset trigger is something that shifts your mindset away from thinking that abilities can be improved to thinking they are fixed or predetermined. Think about what might make you raise your hands in defeat and proclaim you are not good at something and never will be.

The most obvious fixed mindset trigger is someone telling you that you are not good at something. This can make it seem like your ability is set in stone.

Imagine you are trying your hardest in Spanish class, and the teacher offhandedly says, “It is a good thing you are good at math.” That comment can make it seem like you have always been bad at Spanish and always will be, regardless of the effort and determination you bring to the table.

Another fixed mindset trigger is people overreacting to failure. When people make a big deal out of your mistakes, it can seem like you’re just not meant to be pursuing whatever it is you failed at.

Let’s use our Spanish example. Let’s say you are working on your Spanish project—a film. You show it to a friend who starts laughing and points out how you said the word “Bota” instead of “Barco” over and over as the film zooms in on a boat. Instead of thinking about all the Spanish words you got right, your mind might dwell on that one egregious error, shifting you to a fixed mindset about your Spanish abilities.

Finally, people rescuing you from failure can trigger a fixed mindset. Continuing our Spanish language example, if your mom stops letting you do your Spanish homework and starts doing it herself to prevent you from failing, you might start to think that you are not good at Spanish and never have been and never will be.

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How Can You Change a Fixed Mindset?

Dweck talks about process praise as the antidote to a fixed mindset.

Process praise is when you compliment and encourage someone to put in the effort and use strategies and appropriate resources to learn and improve. While praising someone’s abilities often leads to a fixed mindset, process praise contributes to a growth mindset.

So if I want to help someone change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, I should say something like, “You worked so hard on this” or “What could you try to do better next time?” instead of “You are so good at this” or “It is so unfair. Your opponent must have cheated.”

You can try process praise for yourself, too. If you catch yourself making excuses, blaming someone or something else for your failure, or assuming your abilities are fixed, try process praise.

Focus instead on the effort you put in and strategies and resources you used to improve. Dweck recommends being matter-of-fact and not too strong or passive with your process praise. Be direct without being harsh or too accommodating.

Here are 8 other ways to shift from a fixed mindset to growth:

1. Do Not Blame

If you catch yourself blaming someone or something else for your failure, stop yourself and refocus on your role in your success or failure.

2. Aim for Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is key to a growth mindset. If you do not give much thought in your role in your success or failure, it is going to be difficult for you to strategize and improve.

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So, ask yourself questions about your effort, strategy, and resources. Could I have practiced harder? Am I using the best schedule for my rehearsals? Is there a better way for me to study before the next test?

3. Avoid Negative, Fixed Mindset Self-Talk

Try to catch yourself when you think in fixed mindset terms. Stop saying that you were not made to do this or were not born to become that. Instead, start focusing on the effort and strategy you put in.

4. Ask for Feedback (and listen to it)

Feedback goes in one ear and out the other when we have a fixed mindset. When people think their abilities are set in stone, they tend to make excuses, get defensive, and place blame when receiving feedback.

Break that cycle and actively seek out feedback. Do not get defensive or make excuses and listen closely to feedback, no matter how harsh. Use feedback to develop a better plan for improving your abilities.

5. Do Not Overreact to Failure (keep it in perspective)

Failure is a natural part of learning and improving, so do not overreact when it happens to you.[2]

Try to keep failure in perspective, so you do not fall into a fixed mindset.

6. Reflect and Reassess

Set aside time to reflect on your progress and plan how to improve. Remember that effort is only one part of a true growth mindset. You also need to refine your strategy.

7. Do Not Compare

When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to fall into a fixed mindset. We do not usually see the effort and perseverance others put in, which is why it can lead to a fixed mindset.

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If someone seems naturally smart, you do not actually know how much effort they put on studying. This is why comparing ourselves to others is a fixed mindset trap.

8. Celebrate Effort (process not product)

Finally, celebrate your effort and perseverance. Compliment yourself on how many piano classes you have taken or how you did not give up when Calculus class got tough.

If you get stuck on how good or bad you are, you may find yourself shifting back to that fixed mindset.

Final Thoughts on Changing a Fixed Mindset

It is somehow comforting to know that everyone experiences a fixed mindset from time to time. However, we should not oversimplify shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. It takes more than focusing on effort.

Do your best to notice when you start to compare yourself to others, make excuses, blame others for your mistakes, and disproportionately focus on your shortcomings. These are all fixed mindset traps.

Instead, practice focusing on your effort and strategy. How hard did you work? And is it time to switch up your game plan for learning and improving?

It is possible to change a fixed mindset as long as we are open and honest about what we need to do and change about ourselves.

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Featured photo credit: JD Mason via unsplash.com

Reference

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