Medical herbalist and columnist Nicola Parker writes about eating the right food to prevent memory loss.
Brain fog and memory loss are two symptoms that can all too easily be dismissed as old age.
As we get older and hit our sixties, seventies and eighties, a certain degree of brain fog and memory loss is considered normal, so it’s not questioned.
If your brain isn’t what it used to be, there are some wonderful herbs out there with a reputation for boosting brain power.
I’ve used them myself when I’ve needed an additional boost or when my workload is too much and making me feel sluggish.
I love my brain boosting blends, but I’d never suggest herbs to anyone before looking at their diet.
As we get older, our appetite decreases.
We might be less active or less mobile, meaning that we don’t need as many calories as we once did, so cooking elaborate meals doesn’t really appeal.
It’s easy skip a proper dinner in favour of a sandwich or a snack, but it’s important to realise that the brain needs nutrition as much as the rest of the body.
If you’re struggling to eat a lot, eat smart instead and focus on eating the right foods.
Protein is broken down into amino acids that our brain needs to build the chemicals that make us feel happy, motivated and thinking sharp.
Our proteins come from meat, fish and eggs.
Not all vegetable forms of protein contain all of these amino acids, so if you don’t eat a diet high in meats and fish, it’s important to eat a full range of nuts, seeds, pulses and beans, to ensure that your brain is getting everything it needs.
One of the key amino acids for brain function is l-arginine which is found in peas.
For people struggling to eat large quantities of the foods above, I recommend picking up some pea protein and adding it to soups and broths that can be sipped as liquids.
The other important nutrient for brain power is oil.
Our brain is made up of lots of fatty tissue and in order for it to work properly, we need to feed it with omega rich oils.
Omega 3 is one of the more well-known omega oils and some brands take advantage of this by writing it on their packaging.
This can be very misleading.
If your box of eggs says omega 3 on it, this means that the chickens that lay them eat a seed rich diet and get lots of omegas.
However, the amount of omega 3 that actually makes its way to the eggs is minimal and not enough to support brain power.
We are much bigger than chicken and so the amount of omega 3 we need is much greater.
Instead, eat oily fish at least three times a week. Sardines, mackerel, herring and trout are all good sources.
Pink and brown fish tend to be the best.
Supplement this with lots of seeds and nuts and by eating an avocado a few times a week.
If this sounds impossible, you’re unlikely to be getting all the oils you need, so I recommend buying some coconut oil.
It contains fatty acids that keep the brain working and it can easily be added to porridge, salad, soups and bread or taken just off the spoon.
The next important nutrient worth a mention is B12.
We get B12 from red meat but it can be difficult to absorb, especially if you have digestive problems or take antacid medication like omeprazole.
I use a liquid B12 that absorbs in the mouth and people generally perk up from their brain fog within a week or two if their B12 levels were low.
If you or a family member are struggling to consume these things on a regular basis and also struggling with memory loss, have a good look at their nutrition.
While training, a nutritionist told me that one of the biggest impacts she had made with clients troubled by age related memory loss, was by simply putting the right proteins, oils and nutrients into the diet of a person that was otherwise eating poorly.
Food is such an important medicine, so make sure that you and your loved ones are getting enough.
For more information you can contact Nicola at Health and Herbs on 01524 413733.