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Food for the Brain

From blueberries to tomatoes, these 10 brain foods are proven to boost memory, help us think clearly, and contribute to overall good health.

The old maxim "You are what you eat," turns out to be true. New research on so-called "brain foods" shows that some chemicals in the foods we eat go right to our brain cells.

But can food really make us more intelligent, give us smarter kids, improve memory, help us think more clearly, and maybe even forestall those so-called "senior moments," or worse, dementia?

The answer is a qualified "yes." Although no one "miracle" food is going to boost your brain power instantly, make your kid a genius, or cure Alzheimer's, regularly adding certain foods to your diet will help you function at your personal best, both physically and mentally, throughout your lifetime.

Blueberries have been shown to have the highest concentration of antioxidants of any fruit that has been studied. One half cup of blueberries has as much antioxidant power as five servings of carrots, peas, apples, broccoli, or squash. Blueberries offer protection from oxidative stress in the heart — as well as the brain.

High in vitamin K, broccoli is known to enhance brain power and improve cognitive function. Researchers at the Dundee University in Scotland found that sulforaphane, a chemical found in broccoli, can help keep the brain sharp and fight the deterioration of brain cells that cause Alzheimer's disease.

A Harvard University study showed American men who took 50mg of the antioxidant beta-carotene every other day for 15 years delayed cognitive ageing. Not a pill popper? Five servings of carrots a week reduce the risk of stroke by 68 percent.

Fatty fish is the richest source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been touted as a brain tonic for young and old alike. In one study, elderly people who ate fish at least once a week slowed cognitive decline about 10 percent compared to those who didn't chow down on fish, and the fish-eaters also performed better on tests of memory and mental sharpness.

Green Tea
Researchers in Japan found drinking a cup a day cuts your risk of age-related cognitive decline by 37 percent compared to those who consume less. Let it steep for at least three minutes for more brain benefits. The helpful compounds, polyphenols, are also found in olive oil, chocolate and both beer and wine.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests that a good intake of vitamin E might help to prevent poor memory. Nuts, particularly almonds and hazelnuts, are excellent sources of natural vitamin E.

Pumpkin Seeds
Just a handful a day is all you need to get your recommended daily amount of zinc, vital for enhancing memory and thinking skills. Pumpkin seeds also contain omega 3 and a high amount of magnesium, which has a calming effect on the brain.

Raisins are good for your brain because they are an excellent source of boron, a trace element that improves hand-eye coordination, attention and memory. Other good sources of boron include hazelnuts, almonds and dried apricots.

Japanese scientists found that a diet supplemented with rosemary extract resulted in less brain damage thanks to the herb's ability to combat free radicals, preventing the onset of degenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease.

There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's. Interestingly, cooking and processing tomatoes increases the bioavailability of lycopene by releasing it from the vegetable fiber. Lycopene in tomato paste is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes.

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