Food for thought may improve your brain power

Whether you’re looking to get superior marks on an upcoming SAT, or you’re a senior looking to keep your grades up with as little studying as possible, eating certain foods could be the key to success. There are lots of vitamins and nutrients that can help improve memory and brain function, but here are a few you may want to pack in your lunch or incorporate into your pre-test breakfasts.

Egg yolks:  Egg yolks are one of the best sources of choline.  Laboratory studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have shown that choline improves memory in rat pups.  While it hasn’t been proven to help humans, it is possible that the effects could be similar.

Cinnamon: According to an article published in Women’s Health Magazine, cinnamon speeds up the rate at which people process visual cues, and is known to increase alertness, which makes it helpful towards students and student athletes.  Also a study conducted by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush at the Wheeling Jesuit University found that the scent of cinnamon keeps drivers more conscious and alert. Cinnamon is easy to add to your breakfast by sprinkling it over cereal and yogurt, or stirring it into your milk.

Blueberries: Darker colored berries contain polyphenolics, which not only fight disease in the body, but according to the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, may also sharpen memory.  In addition, a study at Tufts University found that anthocyanins (a pigment found in blueberries) improve brain cell communication.

Rosemary: Researchers discovered that the scent of rosemary may improve memory.  In a study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience and conducted by Dr. Mark Moss and colleagues, volunteers took cognitive tests in an unscented room, a rosemary-scented room, and a lavender-scented room. Those exposed to the rosemary did the best, followed by the unscented room, and then the lavender room.

Healthy Fats: According to the Franklin Institute your brain is about 2/3 fat, and (for those of you who haven’t taken physiology) myelin, the protective coating around neurotransmitters, is 70 percent fat.  Keep your brain and breakfast healthy by including fats in your diet, such as those found in fish, avocados and walnuts (among many other foods).  In addition, fatty acids (such as omega-3 which found in fish) can help your body produce acetycholine, an important neurotransmitter for memory. Keep in mind, the majority of the fats you eat should be unsaturated fats (opposed to saturated or trans fats).

Written by Hannah Berman. This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue.