Such instances of “brain fog” are common, but they are not an inevitable part of aging. Many people remain remarkably sharp all their lives — and the right nutritional strategies can help you be one of them.
Cognitive declines can result from hormonal changes and reductions in neurotransmitters, chemicals that help brain cells communicate with each other. Increasing your intake of certain nutrients helps balance hormones and protect neurotransmitters. You can get these nutrients from…
Reasons: The body is designed to absorb nutrients from foods rather than from isolated or manufactured chemicals (such as in supplements)… and foods contain complementary components that enhance nutrient absorption.
Important: Ask your doctor before supplementing, especially if you have a health condition… use medication… or are pregnant or breast-feeding. To reduce the risk for interactions, do not take supplements within 30 minutes of medication… and limit your use of these supplements to any four of the following.
NUTRIENTS YOUR MIND NEEDS
For the foods recommended below, one serving equals four ounces of meat, poultry, fish, or soy products… eight ounces of milk… two ounces of nuts… two eggs (with yolks)… one-half cup of vegetables or fruit… and one cup of leafy greens.
Brain boost: Eat one or more servings daily of choline-rich broccoli, cauliflower, eggs, kidney beans, navy beans, liver, milk or peanuts.
Supplement option: 1,200 milligrams (mg) daily.
Brain boost: Have two servings weekly of DMAE-rich anchovies or sardines. If fresh fish is not available, have canned water-packed sardines or anchovies and rinse before eating to reduce salt.
Supplement option: 500 mg twice daily after meals.
Brain boost: Have two weekly servings of lamb or poultry, which are rich in L-carnitine.
Supplement option: 500 mg to 1,000 mg before breakfast and again in the afternoon.
Brain boost: Have two servings weekly of beef or lamb… halibut, salmon, sardines or sea bass… eggs… or vitamin B-12–enriched soybean products (miso, tempeh).
Supplement option: 500 micrograms (mcg) to 1,000 mcg daily.
THE MOST HELPFUL HERBS
An easy way to get the benefits of mind-sharpening herbs is to brew them into a tisane, or herbal infusion — more commonly called herbal tea.
To brew: Pour eight ounces of very hot water over one heaping tablespoon of fresh herbs or one teaspoon of dried herbs. Steep for five minutes, strain and drink.
Convenient: To reduce the number of cups needed to meet the daily recommendations below, brew two or more herbs together.
Brain boost: Drink one to two cups of Chinese club moss tea each day.
Supplement option: 50 mcg of huperzine A twice daily (discontinue if supplements cause gastric upset or hyperactivity).
Caution: Do not use ginkgo if you take blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Brain boost: Drink three cups of ginkgo tea daily.
Supplement option: 120 mg daily.
Brain boost: Use any or all of these herbs to brew a cup of tea for a pick-me-up in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Also: Use herbs liberally when cooking.
Supplement option: About 150 mg each of any or all of these herbs daily, alone or in combination.
Brain boost: Twice a week, drink one cup of mugwort tea… add a half-dozen leaves of fresh mugwort to salad… or sauté leaves with garlic or onions.
Supplement option: 300 mg daily.
Caution: Avoid mugwort during pregnancy — it may stimulate uterine contractions.
Don’t forget: Green Tea
Strictly speaking, an herb is a flowering plant whose stem above ground does not become woody. In that sense, the leaf of the Camellia sinensis shrub — otherwise known as tea — is not an herb. Yet green tea (which is less oxidized than black) is so helpful that it must be listed among the top brain boosters.
Along with antioxidant polyphenols, green tea provides the amino acid theanine, which stimulates calming alpha brain waves and improves concentration. Green tea also has been linked to a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
To brew: Pour eight ounces of very hot water over one teaspoon of loose, fresh green tea leaves (or a tea bag if fresh is not available) and steep for three to five minutes. You needn’t strain the tea. As you empty your cup, you can add more warm water to the remaining leaves — as long as the water turns green, the tea still contains polyphenols.
Brain boost: Drink three cups of green tea (caffeinated or decaffeinated) daily.
Supplement option: 350 mg of green tea extract daily.