Memory enhancing foods

Throughout the ages from the ancient Greeks to early Christian monks, scholars have used a number of mental techniques to train their minds to keep track of the rapidly increasing field of knowledge. In today’s world there seems to be so many more things to keep track of and as we get older more difficult. Here is a selection of five foods for the memory which are both respected by science and revered by the ancients.


Rosemary is one of the most famous memory-enhancing herbs. Rosemary is rich in the anti-oxidant, carnosic acid which dilates the cerebral vascular tissues. Studies have shown that even the smell of rosemary can improve memory performance in office workers. Other herbs that may help memory include “the three Gs”: ginko, ginseng, and gotu kola. No one is sure how they work quite yet but they do stimulate the brain’s neurotransmitters.


Tea has a long pedigree and seems to have many benefits on the brain. About 5000 years ago the inventor and Chinese emperor Shen Nung discovered that the combination of a certain wild leaf in hot water produced an invigorating beverage. He called it “cha” from the Chinese word meaning “to investigate” a word which we now know as chai or tea. Tea’s benefits may spring from its healthy combination of anti-oxidants and caffeine. According to a study by the University of Limburg in the Netherlands, “the most important consequence of [caffeine’s] adenosine antagonism … might lead to improvement of higher cognitive functions, particularly memory.” The antioxidants in tea are called polyphenols which have repeatedly been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. Tea also contains a calming amino acid called theanine which helps reduce “the jitters” and keeps the mind relaxed and focused. However, the best news is that tea has up to 10 times the polyphenols found in foods like fruits and vegetables.

Fruits & Vegetables

What we must remember about memory boosting foods is colour. You need dark reds, blues and greens. Apples contain quercetin which protects against memory loss. Blueberries (and red beets) have another great anti-oxidant called anthocyanin which performs the same function. Red onions and grapes contain both. Combine red and blue and you get the purple of eggplant, a food rich in nasunin which protects the lipids in our brain tissue. Dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, brussell sprouts and romaine lettuce are high in folic acid which several studi

Fish & Nuts

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish (and nuts) are great for the brain. Mackerel, herring, eel and tuna are also bursting with phosphatidylserine. Just remember that these oils contain nutrients that are not made in the body, so it’s important to eat plenty.


Every culture in history has enjoyed honey and has been used for thousands of years in food, medicine and even religion. The sweet product made by bees from flower nectar has been used for thousands of years in food, medicine and even religion. In research by the University of Waikato in New Zealand, it suggests that a diet sweetened with honey could both lower anxiety and improve memory. What an excellent excuse for a dessert.

A nice cup of tea and a slice of honey-soaked baklava (containing omega-3 rich nuts of course) might be the perfect way to end a healthy meal.

It appears that a good memory might not just be the result of what you learn with your eyes and ears but what you eat as well.