Fresh. Fit. Focused.: Memory-Boosting Foods


Melissa Schmitz, Asst. Opinion Editor

The first tests of the semester are coming, if you haven’t had some already. So here are some foods that will help boost your memory.

1. Apples

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts believe apples have the right amount of antioxidants to raise acetylcholine levels, a neurotransmitter essential to memory. Antioxidants also help protect brain cells from the damaging oxidation of free radicals. Additionally, apples have been shown to reduce risk of certain cancers. An apple a day keeps the neurologist away!

2. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables

Broccoli and spinach are great sources of vitamin E and folate. A study from Rush University in Chicago suggested that vitamin E may help to protect neurons from Alzheimer’s disease. Folate helps to reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood which, if at high levels, may trigger the death of nerve cells in the brain. Go for the green next time you’re in the cafeteria!

3. Green Tea

EGCG, found in green tea, reduces protein build-up in the brain that is linked to memory loss, a key symptom of neurdegenerative diseases. It also works to promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus, which controls memory and learning in the brain.  Skip the hot chocolate and try green tea instead!

4. Berries

Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are packed with phytochemicals that prevent oxidation. A Harvard study found that people who ate a cup of berries weekly experienced a 2.5-year delay in mental decline compared to those who rarely ate berries. Add them to yogurt, shakes, or eat them alone!

5. Whole Eggs

Yolks are packed with nutrients, but most relevant to memory is choline. Choline has been shown to reduce signs of dementia and lower blood levels of homocysteine. Excess choline also helps to construct acetylcholine, which helps with memory.  Try adding at least one yolk to your breakfast (then egg whites for extra protein), but be sure to eat it in moderation due to cholesterol content.

6. Shrimp

Shrimp contains high levels of vitamin B12, which prevents memory decline and keeps neurons healthy. Together with vitamin B6 and folate, it aids in eliminating homocysteine. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which improve memory function as you age, and the high levels of DHA are important for normal functioning of neurons. Try some in stir fry!

7. Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds contain healthy fat, which reduces inflammation, providing a steady oxygen supply to the brain. In addition to the memory benefits, they are also high in protein which keeps you full longer, making it a great snack. Keep nuts in your bag for a snack or sprinkle some sunflower seeds on salad.

8. Coffee

As it turns out, the coffee provided during finals does more than keep you awake. Researchers in Austria found that people who drank two cups of coffee showed improved reaction time, neuron signaling, and memory compared to a caffeine-free brain. Another European study also showed that those who averaged three cups a day experienced less mental decline.

9. Avocados

Avocados contain monounsaturated fat. This fat allows for better blood flow to the brain, meaning more oxygen to brain areas that aid in thinking and remembering. They also pack vitamin E and vitamin C, which are associated with lower risk of Alzheimer’s. As an added bonus, these healthy fats don’t accumulate on your belly like unhealthy fats!

10. Olive Oil

High in omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil also packs a punch of vitamin E. Important to note, however, that taking supplements does not have the same benefit as eating foods rich in vitamin E, such as olive oil or dark greens. So next time you get a salad at the cafeteria, try oil and vinegar instead of dressings like ranch that are high in unhealthy fats.


While not a food, exercise is also helpful for memory. A regular fitness routine increases neurotransmitter levels, prevents neuronal injury, improves nutrient and oxygen delivery, and promotes neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Consider taking a study break to hit the if you’re feeling burned out. Not only will you reap the memory benefits, but you will also be more alert to continue studying.