Researchers are working feverishly to make new headway in neuroscience and ways to help us with our memory. Although you can’t keep up with every new study out there (and you know I keep trying) there is often conflicting information and the wording can be hard to understand, unless you are a doctor or a scientist.
There are some things the majority of scientists can agree on, and one of these involves the use of brain food and spice in your diet. There is a belief among most researchers that certain foods help to add zing to the memory and overall body functions, and can even kick your culinary skills up a notch as well.
Spices are simple to use, and there are so many that have health benefits, that adding at least one or two extra spices a day to your regular fare can make significant changes in your overall health. I’d like to add a note here. Most of the foods scientists are now discovering that have beneficial effects to your brain and your body our ancestors have known for centuries (although there was no scientific evidence to back them up). Scientists are always skeptical of homeopathic or ancient herbs and foods that have been used for centuries because they have to prove everything for themselves through experimentation.
So, let’s spice up this article with a combination of good, solid research and a touch of ancient talismans. The following spices are brain foods and just a few of many that have qualities that will benefit our brains and our hearts. Most of them you probably already have in your cupboard.
Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric, Curcumin, is what gives curry its yellow color. It breaks up amyloid beta, the abnormal protein buildup in the brain. Turmeric and Curcumin may just be the reason there are a quarter the number of Alzheimer’s cases in India than in the U.S. Curcumin has also been found to reduce inflammation, found by research to be the number one cause of memory problems, as well as joint pain. Curcumin inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Just a teaspoon of curry powder (which is a blend of turmeric and other spices) is equal to ½ cup of red grapes in antioxidants.
Saffron: A 2007 study found the spice saffron to work as well as Prozac and other anti-depressant drugs in treating mild-to-moderate cases of depression, which can cause memory problems. All that is needed is ½ teaspoon of saffron added to 2 cups of rice. Saffron is on par with strawberries, cherries and raspberries as a concentrated source of antioxidants.
Garlic: I am a big garlic fan; so adding this to my food has never been a problem. Garlic has many benefits, like lowering cholesterol to fight plaque. It also helps to fight brain cancer. In at least one study, garlic eliminated cancer cells. Who knows what medicinal qualities lay beyond those fragrant cloves!
Cinnamon: A doctor friend recommends cinnamon for a number of reasons, most importantly for regulating sugar levels, lowering cholesterol and keeping you focused. A recent study found that it speeds the rate at which your brain processes visual cues. Cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice — and even more than many foods. There are as many antioxidants in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon as a full cup of pomegranate juice or ½ cup of blueberries. Chewing cinnamon gum may keep your brain sharp, so chomp away to a better memory.
Cayenne Peppers: A real “hot” spice, cayenne pepper has been known to increase the blood flow throughout the body and reduce risk for heart disease. It also is used for elimination of gas in the intestines, can reduce the risk of sore throats and flue, and helps speed up the metabolism to lose weight.
Thyme: A teaspoon of thyme has about the same amount of antioxidants as a carrot or ½ a cup of chopped tomatoes. And the flavonoids in this spice give it antioxidant properties as well. Some studies have suggested these antioxidants may have age-related benefits like helping to maintain cognitive function and promote heart health.
Coffee: I know, coffee is not a spice but I had to sneak it in because scientists have documented coffee’s ability to stimulate blood flow, enhance learning and memory and speed the processing of information. Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease says that coffee can a ward off some effects of aging on the brain. Previous research has shown that caffeine can weaken the damage of Alzheimer’s disease caused by the toxic peptide that forms plaques in the brains of Alzheimer patients. New findings show that women (not the same for men, for whatever reason) who drank 3 or more cups of coffee a day (or 6 cups of tea) were protected against the deterioration and loss of brain tissue.
Don’t give up on brain exercises, but adding these spices to your diet can definitely enhance your health and memory functions — and there’s no down side to that!
About the author:
Ron White is a two-time USA Memory Champion
BeliefnetTV – Surprising Health Benefits of Spices: http://partners.beliefnet.com/watch/833741747001/surprising-health-benefits-spices
Healthy Women, Informed, Empowered — Brain Healthy Spices You Should Be Using: http://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/brain-healthy-spices-you-should-be-using