Deck the halls with yams and green beans: 10 holiday foods that are good for memory December 09, 2015 16:07

Many Italian-Americans have a Christmas Eve tradition called "The feast of the seven fishes." Recipes vary, but usually it includes some combination of sea creatures like: Baccalà (salted cod fish), anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels and clams... sometimes these are mixed up in a bucket. Okay maybe that's just at my mother-in-law's house.

And why do they eat this meal? Clearly because they want to remember their holidays and boost their memory! (Warning: this is not the official reason for the feast of the seven fishes)

It turns out that there are many holiday favorites that allow you to retain your special memories all year round.

1. Fish

Several kinds of fish and shellfish (like those found in the seven fish feast) are high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) which because of a level of omega-3 fats are good for healthy brain function. Oily fish contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) omega-3 fats that are essential structurally for your brain. Since your body cannot produce omega-3 on its own, you must get these components from your daily diet. DHA-rich fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers. Studies also show that those with low DHA levels have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and incurring memory loss.

But how you cook the meal is important too; baked fish is much better than fried or salted.

2. Pass the Kale

Dark leafy greens and other vegetables like broccoli are particularly good for memory. They contain Vitamin K which has been shown to slow cognitive decline. In addition, Vitamin K has restorative properties on the brain, specifically on the orbito-frontal cortex.

3. Crack those nuts

It’s no longer just the ballet you have to sit through because your niece is a sugar plum fairy for 5 minutes of an excruciating 2 hour performance. Nut cracking is good for your memory. The American Journal of Epidemiology recently published a study that shows how vitamin E can help with memory and nuts are chock full of vitamin E.

4. Go for the hot cocoa

Whipped cream optional, but dark chocolate is what you are looking for and the darker the better (70% at least). Chocolate contains flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain. Mmm yummy blood flow.

5. Gobble them gobblers

Turkey is not only delicious, it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that has been shown to reduces anxiety. Okay that doesn’t directly affect memory, but being stressed negatively impacts brain health. So eat up and calm down.

6. Roasted pumpkin seeds

Zinc is important for your memory and cognitive skills and pumpkin seeds will give you all the zinc you need. What would we do without zinc?

7. Berry pie? Thanks berry much!

Blackberries, Blueberries, and Cherries (jubilee) contain anthocyanins and other flavonoids that have been linked to improved memory function. So have another slice.

8. Yams

With or without the marshmallow topping, yams provide various nutritional components. Yams also have Omega-3 fatty acids which reduces brain aging and helps with verbal memory, visuospatial memory, abstract reasoning, attention and executive functioning.

9. Cranberries

Are a “superfood” filled with antioxidants which protect against free radicals that negatively impact brain health. Cranberries, according to some research, can also reduce the chances of a stroke and are delicious with stuffing.

10. Green beans

Who wants casserole? Well, have a slab, because green beans have that Vitamin K to protect your brain cells and are rich in other vitamins, minerals, and plant derived micronutrients like dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and health promoting flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and ß-carotene.

So eat hearty, toast your friends and family for a happy and healthy holiday - but take it easy on the sweets, while a little sugar can boost your memory, too much can lead to impairment and the need to make gym-related New Year’s resolutions.

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