Eggs, coffee, blueberries, dark chocolate, walnuts, avocados, kale….
No, this is not my shopping list. It is a list of foods touted by popular press, to improve memory and cognitive function. Recently I asked students in my Human Memory class to investigate a food believed to be related to memory improvement. The above foods made the list along with several other suggestions (e.g., eat the Mediterranean diet, take supplements like turmeric and vitamin E, and drink red wine). Students were required to provide the source of claim — almost always a popular press site. Then they noted whether the article referenced a scientific study and other features of the source’s validity like whether or not the article was sponsored content.
Finally, the students checked our library databases to see if their was any scientific research to support the claim and make an overall recommendation about adding or not adding the food to a daily diet.
You are hoping that now I bring you great clarity about what to eat for an efficient, better than before memory?……………
What did the students find?
1.) Some of the articles were sponsored. So, we can’t be sure there is not bias in reporting to serve the sponsorship.
2.) Most of the articles did reference a research study. This is great!
3.) When articles did reference research, the results cannot (yet) be applied to every-day eating habits.
What does this mean for us?
Although we might like drinking coffee and eating chocolate, we cannot follow a specific guideline for eating this food in a way that would benefit memory. Tips such as drinking black coffee (avoiding sweeteners and sugary cream) are always solid. However, how much coffee is best for cognition is undefined. For chocolate, research suggests a serving of 1 ounce a day would be beneficial. Again though, consider mistakes people might make as they indulge in their “daily” chocolate. I can see my kid generalizing this to eating his hidden away Halloween candy! There simply is not enough evidence to prescribe a diet with any of these foods to see direct memory and cognitive benefits.
What can you do for your memory?
Suggestions for cognitive improvement walk the line for healthy living. Eating a balanced diet low in saturated fats and sugar, along with plenty of fruits and vegetables is sound advice. Exercise is important but individual differences on best exercises for you and your body is as varied as food.
I suggest, the LEARN method to improve memory: Listen (pay attention), Elaborate, Associate, Re-tell, and Night (get a full-night of sleep). To find more about this method, see my post on Learning Styles.