12 foods to save your memory

Brain health and memory is especially important to an aging population.

And that’s very apparent if you look at results from a survey I recently came across. It revealed that only 29 percent of respondents were concerned about losing physical abilities — but 62 percent were concerned about losing their mental capacity.

Mild cognitive impairment is estimated to affect 16 to 25 percent of Americans over the age of 65. My aging mother is bright, creative, and fun to talk to… but her short-term memory is fading. Why is this and what can be done about it? How can I — and how can you — avoid experiencing the same memory loss?

Brain function a mystery

Even though your brain is approximately 60 percent fat — it is a specialized fat comprised of nerve cells.

At high capacity your brain generates enough electricity to turn on a light bulb.

Your brain also does a lot for you automatically, such as regulating all your internal organ functions, body temperature, digestion and more. It directs all your movements and sensations, and controls your body via chemical secretions (hormones) and electrical impulses (nerve cells).

Then there is your mental reasoning and memory — that we desperately want to hold on to.

With brain function still largely a mystery, it’s great to know that scientists have discovered many ways to treat memory loss. Even more importantly, there are key nutrients for optimal memory and brain function.

Let me share what I think is most important to know about medications and nutrients for dementia.

Alzheimer’s dementia basics

Alzheimer’s dementia starts with mild memory loss and progresses until there is an inability to function in normal life due to impaired language skills, reasoning, concentration, and personality. Advanced Alzheimer’s patients cannot survive without a caretaker. Alzheimer’s is far more common than other dementia such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multi-infarct vascular dementia, and others.

If you look under the microscope at the brain tissue of an Alzheimer’s patient you will find “plaques and tangles” caused by sticky protein deposits called beta-amyloid and tau. Beta-amyloid builds up and blocks the neurotransmitter acetylcholine from crossing the synapse (space between nerve cells). Tau builds up inside nerve cell. Both block nerve communication and trigger inflammation and additional damage there.

Prescription medications

As I just mentioned, acetylcholine must be able to cross the synapse between cells for nerve transmission to occur. Current FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer’s disease work by enhancing acetylcholine function (cholinesterase inhibitors Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne), but they also lose their effect in just 6-12 months while underlying brain cell damage progresses. Namenda is a newer Alzheimer’s drug that also allows underlying brain cell damage to progress.

What contributes to abnormal protein build-up?

Science tells us that these abnormal proteins actually start forming in people with Alzheimer’s disease on average 16 years prior to noticeable memory loss or cognitive decline.

Other diseases, like listed here, and a genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease, will certainly hasten the disease process:

  • Small vessel (vascular) disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), from aging reduces blood flow and nutrient supply to the sensitive nerve tissue of Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Inflammation causes include an unhealthy gut lining (leaky gut syndrome and the autoimmune toxicity that it causes); xenobiotics (hormone mimickers); exposure to aluminum  (found in many deodorants, antacids, anti-diarrhea medications, baking powder, and cookware); malnutrition (even just too many refined carbohydrates and food chemicals), head injury, infections   and more.
  • Oxidative stress occurs in mitochondria (energy and processing factories) of nerve cells  caused by iron and copper (study authors suggest chelation therapy for this); low vascular blood flow (atherosclerosis); high homocysteine blood levels  (remember MTHFR gene SNP from a previous article); smoking; excess alcohol intake; excessive prescription medications; pesticides (on produce); chemicals in personal care products (xenoestrogens); and excessive exposure to electromagnetic frequencies (EMF).

Help reverse Alzheimer’s starting with nutrition

There is some impressive science that has been done using nutrient-rich raw foods to actually reverse the disease process of Alzheimer’s. James Joseph and colleagues of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston have led the way in these studies.

In the September 1999 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience they reported that rats were fed vitamin E, strawberry extracts, or spinach extracts from the time they initially became adults into their middle age and did not experience losses in their cognitive performance, as did the control rats that were fed standard chow.

Moreover, Dr. Joseph and colleagues then proved that these same nutrients reversed Alzheimer’s disease in mice. Amazingly, the Alzheimer mice that were fed blueberry extract performed much better than those fed standard chow—even as well as the healthy controls. They reported their findings in the June 2003 issue of Nutritional Neuroscience, showing for the first time that it may be possible to overcome genetic predispositions to Alzheimer disease through diet. Moreover, blueberries, spinach, and spirulina helped reverse vascular damage (a major contributor to dementia) as reported in the May 2005 issue of Experimental Neurology.

Best foods for memory

Therefore, let me list what I have read are the best foods to help reverse Alzheimer’s dementia. These are foods with the highest complete protein, anti-oxidant activity, mineral content and anti-inflammatory effect:

  1. Wild salmon (contains omega-3 oil)
  2. Cacao powder or dark chocolate (not milk chocolate with high sugar content)
  3. Matcha (Gyokuru green tea powder) contains EGCG (Epigallocatechin Gallate) content as high as 10 times greater than other green teas
  4. Acai berries or blueberries (some of the strongest antioxidant foods known)
  5. Coffee beans: regular coffee consumption has been shown in several studies to reduce dementia (from fresh ground beans, without artificial creams/sweeteners)
  6. Grape juice, pomegranate juice (contain the antioxidant resveratrol)
  7. Apples (contain the antioxidant flavonoid called quercetin)
  8. Leafy green vegetables: spinach and collard greens (high in phytonutrients)
  9. Avocados, unsalted nuts and seeds (vitamin E, healthy oil)
  10. Goji berries (a.k.a. wolfberries) are known to have strong antioxidant properties
  11. Allum foods: garlic, onions, chives, leeks, shallots and scallions. These contain flavonoid antioxidants thought to reduce the Alzheimer’s disease process.
  12. More great foods: bananas, brewer’s yeast, broccoli, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, feta cheese, chicken, collard greens, eggs, flaxseed oil, legumes, oatmeal, oranges, peanut butter, peas, potatoes (not in excess), romaine lettuce, soybeans, spinach, tuna, turkey, wheat germ, and plain yogurt.

Remember you will also want to eliminate the following foods as much as possible: alcohol (except for wine in small amounts); artificial food colorings; artificial sweeteners; colas, sodas and high-sugar drinks; corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup; frostings; hydrogenated fats; refined sugars; white bread; and nicotine.In my next article I’ll reveal the best nutrient supplements and other methods known to help naturally reverse dementia.

To feeling good for health,

Michael Cutler, M.D
Easy Health Options


  1. Research!America. American speaks: poll data summary. Volume 7. Alexandria (VA); Research!America, 2006. Available at: http://www.researchamerica.org/publications/AmericaSpeaks/AmericaSpeaksV7.pdf.
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  6. Fasano A. Leaky gut and autoimmune diseases. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2012 Feb;42(1):71-8.
  7. Walton JR. Aluminum involvement in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.  J Alzheimers Dis. 2013 Jan 1;35(1):7-43.
  8. Shaw CA, Tomljenovic L. Aluminum in the central nervous system (CNS): toxicity in humans and animals, vaccine adjuvants, and autoimmunity. Immunol Res. 2013 Jul;56(2-3):304-16.
  9. Bhattacharjee S, Zhao Y, Hill JM, Culicchia F, Kruck TP, Percy ME, Pogue AI, Walton JR, Lukiw WJ. Selective accumulation of aluminum in cerebral arteries in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). J Inorg Biochem. 2013 Sep;126:35-7.
  10. Yokel RA. Blood-brain barrier flux of aluminum, manganese, iron and other metals suspected to contribute to metal-induced neurodegeneration. J Alzheimers Dis. 2006 Nov;10(2-3):223-53.
  11. Armstrong RA. What causes alzheimer’s disease? Folia Neuropathol. 2013;51(3):169-188.
  12. Forero DA, Casadesus G, Perry G, Arboleda H. Synaptic dysfunction and oxidative stress in Alzheimer’s disease: emerging mechanisms. J Cell Mol Med. 2006 Jul-Sep;10(3):796-805.
  13. Zhu X, Su B, Wang X, Smith MA, Perry G. Causes of oxidative stress in Alzheimer disease. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 Sep;64(17):2202-10.
  14. Smith MA, Nunomura A, Zhu X, Takeda A, Perry G. Metabolic, metallic, and mitotic sources of oxidative stress in Alzheimer disease. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2000 Fall;2(3):413-20.
  15. Zhu X, Su B, Wang X, Smith MA, Perry G. Causes of oxidative stress in Alzheimer disease. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 Sep;64(17):2202-10.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Joseph JA, Shukitt-Hale B, Denisova NA, Bielinski D, Martin A, McEwen JJ, Bickford PC. Reversals of age-related declines in neuronal signal transduction, cognitive, and motor behavioral deficits with blueberry, spinach, or strawberry dietary supplementation. J Neurosci. 1999 Sep 15;19(18):8114-21.
  18. Joseph JA, Denisova NA, Arendash G, Gordon M, Diamond D, Shukitt-Hale B, Morgan D. Blueberry supplementation enhances signaling and prevents behavioral deficits in an Alzheimer disease model. Nutr Neurosci. 2003 Jun;6(3):153-62.
  19. Wang Y, Chang CF, Chou J, et al. Dietary supplementation with blueberries, spinach, or spirulina reduces ischemic brain damage. Exp Neurol. 2005 May;193(1):75-84.
Dr. Michael Cutler

By Dr. Michael Cutler

Dr. Michael Cutler is a graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine and is a board-certified family physician with more than 20 years of experience. He serves as a medical liaison to alternative and traditional practicing physicians. His practice focuses on an integrative solution to health problems. Dr. Cutler is a sought-after speaker and lecturer on experiencing optimum health through natural medicines and founder of the original Easy Health Options™ newsletter — an advisory on natural healing therapies and nutrients. His current practice is San Diego Integrative Medicine, near San Diego, California.