I get asked all the time whether or not diet can improve memory. The short answer is a resounding “yes.” It’s really true that “You are what you eat.” Most people recognize that what they eat affects physical health. If they live on a high-fat diet, they’re likely to develop heart disease. Avoiding calcium-rich milk will increase the risk for osteoporosis. But it takes years of eating poorly before these diseases rear their ugly heads. Long before your bones crumble or your arteries clog, your thinking is blurred by the wrong food choices. In fact, the link is so immediate that literally what you eat or don’t eat for breakfast can affect how clearly you think or how well you recall information by mid-afternoon. Some foods also will help you side step memory loss and even Alzheimer’s down the road!

On the other hand, poor diets not only fail to provide these essential brain protectors, but add insult to injury by flooding the brain with harmful substances. For example, saturated fat clogs blood vessels, which are then less able to transport oxygen to the brain. It’s no wonder that people who shun fish and vegetables and eat lots of meat, fast foods, and fatty dairy products are most prone to depression, memory loss, and poor concentration, while people with the sharpest minds typically eat diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol, but feast on fruits, vegetables, and the brain-boosting nutrients in these foods.

How does food affect thinking? In a nutshell, a good diet protects your mind by providing nutrients that

1) are the basic fuel for brain cells to run on, such as carbs.

2) are building blocks for nerve and brain cells, such as the omega-3s

3) serve as assembly line workers to maintain optimal brain function, such as B vitamins

4) act as warriors and ammunition to protect delicate brain tissue from damage, such as the antioxidants

I’ll provide more details later, but suffice it to say you need a good breakfast, a light and healthy lunch, the right snacks, a hefty dose of certain nutrients every day, and a not-too-heavy dinner to boost both energy level and memory.