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New research from Northumbria University has shown that the scent of rosemary could improve memory by 15% in older people, a small but significant difference which could prove life-saving.
In the study, 150 pensioners were randomly allocated into rooms with either a rosemary aroma, lavender aroma or no scent at all. They were then given a memory test. Those that were placed in the room with a rosemary scent outperformed the other participants.
Dr. Mark Moss, head of the Department of Psychology at Northumbria University, said: "My working hypothesis is that when you inhale rosemary its compounds are absorbed in the blood through the lungs and then are sent to the brain where they can actually act on your brain chemistry."
Reap the benefits of rosemary by growing your own plant or keeping a diffuser in the house, like the True Grace Rosemary and Eucalyptus Diffuser (opens in new tab).
The scientists from Northumbria also looked into the effects of peppermint and chamomile tea on memory.
In a study of 180 participants, peppermint tea was shown to improve long-term memory, working memory and alertness.
In contrast, chamomile tea - a known relaxant - decreased memory and attention speed.
"The enhancing and arousing effects of peppermint and the calming/sedative effects of chamomile observed in this study are in keeping with the claimed properties of these herbs and suggest beneficial effects can be drawn from their use," said Dr. Moss.
Read more on the benefits of herbal tea (opens in new tab).
Oily fish, such as mackerel, sardines and herring, are often cited as brain foods, thanks to being packed with omega-3 fatty acids, essential for healthy eyesight and brain development. Low levels of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, have been linked to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and memory loss.
Cod Liver Oil
Similarly, cod liver oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, something our diets are often lacking. Two teaspoons of cod liver oil a day will provide you with vitamins A and D and about 2g of omega-3 fatty acids - more than enough to meet the recommended daily intake and great for brain food.
Fruits And Vegetables
Full of vitamins, minerals and fibre, it's no wonder that your 5-a-day can help boost your memory.
Antioxidants found in foods such as blackcurrants, broccoli, tomatoes, blueberries and avocados can protect against free radical damage that can occur in the development of dementia.
Yoghurt, cheese, milk and other foods rich in calcium help to improve the function of nerves. Studies have shown that tyrosine, the amino acid in yoghurt, is responsible for the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenalin, which are crucial for alertness and memory.
The brain needs a energy to function properly. One of the best ways to improve cognitive function is to eat unrefined carbohydrates that release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, such as brown rice and pasta, wholegrain bread and oats.
Beans, lentils and legumes are also good sources of low-GI carbohydrates to stabilised blood sugar levels and improve concentration and focus.
Packed with vitamin E, healthy fats and fibre, nuts are an all-round excellent brain food. Research has shown that adequate vitamin E intake may help prevent cognitive decline, especially in older people. Eat a handful a day of brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, almonds or peanuts for the best results.
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