Where did I put my car keys? What day is it? What was on my grocery list?
No matter your age, we all look for ways to improve our memory, get smarter, or just keep our brain – and our bodies – healthy. Just as food affects the health of the rest of our bodies, what we eat also affects our memory, cognition, mood, and focus.
Many spices and herbs are known to promote brain power, improve memory and focus, and offer protection to your brain cells. For example, gingko biloba is a common herbal supplement used to improve memory.
RELATED: How Your Brain Makes Food Decisions
Here are four spices that may help improve brain function that you can begin adding to your diet today.
Never Miss a Beat!
Subscribe to Our HealthBeat Newsletter!
Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!
4 Spices That Boost Your Brain
Turmeric is the key spice in curry that gives it its yellow color.
Curcumin, the most commonly studied compound in turmeric, is known for its ability to reduce inflammation, thereby offering preventive benefits for a host of diseases including diabetes, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease. A recent study found that aromatic-turmerone, another compound in the spice, may help brain cells repair themselves.
Although turmeric is common in curry, you can get this spice on its own. It has a mild, smoky flavor, making it easy to add to any dish. Sprinkle it on steamed vegetables, or add color and flavor to fish and chicken. It also makes a great food dye, as only a little bit will turn anything yellow.
You’ve probably already have cinnamon in your cabinet, and at least use it occasionally. This spice could be labeled a superfood with its antioxidant content ranking up there with blueberries and pomegranates. It also has the added benefit of reducing inflammation, fighting bacteria and making you more alert.
One study has shown that cinnamon can increase cognitive functioning, even just through smell alone, and it is being considered as a possible treatment to enhance cognition in the elderly and people with symptoms of dementia.
You’ll find two common types of cinnamon: Ceylon and cassia. When adding cinnamon to your daily diet, a little goes a long way. Just half a teaspoon to one teaspoon a day is all you need. That’s a little sprinkle in your coffee, cereal, oatmeal, or toast. For an added kick at dinner, try adding cinnamon to a spice rub with your favorite peppery spices.
This is a great spice for those suffering from depression. In studies, saffron offered as a supplement has shown to greatly reduce depression symptoms.
Saffron has an intense flavor, so if you add it to food, just use a tiny pinch. Supplement form may be the best route to take this spice – though, as it is expensive.
Black pepper is one of the most commonly traded spices in the world and may have quite a few brain-boosting effects. Studies have shown that piperine, the primary component in black pepper, can help improve brain function and lower depression symptoms. It’s also great to pair with other foods and spices, especially turmeric, because it may improve the bioavailability of nutrients in other foods, meaning your body absorbs more of the good stuff from what you eat.
So try spicing up your meals a little more, and maybe you’ll have better luck finding your keys tomorrow.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
Connect with UPMC
The UPMC Department of Neurosurgery is the largest academic neurosurgical provider in the United States. We treat conditions of the brain, skull base, spine, and nerves, including the most complex disorders. We perform more than 11,000 procedures each year, making our team one of the most experienced in the world. Whether your condition requires surgery or not, we strive to provide the most advanced, complete care possible. Our surgeons are developing new techniques and tools, including minimally invasive treatments. Find an expert near you.