Like the body's muscles, the human brain requires proper nutrition and exercise to function efficiently and consistently. If you want to retain your memory, keeping your brain active through ongoing education, crossword puzzles or other challenging intellectual exercise can help. So can moderate physical exercise. "Simply taking a walk for two blocks each day is very beneficial," says George Kuchel, M.D., of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. However, to get the maximum benefit from mental and physical workouts, you should fuel your brain with a healthy diet, including foods and vitamins that help retain memory.
Foods derived from animals--meat, dairy, fish and poultry--are the only foods in which vitamin B12 occurs naturally. If you don't get enough of this vitamin, you could suffer memory loss and other neurological problems, according to the Harvard School of Mental Health website. If you are vegetarian or vegan, look for foods fortified with vitamin B12, or take B12 supplements.
Fish, particularly salmon, halibut and tuna, is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. The University of Maryland Medical Center website states that omega-3 fatty acids appear to help with cognitive functions, including memory.
Fruits and Vegetables
Kiwi fruit is rich in omega-3 fatty acids; University of California professor of neurosurgery Fernando Gomez-Pinilla identifies is it as one of many foods that help people retain memory. Gomez-Pinilla, after analyzing more than 160 studies on how food affects the brain, said the folic acid in spinach and orange juice improves cognitive function.
Nuts and Berries
Walnuts are rich source of omega-3s, according to Gomez-Pinilla. Blueberries, strawberries and acai berries, which are rich in antioxidants, also may help keep the memory functioning. In 2010, Shibu Poulose of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center presented a study to the American Chemical Society showing that berries "help clean up biochemical debris that would interfere with brain function," according to a report by the Montreal Gazette. This debris accumulates with age, as the microglia cells that normally perform this "housecleaning" function begin to decline.
Gomez-Pinilla's research indicates that folic acid supplements, taken by themselves or with other B vitamins, may reduce the risk of dementia and "age-related decline in cognitive function," according to a University of California press release. Vitamins E, C, and beta carotene may also prevent memory loss associated with aging, though a Harvard Medical School special report notes that research in this area has yielded mixed results. Moreover, anyone taking anticoagulant medication or suffering from any bleeding disorder--including a vitamin K deficiency affecting blood coagulation--should consult a health care professional before taking vitamins C and E.