4 Best Herbs for the Brain

Find out why these spices should be included in your diet.

Most herbs and spices have medicinal benefits, and a handful are thought to boost brain health. Aim to get more of these four in particular.

1. Turmeric
Brain benefit
This mustard yellow powder is an antioxidant and a powerful anti-inflammatory. In India, where turmeric is eaten daily in curries, the risk of developing Alzheimer’s is 25 percent lower than the risk in the U.S. In lab studies, mice that were fed curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) developed fewer amyloid plaques, associated with Alzheimer’s, than rats that weren’t.

How to eat more
Add turmeric or curry powder to any curry dish and to egg salad. Include up to a teaspoonful in pea soup or your favorite lentil dish. Add turmeric to casseroles and in place of saffron in paella and Spanish rice.

2. Sage
Brain benefit
A member of the mint family, sage is a known memory enhancer and may protect the brain against certain processes that lead to Alzheimer’s. It may work by protecting acetylcholine, a chemical messenger in the brain that’s critical to memory. In a British study, healthy young adults performed better on word recall tests after taking sage-oil capsules.

How to eat more
Add to omelets, tomato sauce, butternut squash, roasted chicken or pork. Steep 2 teaspoons dried sage in just-boiled water for a strong cup of tea that provides a therapeutic dose.

3. Wasabi
Brain benefit
Wasabi, a member of the mustard family, is the hot green condiment served with sushi. It’s an excellent source (also found in horseradish and broccoli) of a compound found to help nerve cells grow extensions known as dendrites and axons, which help cells communicate with each other.

How to eat more
Great on fish of any sort. In specialty stores, buy wasabi in a tube or as a powder. Add a little bit to ginger-, teriyaki-, or peanut-based sauces; deviled eggs; salad dressing; coleslaw; and crab cakes.

Recipe to try: Salmon Sandwiches With Wasabi Mayonnaise

4. Garlic
Brain benefit
Garlic thins the blood to help prevent blood clots and may slightly lower cholesterol. It contains compounds thought to protect neurons from injury and disease by stimulating the production of chemicals that help cells withstand stress.

How to eat more
Add lots of minced garlic to just about any marinade or salad dressing. Add sautéed garlic to chicken, beef, pork, tofu, pasta, or vegetable dishes.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest