A recent study at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, California, found that a ketogenic (or "keto") diet may have the power to boost memory.
“A keto diet features a low to moderate protein intake and virtually no carbs, forcing the body to produce ketones, a fuel that the brain and other organs can run on," explains Brian St. Pierre, R.D., CSCS, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition in Scarborough, Maine. Instead, there is an added emphasis on consuming large amounts of healthy fats and leafy greens. "These foods can help decrease some of the markers of diseases that affect memory, like Alzheimer’s, such as oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and inflammation," says St. Pierre.
In the study, mice were fed according to the aforementioned parameters, which resulted in an increase in the concentration of beta-hydroxybutyrate acid (BHB), a compound known to improve memory function. “There are some interesting theories and evidence that the keto diet could similarly be beneficial for the human brain,” notes St. Pierre. But, this strict way of eating is not for everyone. "Some people find it causes them to feel sluggish and mentally foggy," he says.
Learn more about the keto diet and whether or not it's right for you here. Athletes looking for a less intense version of the brain-boosting plan should consider the tenets of the Mediterranean diet that also emphasizes healthy fats and veggies, says St. Pierre. Because it's a little more balanced in terms of carbs, there might be fewer negative effects on energy levels, he adds.