How can I get more information on eating the proper foods to help retain memory?

I am 44 years old and have noticed my memory isn't what it was.

I am in good health, don't drink or smoke and am not overweight. However, I have a busy life and don't eat properly.

It is too easy to pull into a fast food restaurant and grab a quick burger.

I would like to know what nutrients I could take and some information on what I am doing to myself by not eating healthy.

I am willing to make a change in my eating habits and it would makeit easier to do if I understood how what I eat affects me.

Joe Buche, Minnesota, USA Dear Joe, You're right, in order for the memory chips to work, your brain requires quality hardware and the right kind of data input - these are derived from what you eat.

One of today's major dietary problems is a lack of healthy essential fatty acids. EFAs help relay messages between nerve cells and are crucial building blocks for the structure of the brain.

Unfortunately, we can't make EFAs ourselves, we have to get the right kind and amount from our diet.

Practically, this means eating 100g of oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, trout, herring or salmon at least twice a week, or supplementing with a reliable source of quality fish oil.

Also start eating a variety of fresh, unsalted nuts and seeds.

An easy way to do this is to store three parts flaxseeds with one part each sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds in a sealed jar in your fridge.

Add one heaped tablespoon to your daily breakfast cereal, yoghurt or fruit salad.

Another excellent memory enhancer is lecithin, needed for cell membrane integrity and to facilitate the movement of fats in and out of cells.

Lecithin contains choline, part of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine required for normal brain functioning.

Choline deficiency is a common cause of memory loss. Add a tablespoon of lecithin to your breakfast, you can find it in health-food stores.

Fish, eggs, liver, soya beans and nuts are other rich sources of choline.

Avoid fast food restaurants - they may be convenient but burgers, chips, drinks and desserts mess with your brain.

Recently, researchers in the US found that the kind of fats and sugars contained in these foods alter brain chemistry and may be as addictive as hard drugs.

Although your brain is 60 per cent fat, it needs to replenished with essential fats, not the fried and hydrogenated kind which undermine brain capacity.

Plan healthy eating breaks into your day and travel with an assortment of fresh fruit, nut bars and a bottle of water so that you don't feel tempted.

Your memory and attention span should soon improve if you supply your brain with the raw material it needs in order to function.

Avoid stress, the wrong fats, sugar, caffeine and a nutrient deficient diet. Fruit (blueberries in particular) and vegetables contain antioxidants which protect your precious brain fats and may actually reverse memory loss.

For further information, read Optimum Nutrition For The Mind by Patrick Holford (published by Piatkus).

Martina is a qualified Nutritional Therapist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email: