Complex human organs require various nutrients to function appropriately, and the brain is no exception. It has been shown that nutritional deficiency contributes to the development of mental disorders and cognitive decline. How can you be sure that you are providing your brain with the right nutrients? Which vitamins and minerals improve brain function? Keep on reading to find out.
The B Vitamins – The B group vitamins are probably the most important for maintaining and improving brain health. These vitamins are sometimes called the “anti-stress” or “happy” vitamins because they can increase the tolerance to stress while improving energy levels.
Vitamins from the group B can slow down brain aging and help fight depression; in other words, they can help people live happier and longer. Although any vitamin from this group is important, when it comes to brain health, B1, B6, B9 and B12 are crucial.
- B1 or Thiamine plays a role in nerve impulse conduction, and severe deficiency can lead to chronic memory disorders, such as Korsakoff’s syndrome.
- Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine helps making the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are extremely important alertness and mood chemicals. Foods rich in B6 are tuna, turnip greens, mustard greens, garlic, kale, peppers and cranberries.
- B9 or folic acid can be obtained from lentils, asparagus, spinach and other foods, and it plays a significant role in the formation of nerve tissue. This vitamin, more precisely, the lack of it is associated with developmental problems in babies and children.
- The deficiency in B12 vitamin, also called Cobalamin, eventually leads to low moods, nerve damage, decline in mental acuity and loss of memory. Since B12 is found almost exclusively in meats (poultry, pork, beef, veal, lamb and fish), vegans and vegetarians might be deficient.
Vitamin C – Everybody knows that green veggies and citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C or ascorbic acid, but you might not be aware of its role in maintaining and improving brain function. This compound is important in the synthesis of dopamine, and it is also significant in fighting oxidative stress. Vitamin C can’t be stored in human body, thus it is highly recommended to eat foods rich in ascorbic acid on a daily basis.
Magnesium – Even if your diet is rich in B vitamins, without magnesium, those nutrients are useless. This mineral has a significant role in the conversion of vitamins from the B group into their active form which the human body can make use of. In cell membranes, magnesium is very important for impulse transmission.
Calcium – When it comes to brain function, calcium is arguably the most essential mineral. Although the human body stores this mineral in the bones, some medications may deplete the levels of calcium and, eventually, lead to numerous health issues. Calcium is a nerve cell messenger; it controls nerve excitability and helps neurotransmission regulation.
Zinc – The deficiency of this mineral is associated with various psychological and neurological issues, even though the exact role of zinc in the maintenance of brain health is still unknown. What we know for sure is that patients suffering from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease have alterations in homeostasis of this mineral. Foods with high zinc content are shrimp, beef and pumpkin seeds.
So, these are the most important vitamins and minerals your brain needs to remain healthy and able to function to its fullest potential. The best way to ensure you get enough of these nutrients is by having a balanced diet rich in various vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, eggs, etc.
If you are into supplements, there are many multivitamins that are specifically formulated to enhance brain function, and some come with additional amino acids and herbs for brain and memory enhancement. Herbs like bacopa monnieri, ashwagandha and ginkgo have been clinically studied and shown to help improve the functioning of the brain and protect neurons from oxidative damage.
Herbal and chemical nootropics are also increasingly being used as quick and effective means of enhancing brain function. Nootropics are basically brain supplements and drugs that are used to increase mental energy, blood flow, and neurotransmitters. They may also be used to treat certain mental disorders like ADHD, brain fog, insomnia and others. However, most nootropics on the market are unapproved and unregulated. Because people could buy them over the counter, they quickly became popular as brain boosting quick-fixes.
You have many options on the table, but don’t start spending your money on brain supplements sold with tall promises and too good to be true stories. There are countless rip-offs out there, so be smart and do careful research before deciding to buy any product online.