in Healthy Eating

3 min read

Your brain is a fine tuned machine that needs a multitude of nutrients for it to act properly. The presence of certain nutrients in bigger doses have been also shown to be beneficial when it comes to memory and the brain’s performance in general. Here, I present a few of them that are necessary, beneficial, and recommended to further enhance your brain’s capabilities to make you the next physicist who will win a Nobel’s prize.

Iron

Iron is an important nutrient when it comes to cognitive performance. Sources of iron include, but are not limited to, red meat, fish, poultry, lentils, and beans. Anemia, which can happen due to a iron deficiency, affects processing speed, because iron deficiency itself affects the accuracy of cognitive functioning on a broad range of tasks. One particular blinded, placebo-controlled intervention study done on young women, observed a 5-7x improvement in cognitive performance in iron-deficient women that were not anemic when they were receiving an iron supplement in their diet. [1]

 

Lutein

Lutein is a naturally occurring carotenoid which can be found in high quantities in green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, and yellow carrots). Lutein, together with zeaxanthin, accumulates in the retina. There, it has a protective role against the damaging effects of free radicals that get produced by blue light. One smaller randomized clinical trial demonstrated the benefits of added lutein through nutrition. People saw better after the end of the study in which they were supplemented with lutein. However, this study was a smaller one, and more studies will be welcome to pinpoint the effects of lutein more specifically [2]. Furthermore, lutein and zeaxanthin protect against blindness, especially later in life. [3]

 

DHA

I wrote about the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids more in detail here. But in any case, there is a high possibility that DHA deficiency has an important role when it comes to optimal brain functioning. In one US study with elderly people (50+ years) who had age-related memory impairment, taking DHA for six months improved their memory and learning abilities[4]. Another correlational study observed that higher levels of DHA in adults between 25-65 years also improved their working memory, their vocabulary, and different tests of nonverbal reasoning and mental flexibility. [5]

 

B Vitamins

B vitamins are water soluble vitamins that have extremely important roles in our bodies. The whole vitamin B family is often called the vitamin B complex. This vitamin complex is mostly found in whole unprocessed foods, they are also particularly high in meat (turkey, tuna, and liver). Other sources also include potatoes, bananas, and beans. But why is the B family important for our brains?

One study done on women of various ages noted that when they were supplemented with vitamin B6, B12, or folate for 35 days, they were better on different memory tasks [6]. In rats, the addition of a vitamin B12 source improved how well they were learning. This was especially clear when it was added to rats whose diet did not include enough choline. [7]

 

Choline

Choline is usually taken as a nootropic; a smart drug, because it is a building block for acetylcholine, a really important neurotransmitter in our brains. It is also extremely important for pregnant women to get enough choline in their diet because lower choline levels can increase the rate of different brain defects that lead to problems with memory in their babies. [8]

One study reported that intelligence, memory, and mood are partly affected by acetylcholine as well. [9]

 

Taurine

Taurine is an organic acid that crosses the blood-brain barrier. It occurs naturally and can be found in seafood and meat in general. Taurine is believed to be one of the players that have the ability of stopping messages that get transmitted in/through our brains [10]. It has an important role in a process that is thought to underlie memory formation [11]. It is also quite important for the stabilization of membranes in your body and prevention of epileptic seizures. [12]

Of course there are many other nutrients your brain needs, this was just a short rundown of some of the more important and interesting ones.

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