Our brains act as the control center for our entire bodies, they process the huge amounts of raw data enabling us to think, feel, move, breathe, see, hear and much more. Within the brain, and body, there exists a delicate balance of contributing factors required in order to perform all of these functions at optimum levels.
One of the most important factors in brain performance is good nutrition. It’s true, we are what we eat - the foods we consume have the ability to help or harm our bodies and in particular, our brains. While we all do our best to eat well, from time to time the body can use a little bit of extra assistance in making sure it has the great number of micronutrients it needs. When utilised properly, supplements prescribed by health professionals can be helpful in correcting imbalances and also giving the body a bit of a boost in times of stress or even as our body’s cope with the aging process.
Our Top 10 Best Vitamins For The Brain
What vitamins and minerals are good for the brain? Here are the front runners for keeping your brain healthy. Keep in mind that not all supplements are created equal, within the industry there are many different grades, recommended doses and sources. The right type for your body and in the correct dosage is important when seeking optimal results, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional.
1. Vitamin B1 or Thiamine
While all of the B Group vitamins are great for brain health, vitamin B1 is considered excellent for enhancing memory retrieval. Present in large amounts in the brain, B1 is essential for brain chemicals and the manufacture of DNA. Vitamin B1 needs to be absorbed from foods and cannot be produced by the body.
2. Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid
While the jury is still out, it is thought that folate has the ability to lower the high homocysteine levels as well as lowering inflammation in the brain – two symptoms that often accompany brain aging and dementia.
3. Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin
Found mainly in meats, eggs and dairy products, vitamin B12 is necessary for normal brain and nervous system function as well as cell replication. B12 is heavily reliant on adequate levels of B6 in order to enhance absorption. Those following a strictly vegetarian or vegan diet are likely to require B12 supplementation as vegetable alone are not a reliable source B12.
4. Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant helping to protect DNA. Good levels of vitamin C are required by the brain for the synthesis of the neurotransmitter dopamine. The body cannot store vitamin C and requires adequate daily doses to meet its needs. Well known for its protective qualities as an antioxidant, repair and wound healing properties and its ability to enhance the absorption of iron, vitamin C is an excellent all rounder with many benefits to the entire body.
Calcium is essential for healthy brain function, playing an important role in nerve cell messaging. Calcium is also necessary for the regulation of neurotransmitters or communication within the brain and calming the nerves.
As previously discussed, B vitamins are essential for a healthy brain, Magnesium plays an important supporting role to the B vitamins by helping to convert them into their active form. Without Magnesium the B vitamins are unable to do their amazing work. Magnesium along with calcium also plays a role in calming the nerves aiding in the management of stress induced symptoms.
Low levels of zinc are associated with a range of neurological and psychological impairments which include Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. In the brain zinc is used extensively by the hippocampus which is responsible for encoding long-term memory.
8. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential in the development of the brain in the early years, it protects the brain and nerve cells. One of the symptoms of deficiency in vitamin D is mild cognitive impairment, long term deficiencies may double the risk of developing dementia and alzheimer’s disease according to research from the American Academy of Neurology.
9. Omega 3 or Fish Oil
The omega 3 fatty acids found in high levels in certain types of fish are known to support fundamental cerebral functions and assist in maintaining optimum brain function. It is important to note that fish oil supplements should only be taken under the supervision of a professional healthcare provider.
10. Vitamin E
A very potent antioxidant, vitamin E is particularly good at protecting fats from oxidation. While there are conflicting opinions surrounding research into the benefits of vitamin E and brain health, the bulk of the findings agree it plays a beneficial role. Vitamin E cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained through adequate dietary intake.
The Importance Of Optimal Brain Function
The brain has a part in controlling pretty much everything we do, it helps us breathe, process sensory information, feel, move and a whole lot more. Without it the body is unable to function in all the ways we would expect.
Under less than optimal conditions the brain can struggle to carry out everyday tasks such as concentrating, paying attention, remembering and processing things and logical thinking. Deterioration in brain function can have a huge impact on your life and how you go about daily activities. Just like the rest of your body it is important to look after your brain and try to keep it working at its best.
How To Improve Brain Health Naturally
How do you keep your brain healthy? Well the good news is you are probably already doing a lot of great things already for your brain and you don’t even know it. Take a look at our list of ways for improving brain health naturally.
- Stimulate It. Just as you would head to the gym for a workout or go for a run to improve strength and general fitness for the body, you can also work-out your mental fitness by stimulating the nerve cells in the brain. This may include things like reading (especially when it encourages active thinking), learning new skills or learning about new things, regularly doing activities that force you to work your brain like word puzzles, memory activities and analytical or strategic games.
- Look After It. Do you play sports like rugby? Enjoy horse riding or motor biking on the weekends? Cycle to work to avoid the traffic? Work on construction sites or in hazardous areas? Wearing a helmet or protective headgear is one of the easiest ways you can keep your brain safe. Many minor brain injuries occurring during everyday life can be easily avoided through the use of protective headgear.
- Exercise It. Exercise isn’t just good for the body, it benefits the brain too. The increased blood flow brought about by regular exercise is great for bringing extra nutrients and oxygen to the brain and flushing out toxins as it goes. Exercise can also be a great way to assist in the management of stress levels while increasing focus and efficiency. It is also thought that exercise plays an important role in stimulating new neuronal connections through the requirement for an increased focus on hand-eye coordination or more complex motor skills.
- Don’t Stress About It. Just like the early signs and symptoms of a cold, sometimes unhelpful patterns, increased stress levels or negative thoughts can be an indication things aren’t quite in balance. Taking the time to speak with mental health professionals on a regular basis can be a great way to catch any psychological conditions reducing their impact on your daily life or before they develop into something more serious.
- Feed It. As discussed above one of the best things you can do for your brain is to give it a good supply of all the vitamins and minerals it needs. Keeping the complex combinations of various vitamins and minerals topped up by consuming brain-boosting foods or dietary supplements may help support both short and long term brain function. See below for 12 foods that may help build better brain health.
12 Foods That May Help Build Better Brain Health
The best way to ensure a healthy supply of everything the brain needs is to eat a healthy and varied diet. Keep in mind that some micronutrients such as folate and vitamin C are damaged by heat so consuming the items in their raw state is recommended for the best absorption rates. The best foods to boost the brain include:
- Broccoli (B9, Magnesium, calcium)
- Spinach (B9, magnesium)
- Pumpkin seeds (zinc, magnesium)
- Lentils (B9, calcium)
- Beef (zinc, magnesium, B9 )
- Salmon (vitamin D, calcium)
- Tuna (vitamin D, B1)
- Pork (B1, B6)
- Almonds (magnesium, calcium, vitamin E)
- Walnuts (Omega 3, magnesium, calcium, B1, B9 and vitamin D & E)
- Eggs (vitamin D, B9)
- Cheese (vitamin D, calcium)
4 Tips On Supplement Selection And Care
Supplements are best taken on the recommendation of healthcare professionals preferably with a prescription or specified preference in order to get the best quality, there are a few things to remember when choosing the right supplements.
- Check The Grade. Look for pharmaceutical grade products, these are usually provided by prescription or from the advice of a Chemist. If these are not available look for the highest possible grade level.
- Check The Label. Look out for unneeded artificial ingredients, additives or other components that may be harmful, such as corn, dairy, gluten or soybeans.
- Check The Seal. Do not consume products where the container has no seal or the seal is broken.
- Check The Storage Instructions. To ensure the integrity of the product always check storage instructions, in particular check to see if it needs to be refrigerated or protected from light.
Do What’s Right For You When Thinking About Supplementation
Taking care of your entire body by living a balanced and healthy lifestyle is always important when it comes to looking after your brain. A variety of foods, good amount of exercise and rest and relaxation are all top of the list. However if you are considering supplementation it is important to understand that not all supplements are created equal, and sometimes do not always contain the ingredients or amount of ingredients that are promised. Do your research and for more specific information on what you can do for your brain health always consult a healthcare professional.
Please Note: All information contained in this article is given as general information; this is not intended to provide educated health or medical advice. Always consult your healthcare professional for specific medical reasons and advice on dietary requirements or nutritional supplements.