Do you keep forgetting things? Do you often feel down or suffer from headaches? Read the article below to learn about how you can “feed” your brain to achieve better brain function, concentration and much more!
Top 5 Nutrients for Optimal Brain Function
1. Optimize your Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency, which unfortunately is very common, is associated with an increased risk of dementia and depression.
Depression affects about 840 million people worldwide. Vitamin D is not actually a vitamin but a unique hormone with many important roles in the body. Receptors for vitamin D are present in many areas of the brain and vitamin D is involved in numerous brain processes including neuroprotection, neuroplasticity and brain development. Over two-thirds of the populations of the USA and Canada have low levels of vitamin D and many studies show that low vitamin D levels are associated with depression.
2. Increase Magnesium intake
Magnesium deficiency is linked to headaches, dizziness, poor concentration and nervousness. Studies have found that patients with cluster headaches and classic or common migraine, especially menstrual migraine, have low levels of magnesium. In a study published in the Journal of Headache Pain in 2015, 81 people with migraine were split in two; half received magnesium supplements (600 mg per day) and half received a placebo for 12 weeks. The group receiving the magnesium supplements had a statistically significant improvement in the number of days without migraine and used significantly less medication for treating their migraines.
3. Take your Omega-3’s
Your brain is made mostly of fat, so good fats are valuable for your brain. Omega-3 fatty acids can help mood, memory and concentration.
Docosahexaenoic acid or DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that represents more than 90% of the omega-3 fatty acids in the brain. It performs structural functions in the brain and has been shown to be stored in areas of the brain involved in memory and attention. Animal studies have shown that deficiency in brain DHA has critical effects on behavior, including changes in learning, memory, and sensory responses. Unfortunately DHA cannot be synthesized by the body and has to be consumed in sufficient amounts by the diet.
DHA is found in fatty fish like sardines, mackerel, salmon (opt for wild Alaskan salmon), anchovies, in certain algae (i.e. algal oil and supplements) and eggs from chickens fed a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.
4. Add Probiotics to your diet
Recent studies indicate that healthy bacteria living in the gut are critical for normal brain development and function.
Scientists have discovered that there is a strong link between gut bacteria and the brain and that the two communicate via a number of neurotransmitters. Various lifestyle factors such as a diet low in fiber, high in sugar and processed foods, stress and antibiotics create an unhealthy bacterial balance in the gut leading to increased anxiety and depression.
Add probiotic foods to your diet by eating traditional sheep or goat’s yogurt, drinking kefir or kombucha, eating sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, miso or by taking a probiotic supplement. Choose a probiotic supplement with as many bacterial strains as possible.
5. Cook with Turmeric
One of the main mechanisms by which the mind’s function deteriorates with age is as a result of inflammation. Turmeric is a spice that belongs to the ginger family that has been extensively studied for its strong anti-inflammatory power.
Turmeric has been shown to be a great natural mood enhancer. It also boosts cognitive function by protecting brain cells. Animal studies have shown that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric has the ability to prevent or reverse deficits in memory and cognition associated with aging. In a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, curcumin supplementation in healthy adults significantly improved attention, memory and mood (measured as a sense of calmness, contentedness and fatigue).
Take Home Message
- If you want to boost your brain power, keep your memory and lift your mood and energy, you should focus on changing your diet.
- Aim to achieve lasting changes in your lifestyle that will protect your brain’s health, help you feel great and think clearly!
- Invest some time and effort for your brain health by optimizing your vitamin D levels, increasing your omega-3 intake, considering supplementing with magnesium, eating probiotic foods and cooking with turmeric!
- Anglin, Rebecca ES, Zainab Samaan, Stephen D. Walter, and Sarah D. McDonald. "Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis." The British journal of psychiatry 202, no. 2 (2013): 100-107.
- Gaul, C.; Diener, H.C.; Danesch, U.; Migravent® Study Group. Improvement of migraine symptoms with a proprietary supplement containing riboflavin, magnesium and Q10: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicenter trial. J. Headache Pain 2015, 16, 516.
- Dyall, Simon C. "Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA." Frontiers in aging neuroscience 7 (2015).
- Stonehouse, Welma, Cathryn A. Conlon, John Podd, Stephen R. Hill, Anne M. Minihane, Crystal Haskell, and David Kennedy. "DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial." The American journal of clinical nutrition 97, no. 5 (2013): 1134-1143.
- Cox, Katherine HM, Andrew Pipingas, and Andrew B. Scholey. "Investigation of the effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population." Journal of psychopharmacology 29, no. 5 (2015): 642-651.