It is not uncommon to come across some flashy new ad or pop-up talking about the latest in “brain-boosting” research. But, unfortunately, too many marketers look to exploit the concern people have of losing their memory or psychological independence.
While there is no magic pill to recover lost memories or eliminate the risk of average decline, some vitamins and supplements promise to increase brain health. More research needs to be done to fully comprehend the benefits of adding these vitamins and nutrients to your diet, but if you want to give your brain the nutritional support it deserves, consider adding four nutrients to your diet.
1. B Vitamins
B vitamins have long been known for their effect on mood and stamina, but many people do not realize these powerful vitamins are also linked to brain health. For example, vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are all related to the breakdown of homocysteine, a compound known to present a greater risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia development later in life.
Beyond helping disrupt homocysteine production, B vitamins also contribute to the development of brain cells. In addition, the vitamins help by providing a necessary energy boost in the body and maintaining healthy nerve and red blood cells.
While you can take supplements to increase your vitamin intake, if you maintain a well-balanced diet, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, seeds and nuts, legumes, and a variety of meat, you likely meet your dietary needs of b-vitamins.
2. Vitamin E
While nutritional experts still debate taking a vitamin E supplement, there is still solid preliminary evidence to suggest the vitamin is crucial to brain health and function. For example, in a 2014 study, researchers found that vitamin E can protect the brain from white matter lesions. The lesions have been linked to stroke risks, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s.
You can find vitamin E in nuts and seeds like almonds, hazelnuts, and peanuts, or leafy greens like spinach, turnip greens, and swiss chard. If you would rather consume it through oils, you can use corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, or wheat germ oil in your cooking and prep.
Flavonoids are antioxidants found in many colorful fruits and vegetables. While the nutrients are known to reduce inflammation, eczema symptoms, and heart disease risks, studies suggest the antioxidants can also help the aging brain. For example, a 2012 study found a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline in women who consumed large amounts of berries than those who didn’t.
While much of the research is still premature, you might experience some of the purported brain benefits by consuming appropriate foods. For example, foods that are rich in flavonoids include:
Berries (strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
Leafy greens (kale, spinach, and watercress)
Colorful produce (avocados, red grapes, butternut squash, and plums)
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are likely one of the essential nutrients for brain health. DHA promotes electrical signaling between nerve cells, improves concentration, reduces inflammation, and fight memory loss.
The best way to incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your diet is through food choices. Some of the best foods for DHA and other omega-3s includes:
Oily, cold-water fish (salmon, trout, herring, and sardines)
Oils (flaxseed, krill, chia seed, and cod liver oils)
Leafy greens (spinach, kale, watercress, and arugula)
Do not let marketing hype fool you. The current science does not support the idea of brain-boosting supplements. The best way to contribute to a healthy brain is through a nutritious and well-balanced diet.