We have heard this guidance from the dietitians time and time again: eat a healthy diet to have a healthy body and healthy mind. But what about eating healthy to keep our brains healthy? Our brains are part of our body too, and it needs special vitamins and minerals to thrive. Just like fish oil and omega 3’s are good for heart health, there has to be a brain equivalent, right? And here it is, we compiled the best vitamins and minerals that will boost your brainpower, increase your acuity, and even your long term memory.
Minerals, the Brain, and Your Mental Health
Research shows that increasing your intake of specific minerals and vitamins improves cognitive abilities. Research also shows that when you’re nutritionally deficient in key vitamins, you have an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders, age-related mental decline, and developmental disorders. Alcohol has also been associated with disturbing levels of critical vitamins and minerals that are needed by the brain.
What Minerals and Vitamins Are Essential For Brain Health?
The minerals and vitamins below have been shown to increase brain health in several ways. Scientists have discovered that high levels of these specific vitamins correlate with test subjects having an increased capacity to learn, better memory, and a decreased risk of developing brain-related disorders.
Zinc is found in neurons located in the front part of the brain. The frontal lobe plays a huge role in emotional expression, problem-solving, memory, language, judgment, and sexual behaviors. This part of the brain is what basically makes us human. A zinc deficiency has been linked to cognitive and neurological disorders.
Thiamine, otherwise known as vitamin B, is found in the brain in large quantities; it’s used to create important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine and plays a critical role in nerve function. According to the latest research, thiamine plays a big role in the electrical impulses between the nerves. A severe lack of vitamin B is correlated with memory problems.
Folic acid, a compound in the folate family, has been shown to increase memory retention when taken as a supplement. Like thiamine, folic acid plays a role in the nerve function. This vitamin is stored in the liver which is why alcoholics tend to have lower levels of folic acid, poorer memory function when compared to people who don’t drink.
Calcium is the most important mineral for the brain because it plays a huge role in nerve transmission and nerve excitability. Low levels for this mineral are usually rare since we have a storage unit full of them called bones. However, certain diseases like osteoporosis and some medications and alcohol can interfere with our body’s calcium stores.
Magnesium is a crucial facilitator for converting B vitamins into an active form that’s useful to the body. Magnesium and vitamin B supplements should be taken together to yield the most amount of vitamin absorption. One study found that magnesium supplements improve short-term and long-term memory.
In What Food Can You Find These Minerals and Vitamins?
Found in birch trees in the northern hemisphere, Chaga mushrooms are extremely nutritious; they contain zinc, magnesium, calcium, and B vitamins—key minerals and vitamins needed by the brain. Several studies show that they slow the aging process, lower cholesterol, fight inflammation, lower your risk of developing cancer, support the immune system, and lower blood pressure. Chaga mushrooms are used by many alternative medicine advocates and the growing research literature has shown it can be very effective in boosting health.
Fish is the most healthy protein on the planet and is loaded with vitamin D (a crucial vitamin that helps our body absorb calcium), zinc, vitamin B, magnesium and omega 3 fatty acids which help boost brain health. Fish is known to lower your risk of stroke and heart attacks, improve symptoms of depression, boost brain health, improve sleep quality, and help with certain autoimmune diseases. Since fish contains mercury, experts recommend limiting your fish intake to once a week.
This leafy green wonder is loaded with nutrients and is an excellent source of folic acid, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B. Spinach is known to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, improve eye health, lower blood pressure, and lower your risk of developing cancer.
Pumpkin seeds are small but packed with nutrients. These wonder seeds contain high amounts of zinc, magnesium, folate, and healthy fats and are known to lower your cancer risk, improve prostate and bladder health, improve heart health, lower blood sugar, and even increase sperm count.
Eggs are a classic staple in a breakfast cuisine and for good reason. Eggs contain zinc, folate, vitamin B, and calcium. They also contain a rare vitamin called choline which is used to build cell membranes. Choline also plays an important role in signaling molecules in the brain. Eggs have a plethora of benefits. They are known to raise your good cholesterol levels, lower your risk of heart attacks and stroke, improve eye health, and lower triglycerides—a bad type of fat found in the blood.
The brain is a wonderful and mysterious organ. It allows us to create, speak, write, love, and all the things that our existence as humans grant us. Eating healthy and taking supplements are shown to improve our brain health and allow us to live longer and healthier lives.