The brain has been called the body’s “command center,” so it’s only natural that ensuring optimal health also means keeping this vital organ in top shape. Making these four nutrients a part of your daily intake is a significant step towards keeping the brain healthy.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12
Your brain can lose its volume as you age. This process is aptly called brain shrinkage. Not only does it result in impaired cognition and movement, but it also increases your risk of stroke and dying an early death by 96 and 58 percent respectively.
Heart disease is one of the factors that contribute to brain shrinkage. This was confirmed by a study which found that people with coronary heart disease have noticeably reduced amounts of brain matter. Predictably, they also performed poorly in cognitive tests.
The amino acid homocysteine has been linked to an increased risk of hypertension and heart disease. Apart from contributing to the formation of arterial plaque that characterizes coronary heart disease, high levels of it harm the endothelium or the inner lining of the blood vessels. Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin) neutralize the effects of homocysteine, contribute to heart health, and help prevent brain shrinkage.
While all three B-vitamins are available in most B-complex supplements, it’s possible to obtain them from food sources:
- Pyridoxine, which contributes to the production of neurotransmitters, is found in brown rice, lentils, meat, fish, and dairy products.
- Folate, which stimulates brain development and slows down atrophy, is abundant in leafy greens, fruits, and organ meats.
- Cobalamin, which helps metabolize fatty acids needed by the brain, is found in fish, meat, and dairy products.
Fats have a bad reputation because of the role that cholesterol plays in the development of coronary heart disease. But not all fats are bad – some are actually good for your heart and brain. In fact, did you know that about 60 percent of your brain is made up of fat?
Omega-3 fatty acid components called DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) are important parts of brain cell membranes. High levels of these fatty acids are linked to a larger brain volume. Omega-3s protect the brain from damage caused by over-excitation, relieve inflammation, and prevent damage from stress.
Unfortunately, the levels of both DHA and EPA in your brain tend to decrease with time, leading to age-related cognitive decline, dementia, depression, and bipolar disorder. You can enrich your diet with omega-3 supplements or you can incorporate foods rich in these good fats. Great sources of omega03s include fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, and certain fruits.
Plants are full of natural chemicals that have been proven to benefit the brain, as well as the other organs in your body. Some of these chemicals belong to a group called polyphenols – known for their powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects.
Pomegranate juice is known as one of the best sources of brain-friendly polyphenols. Studies say that a mere 8-ounce serving of pomegranate juice taken every day can improve both cognition and memory. One animal study, published in Neurobiology Discoveries, even suggests that the juice can help mice with symptoms similar to those of Alzheimer’s find their way through a maze faster than those that didn’t get the same treatment.
Pomegranate juice also helps fight obesity and high blood sugar levels, both of which are risk factors in diseases that contribute to brain shrinkage.
This phenol is found in grapes and dark-colored fruits, such as blueberries. You will also find it in red wine. Studies suggest that consistent intake of resveratrol increases the volume of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that governs the formation of long-term memories. Resveratrol also helps protect the brain from free radicals and oxidative stress that lead to brain cell death.
Written by: RJ Jhonson