The brain is the king of your body. A Human adult brain weight approx. about 3 pounds but it works nonstop even when you are sleeping. Information runs between neurons in our body as fast as 250 mph.
Sleep is the most important as its deprivation can cause cognitive decline, poor brain function and early aging of the brain. But as we age, so does our brain. So, what can we eat to boost our brain and help it to function properly? Following are the specific nutrients for our brain longevity.
B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins including thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic and cobalamin which are known for maintaining healthy brain function and good mood. They enhance the production of neurotransmitters for better and fast communication between neurons in the brain and body. It is proven that cobalamin and folate protect against dementia that may lead to Alzheimer's by decreasing the level of homocysteine. Thiamin and niacin helps in metabolizing nutrients for the brain for energy. B vitamins are linked with the formation of chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and epinephrine which are feel-good hormones.
Top B Vitamin sources include spinach, lean meat, whole grains, dairy, fish, liver, kidney beans and fresh fruits.
Lutein is a naturally occurring pigment carotenoid. It is found in every part of the brain and plays a major role in improving optimal function, learning and memory in the brain aging process. Lutein's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory property help in the clearance of free radicals which damage biological membranes making it beneficial for visual, alertness and cognitive health throughout life.
Top lutein sources are green leafy vegetables including kale, spinach, broccoli, peas and lettuce, egg yolks, corn, pistachios, pumpkin and avocados.
Omega-3 fatty acids
EPA and DHA are vital for brain health and enhance cognition throughout life. Increasing omega-3 in the diet may reduce inflammatory cytokines that may lead to improved neurotransmitter function. It also helps in reducing symptoms of ADHD. It is shown that this fat comprises 25% of the brain’s fat which helps in improving memory in middle age.
Top omega-3 sources include fish (sardines, tuna, salmon), nuts and seeds, and plant oils like soyabean oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil.
Vitamin E’s antioxidant effect play important role in protecting membranes from oxidation from free radicals. It prevents cognitive decline and boosts memory as the brain ages. Even though vitamin E deficiencies are rare, those with this deficiency can experience nerve and muscle damage, vision problems and weakened immune response.
Top vitamin E sources are wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, pumpkin, peanuts, collard green, almonds and hazelnuts.
Choline has a critical role in neuroprotectant and neurotransmitter function, as it is the precursor for acetylcholine, which activates the alpha7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (α7nAchR) and also acts as an agonist for sigma-1-R (σ1R). These receptors are essential for CNS immune response and their dysregulation contributes to Alzheimer’s Disease pathogenesis, associated cognitive decline and mood regulation.
Top choline sources include liver, red meat, egg yolks, fiber-rich quinoa and soya beans.
Zinc consumption is needed for managing dopamine. It is vital for enhancing memory and focus. Zinc is known for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression and helping to improve mood. Plus, zinc has a large role in strengthening the immune system, cell growth, vision and fertility. Of course, the right balance is key for any nutrient or food you eat.
Top sources of zinc are seafood, dark chocolates, potatoes, lamb and legumes (beans, peas).
As our brains work nonstop every hour of the day. Of course! we need a balanced diet in the early period of childhood for it to develop properly, however, for normal functioning, boosting and promoting longevity our brain in our lifetime can include these nutrients as well as exercise regularly.
(Co-written by Dr. Thiago and Sunanda Singh)