Does your brain feel dull?
Is your ability to think clearly sluggish?
Do you struggle with a mood disorder?
Are you struggling to sleep?
Have you ever wondered if what you eat could be playing a role? (It is!)
Just like other parts of your body, your brain needs to be nourished too.
With this in mind...
What nutrients are crucial for a healthy brain?
There are a range of nutrients that aid brain health. Our favs include long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, plus specific vitamins and the mineral, magnesium.
Long-chain omega 3 fatty acids
If you’ve ever touched a brain, animals included, you’ll know this organ is full of fat; around 60% in fact. Maybe unsurprisingly, then, long-chain omega 3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids — are essential to healthy brain function.
Consuming a sufficient intake, whether by food or supplementation:
— aids in the creation and function of brain neurotransmitters; chemicals that allow nerve messages to be sent or stopped
— enhances brain blood flow
— maintains the flexible cell membranes that are crucial for function
— protects against damage and disease
— provides anti-inflammatory benefits
— alleviates anger, confusion, and fatigue
— improves attention and reaction times
— enhances cognitive performance
— can result in improvements in mood disorders like anxiety and depression
So how might you know if your intake is too low?
According to the article, Essential fatty acids and human brain, signs of deficiency include:
— excessive thirst
— frequent urination
— rough dry hair and skin
Long-chain omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods like:
— chia seeds
— flaxseed (linseed)
— fish, including herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna
Have you heard of the gut-brain axis?
This axis is the complex two-way communication system between the brain and the intestinal nervous system. It links the emotional and thinking parts of the brain with the digestive tract.
Particularly when stressed, the brain affects how the gut works. If you’ve experienced an upset stomach when you’re worried about something, you already know this. What you might not know is that the reverse is also true...
The microbiota — the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that live in your digestive tract — communicate with the brain, too.
Every person has a unique combination of gut bugs, and their make-up alters the conversations that take place between the gut and brain. A balanced microbiota means better, healthier communication.
So, how do you positively change the discourse?
This is where fiber comes in.
Consuming sufficient fiber improves the good gut bugs (like Bifidobacterium) and the microbial composition… in as little as two weeks!
But only around 5% of the US population consumes the recommended fiber intake; up to 38 grams per day depending on age and gender.
To increase your fiber intake requires the consumption of produce that is high in this key nutrient. Foods like:
— Barley (hulled)
— Corn (yellow)
— Wild rice
Supplementing will also boost your intake.
There are specific vitamins that are intimately involved in the healthy function of the brain. Let’s look at 5 that are key: vitamins B1, B9, B12, D and E.
Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
There are enzymes in the brain that rely on thiamine to work. They are appropriately known as thiamine-dependent enzymes. No wonder a deficiency leads to problems!
Research has shown that this vitamin is needed for glucose metabolism in the brain. This is incredibly important. When thiamine is in undersupply, cognitive deficits occur…
Selective brain cells die. Inflammation and oxidative stress rise. At least in mice, plaque formation increases (the same plaques that are linked to Alzheimer’s disease).
Thiamine is found in foods like:
— Sunflower seeds
— Whole grains
Vitamin B9 (folate) and vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
These two vitamins have an intimate relationship so let’s talk about them together.
An article published in the journal, Nutrients, noted that deficiencies of B9 and B12 could interfere with the differentiation and repair of nerve cells, trigger wasting of an important brain region called the hippocampus, stop the brain’s ability to send messages along the nerves, and alter the amounts of key neurotransmitters — nerve messengers — like adrenaline, dopamine, melatonin, noradrenaline, and serotonin.
This can lead to cognitive decline, dementia, depression, and conditions of the blood, including anemia.
Vitamin B9 is found in foods like:
— Dark green leafy vegetables
— Free range eggs
Vitamin B12 is found in foods like:
— Beef and beef liver
— Fish like Atlantic salmon and Bluefin tuna
— Free range eggs
— Nutritional yeast
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is involved in regulating a multitude of genes that are key for healthy brain function.
People suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression, have been shown to have low blood levels of vitamin D. Low levels are also associated with large vessel infarcts, increased risk of cerebrovascular accidents, and deadly strokes.
Vitamin D is best achieved by safe exposure to the sun. It is also found in foods like:
— Beef liver
— Egg yolks
— Fatty fish including mackerel, salmon, and tuna
— Foods fortified with vitamin D
— Other red meats
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant; it is protective against the free radicals involved in oxidative stress. Your brain is highly susceptible to oxidative stress. This process increases the risk of neurodegeneration; deterioration of your brain...
Yet, increasing your vitamin E may help safeguard your brain and delay functional decline. Pretty important!
Vitamin E is found in foods like:
— Fish like Atlantic Salmon and Rainbow Trout
— Goose Meat
— Pine nuts
— Sunflower seed oil
The mineral, magnesium
The mineral, magnesium, acts as a cofactor in hundreds of enzymatic processes within the body. This makes it essential for normal neurological function, the release of neurotransmitters, and energy production.
The authors of a study published in the journal, Neuron, investigated rats. They found that supplemental magnesium resulted in improved learning ability and both short and long term memory.
Other research suggests that this humble, common mineral may reduce anxiousness and panic, and enhance the quality of sleep. Poor slumber is intimately related to poor brain function, so this is key.
Our science-backed product, ThermoSleep, contains 250 mg of magnesium per serve, as well as vitamin E. Formulated to promote a deep and restful sleep and reduce the effects of stress, it's one of our customer favs.
As Clifton L. says, “Great product! It helps with my sleeping!”
If you’d like to know more about why magnesium is vital to your health, read our article, Magnesium: The Master Of The Biochemical Reaction (And Why This Matters)?
A healthy brain is essential for a wonderful, long life. The wellbeing of this master organ is vital. Yet, we often take it for granted. Assuming it will continue to serve us.
But as rates of dementia and neurodegeneration, mood disorders, and sleeping problems continue to climb, it’s important to actively focus on creating a healthy brain. To do this we must consume key nutrients like long-chain omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, plus specific vitamins and the mineral, magnesium.
These act like the Holy Grail of cognitive function. Your mind will thank you!