Your brain is 60% fat, so if you want a healthy and optimally performing brain, you need to ensure that you’re giving your brain the right building blocks and fat is one of the most important. Fat has been vilified for decades, but in reality, high-quality fat is not only good for you, it’s essential for your brainpower and health.
Omega-3 is one of the most important fats to give your brain. In fact, not getting enough omega-3 in your diet can affect normal brain development and cognition. It has also been shown to be implicated in premature brain aging and cognitive decline.
Best sources: Chia seeds, walnuts, sardines, salmon, eggs, fish oil, and flaxseed.
Magnesium is essential for brain activity and has been known to calm the brain and the nervous system to the point that it has been called “Nature’s Natural Valium.” Magnesium is essential for hundreds of metabolic processes within the body and brain, yet it’s the second most common nutritional deficiency in the world.
Magnesium helps the brain by:
• Decreasing stress hormones
• Providing anti-inflammatory benefits
• Increasing neuroplasticity
• Helping to lift depression
• Reducing anxiety
• Relaxing the nervous system
Best sources: Spinach, almonds, avocado, black beans, and cashews.
3. Vitamin B1: Thiamine
Many B vitamins are known to be beneficial for brain health and well-being. B1, also known as thiamine, is needed for a large number of metabolic processes in the body including the processes that manage your energy levels. Your brain uses a lot of energy throughout the day, so having low levels of thiamine can rob your brain of the vital energy that it requires.
Thiamine can help to boost your mood, energy, and alertness by providing the energy that your brain cells need to work effectively.
Low levels of thiamine have been associated with:
• Nerve inflammation
• Nerve damage
• Loss of short-term memory
Best sources: Sunflower seeds, lentils, black beans, macadamia nuts, and seaweed.
4. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 helps to improve your mood, but it’s also needed to combat mental fatigue. B6 is a critical component when it comes to building the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.
Serotonin helps to improve your mood while norepinephrine helps your brain to stay focused and alert.
Symptoms of B6 deficiency include:
• Loss of focus and concentration
• Memory trouble
• Muscle pains
Best sources: Tuna, turkey breast, avocado, pistachios, and grass-fed beef.
5. Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9, also known as folate, is especially important for normal brain development. It’s an important component in creating many neurotransmitters that the brain uses to communicate and regulate our immune system. Folate is also an antioxidant and studies have shown that it helps to preserve brain function and memory.
Low levels of folate can be very detrimental to the brain. A deficiency in folate has been shown to lead to increased degeneration in the cerebral cortex as well as cognitive impairment and decline.
Symptoms of low levels of folate include:
• Chronic fatigue
• A lowered immune system
• Increased irritability
• Brain fog
Best sources: Broccoli, beef liver, spinach, romaine lettuce, and asparagus.
6. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is essential for many aspects of our health and wellbeing. This includes building strong bones, skin, hair, nails, immune system, and heart health. B12 is also extremely important for your brain and mental wellbeing.
It’s essential for many aspects of mental performance including being able to memorize and stay focused. It also plays an important role in producing serotonin and dopamine (a motivation and reward neurotransmitter).
Having low levels of B12 can have some serious side effects such as:
• Memory loss
• Brain fog
Best sources: Wild salmon, eggs, sardines, beef liver, and nutritional yeast.
7. Vitamin C
Your brain consumes a lot of energy and oxygen when it’s doing its job and antioxidant such as vitamin C help to protect the brain from any wear and tear. Vitamin C is also needed to produce important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important regulators of your mood, so without adequate vitamin C to produce them, your mood may suffer.
Best sources: Citrus fruits, broccoli, bell peppers, spinach, and watermelon.
8. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin, is arguably one of the most important vitamins that many of us miss out on. It’s usually associated with bone and heart health, but it has been shown that it also plays a critical role in your brain performance. Several studies have proven that low levels of vitamin D can impair cognitive function and performance.
Fewer people are getting out in the sun leading to more cases of vitamin D deficiency than ever before. The best part about vitamin D is that you can get it for free. Just a couple of minutes of natural sunlight each day can make a huge difference to your vitamin D levels.
Best sources: Natural sunlight or buy a vitamin D supplement.
9. Vitamin E
This is a very powerful antioxidant. Oxidative stress is a metabolic process that causes wear and tear to our cells. Antioxidants help to fight against this wear and tear to keep our cells youthful and working their best.
Vitamin E is an often overlooked vitamin for brain health. It prevents oxidative stress from damaging important components of our brain cells. DHA forms the outer membrane of our brain cells and vitamin E works to prevent oxidative stress from damaging it, ensuring that our brain cells stay healthy and productive.
Symptoms of a vitamin E deficiency include:
• Cognitive impairment
• Balance issues
• Muscle weakness
Best sources: Kale, Swiss chard, almonds, olives, and parsley.
Zinc is very important for neuron growth and performance. The highest concentration of zinc in our body is located in our brain, particularly in the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in regulating your limbic system, the region that regulates emotions. Neurons need zinc in order to communicate effectively with one another.
Low levels of zinc are associated with:
• A lowered immune system
• Attention and focusing issues
Best sources: Grass-fed beef, spinach, mushrooms, cashews, and pumpkin seeds.
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