Your brain is arguably the most important organ in your body. For, without it, you cannot live. While modern medicine provides us the technology to successfully complete transplantation of the heart, liver, kidneys, and other vital organs, we are unable to transplant the brain. This means that nourishing your body, and especially your brain, should be a priority for everyone. Yet, many don’t understand what they need to eat to continue to have proper brain function. This is a look at the essential vitamins and minerals for your brain function.
How Does Brain Nutrition Work?
You may wonder why you need to specifically consume vitamins and minerals to increase brain health. This is a quick overview of how the brain consumes nutrients so that you can understand why you need to feed it.
Your brain is a hungry organ and consumes a lot of your body’s energy. That’s a big job and consumes energy. To put it into perspective, your brain consists of roughly 3% of your body weight; yet, it eats up as much as 25% of your blood glucose. In addition, your brain consumes the majority of the Vitamin C that you consume.
Here are the four main reasons that your brain needs to have its nutrients replenished regularly:
- Even when you’re asleep, your brain is busy at work. Your neurotransmitters are constantly sending out signals to your central nervous system to keep your heart beating and your lungs filling with air.
- Your neurotransmitters can’t do that job without the proper fuel (nourishment).
- Proper nutrition reduces inflammation throughout your body, including your brain.
- Your brain sends the signals to your digestive system to start breaking down food and delivering nutrients to all parts of your body, including the brain. So even your digestive processes are powered by the brain.
Without a doubt, magnesium is one of the most important minerals that you need for good brain function throughout your lifetime. Magnesium maintains elasticity in the nerves so that they can receive the messages your brain sends effectively. In addition, magnesium aids in converting sugar into energy. This often causes the sluggish and cloudy feeling you get when you aren’t sick but don’t quite feel right. This is a sign that your brain is not receiving enough magnesium to do its job! In addition to being necessary for nerve elasticity, magnesium is necessary for the proper absorption of Vitamin. Keep that in mind for one minute, as we’ll get to Vitamin D next.
Some foods to try to eat more regularly to replenish magnesium levels are:
- Collard greens
- Brown rice
Everyone knows that Vitamin D grows healthy bones. After all, the milk carton in elementary school told us so! A lesser-known fact is that Vitamin D also grows healthy neurotransmitters. In fact, when you’re depleted of Vitamin D, you’re more likely to be less alert in the short-term. Over a lifetime, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The most natural source of Vitamin D is sun exposure for 15 to 20 minutes daily.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Did you know that your brain is almost 50% made up of fat? Omega-3 fatty acids are a “good fat” that you want to consume to continue to keep your brain healthy.
To keep mental alertness your whole life, replace unhealthy saturated fats with Omega-3 fatty acids in foods such as:
- Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines
- Brussel sprouts
As Vitamin C is absorbed into the body, it’s transformed into the powerful antioxidant, ascorbate. This antioxidant fights free radicals, environmental damage that can cause cellular damage or cancer. It’s also important to keep the tissue of your brain healthy and leads the charge against stroke!
Some foods to eat to increase your Vitamin C intake are:
Vitamin E is a vital antioxidant. It helps regulate the amount of energy you have and reduces stress. It also helps your brain send signals to other vital organs, especially the eyes. In fact, Vitamin E deficiency can cause irreversible blurred or decreased vision.
A few foods that are fantastic sources of Vitamin E are:
- Wheat germ
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet potatoes
The B Vitamins
Each of the B vitamins plays a large role in brain health. They help to keep your neurotransmitter healthy which keeps your memory sharp. They also regulate the part of the brain that controls your moods and mental alertness. Finally, they help keep you’re the volume of your brain tissue full and supple to help ward off illness.
Without the B vitamins, conditions can develop such as low mental acuity, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, mental illness, depression, and insomnia. The B-Vitamins that have the most significant impacts on brain health are B2 (riboflavin); B3 (niacin), B9 (folate), and B12 (cobalamin).
Some of the foods you should eat to consume the B Vitamins are:
- Sweet potato
- Sunflower seeds
When to Take Supplements
As with all nutrition, medical experts recommend that you get your vitamins and minerals from natural food sources. Skip processed foods and those with “added” vitamins and opt for whole-grain, unprocessed, and natural foods whenever it’s possible. When you just can’t get enough of a certain vitamin, due to a food allergy for example, then the next best thing is to take an over the counter supplement. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help point you in the right direction.
Your brain is constantly at work. Because it never gets to rest, it consumes fuel in the form of nutrients derived from vitamins and minerals. Make sure to give your brain plenty of these necessary nutrients so you can have better brain health throughout your entire lifetime.