What has nutrition got to do with your brain health? More than you think as Laura Sugden reveals...
We spend a lot of time thinking about nourishing our minds, with meditation, journalling and other mindful practices becoming more and more mainstream.
But, what about the nourishment of our brains? There is an optimal environment for our brains, and it’s a combo of sleep, exercise, hydration and nutrition.
The right cognitive nutrition can have a huge impact on the brain’s capabilities. It can boost productivity by 50%, improve mood, and even counter depression.
There are lots of ways to think about getting more brain-nourishing ingredients into your life, from diet changes to supplementation.
Heights have developed a Smart Supplement that includes everything you need for your brain to function on full – the key natural vitamins, powerful antioxidants and brain-healthy fats all designed to slow-release into your bloodstream for maximum absorption.
Top of the ingredients list? Blueberries, vitamin B complex, and DHA omega-3 oil. The three key nutrients you need every day to support concentration, memory, lateral thinking, creativity and neuroplasticity (your brain’s ability to grow and adapt), so that your brain can thrive.
An antioxidant superfood that’s good for pretty much everything; blueberries contain anthocyanins (a group of flavonoids with antioxidant activity), which are thought to be responsible for their beneficial health effects.
In a day-to-day capacity, the anthocyanins in blueberries can help with learning, concentration and memory across all ages.
They do this by helping to increase the distribution of energy in the brain, and your brain’s signalling abilities.
Blueberries also have protective effects, which can help prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, and improve motor and cognitive function.
The reason for the beneficial effects on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s could be because the anthocyanins stop the build-up of toxic deposits in the brain (known as amyloid beta plaque).
The effects are so promising in fact, that in the future, flavonoids might be used in new drugs to treat these diseases.
Fun fact: Anthocyanins are responsible for the strong colour of a lot of fruit and veg, so if you’re looking to up your antioxidant ante, check out the brightest hues first.
Extra benefits: Blueberries can reduce the risk of heart disease, lower LDL cholesterol, help with weight management, reduce risk of diabetes, and even reduce risk of death (really).
How much to impact your brain?
There is no recommended intake or safe level for blueberries, but some studies propose consuming up to 400mg a day. Most of us don’t eat anywhere near enough fruits and vegetables to get close to these levels, (for example, in the USA people only get about 12.5mg per day.)
So, supplementing could be an easy way to up your intake and experience the considerable health benefits associated with anthocyanins.
This long-chain omega-3 fatty acid is essential for every cell in the body, particularly the brain and the eyes.
Our bodies can’t produce DHA in large enough quantities, and it’s very difficult to find in plant sources (other than algae), so vegans need to consume enough through diet or supplementation.
DHA is mainly found in the grey matter of the brain, particularly the frontal lobes. The speed and quality of communication between nerve cells can be impacted by a lack of DHA.
This has been linked to memory problems and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia – supplementation has been shown to cause improvements.
It has also improved behavioural disorders like ADHD by improving brain blood flow during mental tasks.
Fun fact: As well as the health of the brain itself, DHA may also have a protective role in mental health. One large study found that taking a daily 300-600mg omega-3 supplement was linked with a 30% reduction in developing symptoms of depression.
This could be because DHA is important for serotonin, which helps regulate our mood.
Extra benefits: Omega-3 is important in foetal development, as well as immune function, weight management, and inflammation. And, working with EPA (another component of omega-3), it helps to protect against heart disease.
How much to impact your brain?
Most governing bodies recommend 200-500mg of combined EHA and DHA per day.
B vitamins have a lot of different roles in the brain, but most essentially provide the fuel that gives our brain cells the energy they need to do their work.
They do this through the making of cholesterol, amino acids, phospholipids, and fatty acids. Key players in controlling our emotions; having low levels of B vitamins can double the likelihood of developing a mood disorder like depression, as they impact production of serotonin and dopamine.
B vitamins are thought to prevent brain atrophy, which could help to keep the brain healthy in people with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and reduce the risk of dementia and memory loss.
A clinical trial found that vitamin supplementation with folic acid, B6 and B12 slowed the shrinking of the brain in the areas associated with cognitive decline.
Fun fact: If you suffer from migraines, a deficiency in vitamin B2 could be to blame.
A study of migraine-sufferers showed that daily supplementation of vitamin B2 cut migraine frequency in half.
Extra benefits: Iron and B vitamins work together to form haemoglobin, so it’s important to consume both, either through diet or supplements.
They’re also essential for making sure the body uses folic acid effectively, so consuming them together makes sure this can happen.
B vitamins also protect the eyes from free radical damage, and help to release energy from food, as well as aiding with bowel function and the breakdown of fats.
How much to impact your brain?
The exact recommended daily amounts of B vitamins vary depending on age, sex, and condition, but they are needed every day.
Heights is a holistic brain health company dedicated to helping people reach the heights of their potential. They create Smart Supplements and clever content for the brain, intelligently delivered by monthly subscription. www.yourheights.com