Nutrients That Improve Brain Health
Studies have shown that, in fact, there are specific nutrients in these foods that work to improve brain health. This means that instead of relying on a specific diet such as the Mediterranean diet to stay healthy, you may focus on specific nutrients and find foods that you enjoy that contain these vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
In one particular study, researchers took blood samples of participants and used their blood analysis to determine their actual nutrient status, in addition to using MRIs to measure their brain's efficiency. By using direct methods such as these to gather information, the researchers were able to have an accurate dataset to detect any evidence of a link between one's nutrient intake and their brain health.
The researchers were able to concretely determine some nutrients that had a direct impact on healthy brain aging, increased cognitive function, executive functioning, brain network efficiency, and overall intelligence. Here are the significant nutrients that they found:
Omega-3 Fatty AcidsYou can get omega-3 fatty acids into your diet by eating a variety of fish. Fish oil supplements are a concentration of the omega-3 fatty acids that you can get by eating salmon, trout, tuna, mackerel, or herring. Typically, any fatty fish is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-6 Fatty AcidsThese healthy fats are found in vegetable oils, nuts, seeds, poultry products and whole grains. Like Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids are essential to the body and can only be obtained by eating certain foods or taking supplements. Even though this important fat cannot be produced by the body, they are important to the brain and play a critical role in growth and development.
LycopeneLycopene can be found in plant foods that are red in color, such as tomatoes and watermelon.
CarotenoidsThis nutrient can be found in yellow and orange produce, such as sweet potatoes, squash and carrots.
Vitamin DVitamin D is also found in fatty fish, as well as fortified dairy products and dairy substitutes like soy milk.
B VitaminsWhile all of the B-complex vitamins are important for your overall health, three of them in particular- B6, B12, and B9, are especially important for brain health. These B vitamins work together to prevent or reduce mental decline, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia.
Studies have shown that these vitamins work together to help prevent mental decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Eating foods that are rich in these nutrients reduces brain atrophy, improves cognitive function, and can reduce brain shrinkage.
These vitamins can be found in foods such as dairy products, enriched grains, dark leafy greens, poultry, eggs, fish, and fortified cereals.
Researchers have found that it isn't just consuming these nutrients individually that improves your brain health, instead, it is how these nutrients work together and are used collectively by the body that makes a difference. This is why it is so important to eat a varied diet that includes these nutrients in healthy and useful amounts instead of relying on dietary supplements to provide your body with a set amount of each nutrient.
There are variations of the Mediterranean diet available to make it easier to follow this eating pattern to get all of the brain-benefitting nutrients into your daily diet. Find the foods that are accessible to you that you enjoy eating and make them a regular part of your meals so you can be sure to eat the most important nutrients that will keep your brain healthy well into old age.