Your brain is a powerhouse of energy. Even though it’s only 2% of your body weight, it uses about 20% of your body’s calories. So it needs plenty of fuel to promote alertness, concentration, and memory.
While there are many products in the market that claim to be brain boosters, keep in mind not only do many of these supplements lack sufficient scientific evidence, but there is also no magic pill that can enhance brain function.
To improve your brain health, it’s important to eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients, in addition to leading a healthy lifestyle where you are getting plenty of water, regular physical activity, sufficient sleep, and relief from stress.
8 nutrients that are good for the brain
|Omega-3 fatty acids||Essential fatty acids that have numerous health benefits. Studies have shown that they are particularly beneficial for promoting brain health.||Fish (especially fatty fish, such as tuna, salmon, trout, halibut, and sardines), flax seeds, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, spinach, broccoli|
|Polyphenols||Naturally occurring substances in plant-based foods that act as powerful antioxidants, protecting nerve cells against the damaging effect of free radicals. Some well-known polyphenolic compounds include resveratrol, ellagic acid, and quercetin.||Grapes, berries, chili peppers, whole grains, green tea, vegetables|
|Vitamin D||Fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for overall health, including brain health. Studies have suggested that vitamin D helps maintain nerve health and may play a role in preventing dementia.||Eggs, cheese, fish, mushrooms, although the main source is sun exposure for 15 minutes a day|
|Vitamin B12||Helps promote nerve health and protects against the loss of nerve cells. Its deficiency has been associated with memory loss and depression.||Meat, fish, milk, eggs, cheese|
|Acetyl L carnitine||Derived from L carnitine, which is itself an amino acid derivative. Research suggests that it promotes various aspects of brain health, including the functioning of mitochondria ( powerhouse of the cells) and the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It may also play a role in learning, thinking, and reasoning (cognition).||Beef, chicken, milk, cheese|
|Curcumin||Belongs to a group of naturally occurring compounds called curcuminoids. Being a powerful antioxidant, it protects brain cells against inflammation and damage.||Turmeric, certain curry powders, supplements*|
|Ashwagandha||An ancient herb used for several medicinal purposes. It helps promote brain health and may improve memory and mood and reduce anxiety.||Available as a supplement in the form of capsules and powders*|
|Ginkgo biloba||Supplements from this ancient tree have been claimed to promote brain health and improve memory.||Available as a supplement in the form of capsules and powders*|
*Dietary supplements are regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as food, not as drugs. However, many dietary supplements contain ingredients that have strong biological effects, which may adversely react with a medication you are taking or a medical condition you have. Consult your doctor before consuming any supplements.
Which foods are bad for the brain?
Foods that can be harmful to your brain health, especially when consumed in excess, include:
- Foods rich in trans fatty acids (e.g. margarine)
- Sugary drinks (e.g. soda)
- Fried foods (e.g. French fries)
- Refined carbs (e.g. white rice, white bread)
- Red meat
- Excessive alcohol
- Certain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame
- Fish that may be high in mercury (e.g. swordfish)
Lifestyle habits that can also have a bad effect on brain health include:
Nutrition and Healthy Eating Resources
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Harvard Health Publishing. Don’t Buy Into Brain Health Supplements. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/dont-buy-into-brain-health-supplements
Downs M. Natural Brain Boosters. https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/natural-brain-boosters