Protect Your Brain with Nutrition & Supplements

Protect Your Brain with Nutrition & Supplements

A large majority of people today are constantly on the go, stressed out, overthinking, and under a lot of pressure. With technology, people are also plugged in most of the time, leaving very little time to truly unwind, rest and recharge.

When considering health, a lot of people automatically focus on their bodies first. However, it’s safe to say that our brain needs just as much (if not the most) attention, considering the fact that it is basically the computer that controls all the body’s functions.

From a holistic health perspective, there are various ways that you can support your brain health. Adequate sleep, deep breathing and meditation, regular exercise and eating a wholesome diet are just a few. And it’s important to remember that you need to be considering all these aspects to create a lifestyle that truly supports your brain.

While there are many aspects of health to consider, in this article we’re focusing on how Nutrition & Supplements can support your brain health.

Nourishing your body and brain with nutritious food:

It’s important to remember that there is no miracle food or magic pill that can ‘cure’ your brain.
After all, cognitive changes and decline is a normal process of aging. However, by nourishing your body with good nutrient-dense food, you can help your brain stay healthier into your old age.

When it comes to what nutrients and foods to eat to support your brain, you can keep it very simple if you prefer. To do this, simply limit processed foods, and focus on eating whole foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, you’ll already be supporting your brain with many essential nutrients it needs.

However, if you want to go deeper, in this article we’re looking at 3 specific nutrients that have been shown to be particularly effective in supporting the brain. Alongside we’ll also share natural food sources for each, and useful information on supplements.

Nutrients, Food Sources & Supplements for the Brain:
 

While you can support your brain by simply eating a varied diet of whole foods, it is sometimes difficult to meet the body’s requirements because of the quantity of the nutrient in the food, its absorption in the body, or a pre-existing medical condition that may hamper the effectiveness of the nutrient. In such cases, it is critical to supplement the diet along with functional ingredients or nutrients to facilitate the body to work at its optimal potential. There are certain nutrients and foods that are true brain-boosters.

The 3 specific brain-boosting nutrients we’re highlighting are omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants.

Omega-3 fatty acids:

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is essential to the body. The very fact that it is essential means that the body cannot produce it but requires it through diet and/or supplementation. It plays many roles in the body and has been shown to support the health of the body and the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with regulating cellular functions, blood pressure, nervous system, glucose tolerance, hematic clotting, and curbing inflammation. They may also help lower triglycerides, relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and slow the progression of age-related eye disease.

There are 3 kinds of omega-3 fatty acids – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic (ALA). DHA and EPA are mostly found in fish and are biologically active and able to be used directly by the body. ALA is found in plants and needs to be converted into DHA and EPA before the body can use it. However, the conversion of ALA to EPA is approximately 6% whereas ALA to DHA is 3.8% and if your diet is rich is omega-6 fatty acids then this conversion is further reduced by 40% to 50%. Our regular diet is high is Omega-6 mainly because of vegetable oils and the quantity we use in cooking.

Therefore DHA and EPA are considered to be the most important forms of omega-3 fatty acids that have also been associated with the various benefits of consuming Omega-3 Fatty Acids.

Recommended daily dose:

As there are no specific guidelines for Omega-3 Fatty Acids, however below are the minimum amounts that a healthy person can consume based on research:

EPA and DHA: 250 to 500 mg combined dosage for healthy adults
ALA: 1.1 g to 1.6 g per day for healthy adults
Higher amounts may be recommended in particular health conditions.

Omega-3 food sources:

  • Fatty Fish – Fatty fish are a naturally rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and are considered the best source. Such fish include cod, salmon, anchovies, halibut, herring, mackerel, oysters, sardines, trout, and tuna.
  • Fortified Food Products: You can find certain food products that have been fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. Some examples include margarine, milk, or yogurt.
  • Grains, Nuts and Seeds: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in nuts and seeds, like walnuts, flaxseed, pumpkin, chia and hemp seeds. You can also find omega-3s in peanut butter, oatmeal and some breads.
  • Seaweed and Algae: This is an important source of omega-3s for vegetarians and vegans, as it’s one of the few plant-based sources that contains both DHA and EPA. Examples include seaweed, nori, spirulina, and chlorella.
  • Oils: Cod liver oil is a great source of DHA and EHA. Other oils can be a good source of ALA like canola, flaxseed, soybean and walnut oil.

Food Source

Omega Content per serving

Salmon (100 g)

2018 mg

Herring (100 g)

1729 mg

Tuna (100 g)

243 mg

Flaxseed (1 tbsp)

2338 mg

Walnut (1 cup)

10623 mg

Omega-3 supplements:

We don’t recommend taking a supplement to replace a healthy diet but to support an inadequate diet. If you are not a fish eater or not consuming the foods listed in the above section on a regular basis (at least 4 to 5 times a week), then you should add a supplement to meet your body’s requirements.

Because it is such a valuable nutrient for the body and brain, you will see many supplement brands and it can get overwhelming to know which to choose.

Based of our expertise in creating quality supplements with ingredients like omega-3, here are some tips to help you select a quality product:
 

  • Tip 01: [dosage & efficacy] Choose an EPA or DHA supplement to get maximum benefit in a lower dose. There are vegan sources of these nutrients that are also now available. If you are still unsure of the source, then opt for a veg ALA option with a higher dosage. You can keep our recommended dosage in mind while choosing your supplement.
  • Tip 02: [quality] Please read labels for the actual EPA, DHA or ALA content as even if your Omega 3 supplement says 1000 mg, all of it will not be EPA, DHA or ALA.
  • Tip 03: [safety] While it is generally safe to take Omega-3 supplements, it is important to consult your physician if you are on any form of blood thinners as Omega-3s further enhance their action.
  1. B Vitamins:

There are 13 vitamins that the body needs to function optimally, and 8 of them are B vitamins. They are: Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folate/folic acid (B9), and Cyanocobalamin (B12).

All vitamins and minerals play an essential role in supporting the body and brain. However, it’s the B vitamins that certainly stand out for their particular role in supporting the brain.

“All the B vitamins – 1,2,3,6,9, and 12 – play an important role in brain health. They may help prevent dementia and boost the production of neurotransmitters – chemicals that deliver messages between neurons in the brain and body.”
Source

It’s important to know that the body doesn’t store B vitamins. So, by not getting adequate amounts, you can risk cognitive decline.

Recommended daily dose:

There are Recommended Daily Allowances established for B complex vitamins right through pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adulthood. Following is the basic requirement for a sedentary person.

Nutrient

Sedentary Man

Sedentary Woman

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)

1.4 mg/day

1.4 mg/day

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

2 mg/day

1.9 mg/day

Niacin (Vitamin B3)

14 mg/day

11 mg/day

Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)

5 mg/day

5 mg/day

Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)

1.9 mg/day

1.9 mg/day

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

40 mcg/day

40 mcg/day

Dietary Folate (Vitamin B9)

300 mcg/day

220 mcg/day

Cyanocobalamin (Vitamin B12)

2.2 mcg/day

2.2 mcg/day

B Vitamin food sources: 

  • Whole grains – Refined grains are processed, which strips away many nutrients. Instead, go for whole grains which retain their nutritional content. Whole grains rich in many of the B vitamins include oats, barley, brown rice, millets, and quinoa.
  • Avocados – Avocados contain a good amount of B6. They also contain many other vitamins and minerals, and healthy fats.
  • Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits contain many of the B vitamins, and also include fibre, other essential nutrients, and antioxidants. Some examples include oranges, grapefruit, clementines and lemons.
  • Legumes: Legumes is a food group that includes lentils and beans. This is a fantastic and economical vitamin B source, particularly for vegetarians and vegans. And apart from the B vitamins, legumes come with lots of good dietary fibre and other essential nutrients.
  • Animal products: B12 is majorily found in animal products. Meat, poultry and fish are excellent sources of vitamins B3, B6, and B12. They also contain other important minerals such as potassium, iron, selenium, and zinc. Liver and Eggs are also good sources of certain B vitamins.

Vitamin B supplements:

We don’t recommend taking a supplement to replace a healthy diet. You should initiate B complex supplements if your clinical reports suggest of a deficiency or if you have any of the following complaints:

Muscle cramps
Weakness or fatigue
Tingling or numbness sensation in the extremities of your hands or feet
Anemia
Mouth ulcers
Mood shifts
Issues with vision

Based of our expertise in creating quality supplements, here are some tips to help you select a quality product:

  • Tip 01: [dosage & efficacy]
  • It is best to consult a nutritionist or physician for your course of supplementation if you have been identified as clinically deficient. The dosage recommended to manage deficiency is higher than the normal dosage. If you are a healthy adult, you can follow the dosage specified in the previous section.
  • Tip 02: [quality]
  • To get the best out of your supplement, ensure that is covers the entire range of B complex vitamins. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, ensure that you take at least a vitamin B12 supplement daily as it is commonly deficit in the diet. 
  • Tip 03: [safety]
  • B complex is generally regarded as safe to consume as they are water soluble vitamins, which means that even if you consume a little extra, your body can flush it out through the urine (providing you are drinking sufficient water). However, make sure to consume your supplements as per the dose recommended on them.
  1. Antioxidants:

Antioxidants are compounds that are found in food sources. They are important for many reasons, but one of their key roles is protecting the body from oxidative stress.

Oxidation is a normal process that happens in the body. During normal cell metabolism, a type of unstable molecule called a free radical is created. While it’s normal to have free radicals, when they build up in cells, they can cause damage to other molecules in the body. This is called oxidative stress. This is the cause of inflammation, disorders, lifestyle diseases, and even aging quickly. Free radicals can generate from internal metabolic processes, air pollution, smoking, excess UV radiation, high blood sugars, alcohol consumption, high intake of oils, etc.

Antioxidants are able to stabilize the free radicals so that they become less reactive. This prevents oxidative stress and damage to the cells of the body.

Oxidative stress can happen anywhere in the body, including in the brain.

“The brain uses an abundance of oxygen due to its high metabolic activity. This makes the brain more susceptible to free radical attack than just about any other area of the body. Free radical attack on brain cells results in memory loss.
Source

In other words, antioxidants can protect cell damage from free radicals, and could possibly help prevent memory loss.

Some examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, and selenium as well as carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin.

Here is something interesting to remember:

Carotenoids and flavonoids are antioxidants that give plants their color. These are natural pigments in fruits and vegetables, which also have antioxidant properties that help protect the cells. And the brighter the colour, the richer the antioxidants. Therefore, you can simply focus on having a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables and know you’re nourishing your body with a variety of powerful antioxidants.

Antioxidant food sources:

  • Berries: Berries are an amazing source of antioxidants, particularly for the brain. Examples include cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries.
  • Whole Fruit: Apart from berries, any whole fruits contain antioxidants. Examples include citrus fruit and tomatoes.
  • Green Vegetables: Green and leafy vegetables are particularly rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, lutein, folate, and beta carotene. Some examples include spinach, kale, collards, and broccoli.
  • Whole vegetables: Just like fruits, all whole vegetables contain antioxidants.
  • Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are strong antioxidants. The darker the chocolate the better.
  • Herbs and Spices: Many herbs and spices, like turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, are full of antioxidants.
  • Green Tea: Green teas Green tea contains flavonoids, which function as powerful antioxidants and help protect the body.

Antioxidant supplements:

We don’t recommend taking a supplement to replace a healthy diet full of whole fruits and vegetables. However, an extra dose of antioxidants in addition to your regular veges and fruits can definitely help, especially if you have medical conditions. Most importantly, even as most veges and fruits contain antoixidants, the way we process/cook or treat them before consumption influences their antioxidant activity and may also decrease it.

Based of our expertise in creating quality supplements, here are some tips to help you select a quality product:

  • Tip 01: [dosage & efficacy]
  • While there are many antioxidant supplements, following are few that we would suggest that you could take daily:
  • Vitamin A – 840 to 1000 mcg (cellular health)
  • Vitamin C – 80 mg (immunity, matrix of bones)
  • Vitamin E – 10 mg (skin and hair protection, immunity)
  • Astaxanthin – 4 mg (overall-eye, heart and antiaging)
  • Curcumin – 500 mg (benefits brain health)
  • Glutathione – 300 mg (Critical for cellular health)
  • CoQ10 – 100 mg (good for hearth health)
  • A combination or any one of these along with a healthy regular diet will definitely go a long way in achieving your potential. 
  • Tip 03: [safety]
  • Consume as per the recommended usage on the supplement pack. Some antioxidants are fat soluble and may get stored to a certain extent in the body ehich is accurate dosing is important. 

Conclusion

Your brain runs your entire operating system, and needs to be taken care of. And while there are many ways to do that, food is a great place to start

If you can make sure that you’re getting adequate omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and antioxidants, you’re nourishing your brain in a variety of ways that can help keep it strong.

And again, we never recommend replacing a balanced wholesome diet with supplements. However, if you do need any extra boost, a quality supplement can help support you with the essential nutrients you need.

References:

Maria Alessandra GammoneGraziano RiccioniGaspare Parrinello, and Nicolantonio D’Orazio. Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: Benefits and Endpoints in Sport Nutrients. 2019 Jan; 11(1): 46

H Gerster. Can adults adequately convert alpha-linolenic acid (18:3n-3) to eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3)? Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 1998;68(3):159-73.

Interim Summary of Conclusions and Dietary Recommendations on Total Fat & Fatty Acids from the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Fats and Fatty Acids in Human Nutrition, 10-14 November 2008, WHO, Geneva

EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). Scientific Opinion on the Tolerable Upper Intake Level of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA). EFSA Journal 2012 July; 10(7):2815

Recommended Dietary Allowances by Indian Council of Medical Research, 2020

Protect Your Brain with Nutrition & Supplements
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