How to Keep your Brain Healthy Part 2: Nutrients for Your Noggin


How to Keep your Brain Healthy Part 2: Nutrients for Your Noggin

Food for thought

It’s true! Good eating doesn’t just keep your weight in check, your heart happy, and your glucose levels steady, it also affects your brain! Nutrition plays a crucial role in brain health, both short term and long term. People who maintain healthy active minds well past their sixties almost invariably have had a good diet rich in brain-stimulating nutrients during their younger years and continue to maintain those habits each day.

Vitamin E:

Vitamin E has two powerful components, alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol, and both are powerful antioxidants that help heal brain disorders. This vitamin antioxidant properties help to protect the brain from damage by free radicals (unstable molecules that injure surrounding cells). Vitamin E can be especially helpful for those who have Alzheimer’s or have a family history of the disease.

It is important to ask a professional for recommendations on how much vitamin E you should take each day. The average suggestion is 400 IU’s.

What to Eat To Get More E?

Vitamin E is found in:

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Nuts

  • Whole grains

  • Most nut or seed oils.

Make yourself a salad with fresh romaine lettuce, slivered almonds, and a dressing made with sunflower seed oil for a daily brain boost. If you find that you’re feeling peckish after lunchtime, snack on walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or crackers with fresh nut butter. If your doctor has placed you on a low sodium diet, remember to buy unsalted nuts!

Vitamin B’s:

Each of the numerous vitamin B’s are involved in healthy brain function. They assist in the formation of brain chemicals, such as dopamine, epinephrine and serotonin. Folic acid (a B complex) helps in brain development and control of the metabolism. B12 can prevent or slow brain shrinkage in adults, protecting short and long term memory. B6 helps to regulate mood and prevent mental fatigue. Obviously, getting enough B vitamins should be at the top of our ‘to-do’ list!

What to Eat to Get More B?

Getting more B vitamins in your diet is easy, as these nutrients are easily found in many foods, including fresh fruits and veggies. In general, stay away from processed foods or products that have had synthetic vitamin B added, such as fortified flours.

  • Leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, and bok choy

  • Dark vegetables and legumes, such as beans, squashes, potatoes, parsnips, and brussels sprouts

  • Soy products and soy beans

  • Black eyed pea and edamame

  • Avocado

  • Pomegranate

  • Dates

  • Watermelon

  • Fish, such as salmon, trout, halibut, cod, and tuna

  • Shellfish and other crustaceans

  • Poultry and eggs

Make yourself a dinner of fresh salmon, accompanied by a spinach salad garnished with beans.

Vitamin B12:

Vitamin B12 is one of the most important B vitamins. It has dozens of roles within the body, including the formation of myelin sheaths, a sort of protective shield that insulates your nerves. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause nerve damage, memory loss, despondency or depression, and sluggish mental capacity. As we age, people also sometimes develop an impaired ability to absorb B12, making the necessity to increase dietary and vitamin supplements even more important.

What to Eat to Get More B12?

B12 is found is found in many vegetables as well as meat and dairy products. It is best to get your vitamin B12 from all natural sources, such as wild caught salmon, farm raised poultry and eggs, and other naturally grown foods.

  • Cooked shellfish

  • Fresh fish, such as salmon, herring, mackerel, tuna, and halibut

  • Whole grains

  • Oat bran

  • Poultry, such as chicken, turkey, duck and goose

  • Eggs

  • Soy products, such as tofu and soy nuts

  • Free range beef

Folic Acid or Folate:

Folate is one of the most important B vitamins for the developing children’s brains, but continues to remain important even once we have children of our own. Adequate folate can make you more alert, with quicker response time and improved focus capabilities. In addition, folate helps to lower levels of the amino acid homocysteine which is known to damage brain cells.

What to Eat to Get More Folate?

This little vitamin is abundant in many foods, but particularly vegetables. To get more folate eat:

  • Beans and other legumes

  • Fresh fruits, such as pomegranate

  • Black eyed peas

  • Lettuce

  • Asparagus

  • Spinach

  • Broccoli

  • Tropical fruits, such as mango, papaya, kiwi, guava and orange

Vitamin B6:

Vitamin B6 is essential to having a good mood and outlook on life. It helps to convert 5 HTP to serotonin, the chemical that controls your mood and stress levels. It also plays a role in how well you sleep. In addition, it helps to keep you alert.

What to Eat to Get More B6?

This vitamin is easily found in delicious vegetables and fruits. If you often fill your plate with hearty salads, you’re getting a good amount of B6!

  • Peppers

  • Kale and other dark leafy greens

  • Spinach

  • Cauliflower

  • Garlic

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Pistachios

  • Fruits, such as plums, apricots, cranberries and grapes, dried or fresh

  • Banana

  • Avocado

  • Tuna

  • Poultry, such as turkey or chicken

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid:

This nutrient is one of the most vital nutrients for your brain. In fact, 8% of your brain is comprised of essential fatty acids. Omega-3’s have been shown to possess antidepressant and neuroprotective properties, and have even been shown to increase grey matter volume in the brain. Clear thinking, focus, memory, and even happiness all center on having enough of this incredible nutrient.

What to Eat to Get More Omega-3’s?

Omega-3’s are best known for being found in tasty fresh fish such as salmon. However, if you don’t care for seafood, there are plenty of other places to find Omega-3’s!

  • Brussels sprouts

  • Kale and spinach

  • Mint and parsley

  • Watercress

  • Oils, such as flaxseed, soybean, walnut and rapeseed oils

  • Fish oils, such as cod liver oil

  • Nuts and seeds


This mineral is an important brain nutrient because it protects the brain from neurotoxins. In fact, it is so effective at this that some surgeons will give patients a sizeable dose of magnesium before and during surgery. Because this nutrient is damaged by heat and most of our foods are cooked, many people are deficient in magnesium.

What to Eat to Get More Magnesium?

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Most dark leafy greens, especially spinach and kale

  • Whole grains

Before starting a new diet regime or taking medication, consult your family doctor. They can advise you if any supplements are necessary, types of vitamins to take, and what foods will or will not interact with any health conditions or medications that you are taking as some foods may have bothersome side effects.

Keeping your brain active and healthy can give you a longer and greater quality of life as you age and even while you are young. After all, don’t we all need improved focus and memory? Contact your family medicine facility for further information on how to properly care for your brain and mind.