6 Brain Boosting Nutrients
Fed up with feeling moody, stressed or forgetful? Your brain is your number 1 asset, so it makes sense to protect it. Find out how…
I believe our brain is our number 1 asset. We make constant daily demands, whether socialising, studying, working or thinking. We give it plenty of daily challenges to negotiate: minimal sleep, too much sugar, alcohol, and caffeine, unresolved stress. Lots of demands, not much love. Quite recently this idea of protecting what you have has really resonated with me, particularly as I’ve witnessed the far-reaching consequences of a moment of excess and carelessness. So, today I’ve listed 6 of my favourite nutrients, and the foods you should definitely eat more of, to give your big beautiful brain a lovely boost!
For when you’re feeling forgetful, or a little ‘wrung out’
One of the essential omega fats, DHA has to come from our diet – that’s why it’s called essential! It may be better known as the omega needed during pregnancy, but recent large-scale studies suggest forgetful adults can benefit from higher doses to protect against cognitive decline and memory loss.
I recommend eating a portion of small oily fish – think sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel, rather than salmon and tuna – two times a week, to provide lots of this brain-boosting omega.
For when you’re thinking smart about the future and want to safeguard your health
This tasty spice is HUGE in the health world; you can find it in teas, honey, humous, even sauerkraut. It’s also a source of curcumin, the bright yellow compound which makes up 2-5% of turmeric root, and has some solid studies on its anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective actions when taken as a supplement.
You won’t be able to achieve the amounts of curcumin used in the studies by cooking with turmeric. Which is where supplements come in. So what do you need to know? Firstly, there’s a huge and potentially confusing selection in the health shops. Some will provide whole turmeric (with its small amounts of naturally-occurring curcumin), others a concentrated extract of pure curcumin, or you might find the 2 combined. Secondly, while turmeric is easily absorbed in the intestines, curcumin isn’t. So you might find extras are added, like piperine from black pepper, to increase curcumin’s staying power. Thirdly it’s good to remember that curcumin is 1 of 3 curcuminoids present in turmeric, and there are natural oils and other compounds too. You’re unlikely to find any of these in a pure curcumin extract.
If you prefer whole turmeric supplements, I suggest opting for those which are either fermentation activated, or prepared using a wholistic extraction. If you’re more interested in curcumin, then steer clear of supplements with piperine, and use an oral spray which delivers all 3 of the curcuminoids, not just curcumin alone.
3. LION’S MANE
For when you need to stay calm and recall facts in a flash
Packed full of minerals, polysaccharides and polypeptides, and able to increase levels of nerve growth factor (NGF), which literally help your nerve cells grow. This impressive medicinal mushroom is all about communication, flexibility and brain cell growth.
Word on the health impact of medicinal mushrooms is spreading like wild-fire. Deservedly so. Blend powders into your favourite power smoothie or green juice, or stir into coffee or tea.
4. VITAMIN D
For when the short days and long nights leave you low
A classic when it comes to supporting brain and mood, it’s a must for anyone stuck in the UK over Winter. In fact, Public Health England advise we all supplement 400IU every day from October to April, reflecting the fact we can’t eat or make enough during the Summer to meet our yearly needs.
There is vitamin D in everyday foods (glass of milk: 100iu, 3oz salmon: 450iu, 1 egg yolk: 40iu, 1 serving cereal: 100iu, 3oz liver: 50iu), but considering you’ll need at least 1000iu a day, particularly during the dark winter months, it will be difficult to achieve this through diet alone, and practically impossible to eat your way out of a pre-existing deficiency. I recommend you test your levels at the GP, and supplement as necessary.
For when you want to get a grip on that short-term stress
It’s rare to find essential oils which are safe to be taken internally, but recent studies suggest lavender taken orally could be supportive of healthy adults when under mild conditions of stress.
Alternatively, stick with aromatherapy tradition and simply breathe in this restorative essential oil. You could even blend equal amounts of lavender, bergamot and frankincense to add to a diffuser, or massage into your hands, arms and neck.
6. PHOSPHATIDYLCHOLINE (PC)
For when you’re working flat out and need an extra bit of love
A fantastic all-rounder for brain health supporting cellular communication, methylation processes and the production of acetylcholine, the brain chemical used to make new memories.
Made up of phosphates, essential fatty acids and choline, PC even helps keep our brain cell membranes healthy. Eating eggs, wheatgerm, soybeans, sunflower seeds and grass-fed dairy will help you achieve an optimal daily intake.