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Nutrients for Brain Health

Diet supplies the essential components necessary for energy production, neurotransmitters, and mood-enhancing hormones. Many protein-rich foods contain the molecules that cells utilize to construct brain-signaling hormones, essential for maintaining high energy levels, sharp memory, creativity, and a positive mood.

The foundational elements for these neurotransmitters are present in a variety of foods, including meats, fish, eggs, fruits, edible plants, roots, and herbs.

NutrientEffects on cognition and emotionFood sources
Omega-3 fatty acids (forexample, docosahexaenoic acid)Amelioration of cognitive decline in the elderly (4)*; basis for treatment in patients with mood disorders (3); improvement of cognition in traumatic brain injury in rodents®1; amelioration of cognitive decay in mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (149, 150)Fish (salmon), flax seeds, krill, chia, kiwi fruit, butternuts, walnuts
CurcuminAmelioration of cognitive decay in mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease (123); amelioration of cognitive decay in traumatic brain injury in rodents (89)Turmeric (curry spice)
FlavonoidsCognitive enhancement in combination with exercise in rodents; improvement of cognitive function in the elderly (151)Cocoa, green tea, Ginkgo tree, citrus fruits, wine (higher in red wine), dark chocolate
Saturated fatPromotion of cognitive decline in adult rodents; aggravation of cognitive impairment after brain trauma in rodents®; exacerbation of cognitive decline in aging humans?Butter, ghee, suet, lard, coconut oil, cottonseed oil, palm kernel oil, dairy products (cream, cheese), meat
B vitaminsSupplementation with vitamin B6, vitamin B12 or folate has positive effects on memory performance in women of various ages (152); vitamin B12 improves cognitive impairment in rats fed a choline-deficient dier (153)Various natural sources. Vitamin B12 is not available from plant products
Vitamin DImportant for preserving cognition in the elderly (154)Fish liver, fatty fish, mushrooms, fortified products, milk, soy milk, cereal grains
Vitamin EAmelioration of cognitive impairment after brain trauma in rodents (02); reduces cognitive decay in the elderly (119)Asparagus, avocado, nuts, peanuts, olives, red palm oil, seeds, spinach, vegetable oils, wheatgerm
CholineReduction of seizure-induced memory impairment in rodents (155) causal relationship between dietary choline and cognition in humans and rats (156); a review of the literature reveals evidence for a Egg yolks, soy beef, chicken, veal, turkey liver, lettuce
Combination of vitamins (C, E, carotene)Antioxidant vitamin intake delays cognitive decline in the elderly (157)Vitamin C: citrus fruits, several plants and vegetables, calf and beef liver. Vitamin E: see above
Calcium, zinc, seleniumHigh serum calcium is associated with faster cognitive decline in the elderly (158); reduction of zinc in diet helps to Calcium: milk, coral. Zinc: oysters, a small amount in beans, nuts, reduce cognitive decay in the elderly (159); lifelong low selenium level associated with lower cognitive function in almonds, whole grains, sunflower seeds. Selenium: nuts, cereals, humans (160)meat, fish, eggs
CopperCognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease correlates with low plasma concentrations of copper (161)Oysters, beef/lamb liver, Brazil nuts, blackstrap molasses, cocoa, black pepper
IronIron treatment normalizes cognitive function in young women (162)Red meat, fish, poultry, lentils, beans


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