A healthy diet has long been recognised as having a role in preventing diseases like type two diabetes and heart disease. However, studies suggest that nutrition also helps brainpower. Diet is absolutely essential for brain health and many of us don’t realise just how critical it is in this regard. Let’s take a look at just some of the nutrients and supplements that you can use to enhance your brainpower.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. When you eat any meat, your brain will break it down into the amino acids and then recombine these to build tissues around your body. These tissues include use in the brain and so consuming more amino acids can be used to actually improve the body’s ability to repair and grow the brain! But this is not where the importance of amino acids ends.
Amino acids are also crucial for creating many neurotransmitters. For example, l-tyrosine is used to create dopamine, whereas tryptophan is used to create serotonin. Others, like l-theanine, can have direct effects on the brain and in this case, it’s a somewhat calming effect. L-carnitine meanwhile has an energy-boosting effect on the brain by increasing the performance of the mitochondria.
As with 5-HTP, it is possible to consume many of these amino acids on their own, in order to trigger immediate changes in the levels of neurotransmitters. However, this leads to imbalances as we’ve discovered and despite popular opinion, this is never a positive thing.
So instead, the best advice is to focus on trying to get a healthy mix of as many amino acids as possible. By simply eating lots of protein, or supplementing with amino acid products, it’s possible to provide the brain with all the materials it needs to create all of the different neurotransmitters as and when it needs them.
This then makes it better at entering every mental state and ensures that you can maximise your focus, concentration, memory and relaxation all at the same time. The best way to conveniently get lots of amino acids? To consume plenty of eggs. Eggs are one of the only ‘complete proteins’ meaning they contain all of the amino acids that the brain doesn’t create on its own.
On top of this, they also contain choline, which is the precursor to the excitatory neurotransmitter acetylcholine. They’re a great source of healthy saturated fat too and seeing as the brain is predominantly made from fat, this is also a very important and beneficial factor.
Vitamins and Minerals
The same goes for countless vitamins and minerals. These are also used to create a lot of the neurotransmitters that are so highly sought after by people trying to enhance their productivity and focus. Vitamin B6 in particular is used to create a huge number of neurotransmitters. Vitamin C meanwhile is key for increasing serotonin and boosting the mood, while also providing protection against illness (which brings with it cytokines – an inhibitory neurotransmitter).
And there are plenty of other roles for vitamins and minerals too. Iron and vitamin B12 both help with blood flow by producing more red blood cells. Vitamin D helps with the regulation of hormones, especially testosterone. Zinc plays a key role in enhancing neuroplasticity. Magnesium meanwhile helps to combat depression and anxiety. In short, if you are not getting the micronutrients you need, then you are not giving your brain everything it needs to function optimally. This is why you need to avoid processed foods.
Anything that is very artificial like a Mars Bar, a bag of crisps or McDonald’s burger will contain calories to fill you up but won’t contain the nutrients you need to function. You’ll stay alive but you’ll feel tired, sluggish and far less productive as a result. Eat healthy salads, smoothies and lots of fruit and veg and you’ll find that you start feeling healthier and alert. The next best thing is a multivitamin and if you get the right one of these then it can do a lot to improve the function of your brain as well as your overall health and wellbeing.
Omega 3 Fatty Acid
Omega 3 fatty acid is a great antioxidant that is found in tuna and other oily fish, as well as some nuts and various other sources. What makes omega 3 useful for the brain though, is the fact that it can improve ‘cell membrane permeability’. Essentially, this means that it makes the cell walls of the neurons just a little more permeable, thereby allowing things to pass through a little more easily. That includes neurotransmitters, nutrients and more – so it essentially makes brain cells more responsive and thereby gives you a slight boost yet again.
Antioxidants are key for looking after your brain’s long term health. These include vitamin C, omega 3, resveratrol and tons of other micronutrients. Essentially, antioxidants work by destroying ‘free radicals’ – substances that damage cells when they come into contact with them and which can even lead to cancer if they make it through the nucleus and cause damage to the DNA!
Consuming antioxidants is thus a very important strategy for your overall health and will also help you to reduce your likelihood of illness by strengthening your immune system. However, what we’re interested in right now is how this can boost your brainpower in the long term by protecting brain cells from damage and potentially lowering your chances of developing tumours later in life.