As we age our bodies deteriorate. Our muscles lose their strength, our skin loses its elasticity, bones become brittle and our neurons don't fire as fast. This includes our most important organ our brain. Cognitive decline may set in as early as age 45. However there are ways to minimize the effects of aging by working out, eating healthy, taking supplements, etc. And just like our muscles, bones, and skin we can keep our brain from deteriorating by supplying it with the right nutrients. These 6 nutrients can build up the brain making it bigger and sharper, and can also protect against degenerative brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant. It protects our tissues from destructive effects of free radicals. Unlike some of its other antioxidant counterparts (i.e. Vitamin C), vitamin E is fat soluble. And because cellular membranes are composed of fat, vitamin E keeps these membranes healthy by shielding them from free radicals. The brain is especially rich in lipids (fats and fatty compounds) and consumes a large amount of the bodies’ oxygen supplies. This makes the brain more vulnerable to oxidative damage from free radicals. Therefore the brain requires more antioxidant protection. Vitamin E helps to preserve brain function and safeguards against neuron degeneration. Vitamin E can reduce the rate of cognitive decline as the brain ages. A handful of sunflower seeds provides the brain with a healthy dose of vitamin E, or as an alternative eat almond butter.
Vitamin B12or cobalamin is one of the many important vitamins in the group of B complex vitamins that deals with energy production, body defense mechanisms, and red blood cell formation. Vitamin B12 is essential for proper functioning and development of the brain and nerve cells. Its role is in the formation, support and maintenance of the myelin sheaths- the fatty substance that covers and protects all nerves. Myelin sheaths allow nerve impulses to travel quickly and properly throughout the brain. Damage to the myelin sheath can be due to vitamin B12 deficiency, therefore it's vital to eat foods or take supplements of vitamin B12. Yogurt is a good source of vitamin B12 or as an alternative Swiss cheese.
Vitamin C is another important antioxidant which helps prevent oxidative damage to all cells in the body especially the vital brain cells. Vitamin C not only protects cells against free radicals but it also helps in the growth and repair of these cells. In addition, vitamin C is also involved in producing neurotransmitters, the chemical messages that neurons (nerve cells) use to communicate with each other. Because the body cannot store or make vitamin C it is important to consume your daily allowance of vitamin C through food such as broccoli or as alternative strawberries.
Vitamin D is only present in some foods, but is naturally produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency has been link to brain related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and even dementia. Vitamin D is believed to regulate mood and brain development, guiding neurons that go into the brain. It also helps to break down insoluble plaques that represent cognitive decline. Egg yolks, mackerel, tuna and sardines are loaded with vitamin D.
Omega 3’s are fatty acids which provide the body with numerous health benefits since as we learned previously all cell membranes are made up of fat. Where omega 3's make an effect is the synapses, the tiny gaps across which nerve impulses pass from one neuron to another. To reach a receiving neuron, they must pass through the cell membrane. Omegas 3s keep membranes more elastic which enhances the flow of electrical impulses from one neuron to another. Omega 3's also improve the blood flow to the brain. Eat salmon or as an alternative walnuts to improve mood, memory, and reduce inflammation.
Choline is a nutrient compound vital to enhanced brain function, memory, neuroplasticity, focus and concentration. Choline stimulates the production of a key neurotransmitter which is responsible for memory, mental clarity and the healthy formation of synaptic connections between neurons. This neurotransmitter helps to relay information throughout the nervous system. Edamame is rich in choline or as an alternative is chicken or turkey.