Six Brain-Healthy Nutrients and Where To Find Them

You are an expert at multitasking; you juggle your to-do lists like a pro and run circles around most. But still, you find always switching gears and striving to stay on top of your game sometimes has a toll on you, leaving you seriously brain-drained.

While sleeping for the recommended eight hours is one way to reboot, you still need to ensure that you refuel your mind with healthy foods rich in nutrients that’ll improve your problem-solving and decision-making skills, memory, and focus.

According to Matt Kuchan, PhD, Abbott’s point man in their partnership with the University of Illinois’ Center for Nutrition Learning & Memory and a discovery scientist, specialists are just beginning to understand the impact nutrition has on memory and learning. Their research, which covers infancy to adulthood, sheds more light on the role nutrition plays in facilitating stronger brain connections, preserving our memories, helping us focus, and preserving the people we are.

The good thing though, is that this research shows that there are a couple of nutrients and their combinations that can help. As such, if you are looking for an extra brain boost to stay on top of things, then read on to learn more about six nutrients that are believed to be brain-healthy and the foods that are rich in them:

1 and 2: Zeaxanthin and Lutein

Lutein, known for its benefits when it comes to skin, cardiovascular and eye health, is a carotenoid that’s fast being recognised for the benefits it has when it comes to promoting brain health in people of all ages.

For instance, in a recent Abbott and the Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory study, researchers found that seniors who take in considerable amounts of lutein have enhanced crystallised intelligence – that is, they can retain and use the information they’ve acquired throughout their lives.

The good news is that you do not have to wait until you are in your golden years to start reaping the benefits lutein has to offer. Further research suggests that a combination of lutein and the nutrient zeaxanthin can considerably improve memory and processing speed at any age. Many nutritionist courses such as the one by The School of Natural Health Sciences provides educate about and incorporate food high in Zeaxanthin and Lutein.

3: Quercetin

Quercetin is an antioxidant that can be found in everyday foods like blueberries and apples, and has been, for a long time now, recognised for its ability to treat heart disease, high cholesterol and various circulatory system-related diseases. However, new preclinical studies by Abbott suggest that, when used together with other brain nutrients, the antioxidant can help delay cognitive health decline. Which shows how relevant the term “an apple a day” really is.

4: Natural Vitamin E

Naturally appearing in the parts of our brain linked to vision, language development and memory, natural vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that’s been seen to work as a lutein complement in protecting DHA from the harmful free radicals in the environment like ultraviolet radiation and air pollution.

Additionally, an Abbott study conducted recently shows that the brain mostly prefers naturally-occurring vitamin E over the synthetic version.

Kuchan suggests that when looking at food labels, look for those that have natural vitamin E in them –often labelled as d-a-tocopherol or d-alpha tocopherol.

5 and 6: DHA and Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Also known as “good” fat, omega-3 fatty acids play a crucial role in slowing the brain’s ageing process and preserving cognitive functions. Recent studies by Abbott show that older adults susceptible to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease who consumed omega-3 fatty acids did much better than those who didn’t on cognitive flexibility tests which measure one’s ability to switch between different tasks competently.

According to Kuchan, it’s worth noting that unlike several other nutrients, this fatty acid does not occur naturally in the body. As such, it’s vital to ensure that you are incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.

Furthermore, a few more studies show that higher intakes of docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, which is an omega-3 is essential for improving cognitive function, is linked to an improved ability and capacity to access and use information.