We often think of vitamins and minerals as essential for maintaining optimal health, being energetic and avoiding wintery colds. But have you ever considered the role that vitamins and minerals play in the functioning and development of your brain?
If you haven’t, now’s the time to. Degenerative diseases and longevity go hand in hand. As we all gradually age, the risk for all of us increases. In fact, four million Americans have Alzheimer. In the UK, the number of people with the disease is more than the population of Liverpool. Brain health is a serious affair.
We all want to feel young and free from diseases. We know that. The good news is that degenerative diseases can most often be avoided with adequate prevention. In fact, only less than 1 percent of the population develops Alzheimer’s because of a rare genetic mutation. That means, the rest 99% could easily prevent it. Yes: 99%,which most likely includes you.
But why bother now??
Medical research showed that the brain changes leading to degenerative diseases unfold twenty to thirty years before a diagnosis. First symptoms of Alzheimer’s for most people appear at some point between the age of 40 and 65.
Go ahead and do your counting. Does that mean you should start taking care of your brain health now?
Better sooner than later, that’s our mantra. Especially, since the power is in your hands. The power of making sound changes in your diet and lifestyle. And appropriate supplementation, if necessary. This is why we have this guide on essential vitamins and minerals for your brain health ready for you right here. Have a look.
Brainy vitamins and minerals
B Vitamins for Brain Communication
B Vitamins, and particularly vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B3 and folate (B9) are top on the list. It is because they literary “make things happen”. Their main function in your brain is to facilitate the action of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that transfer information between over 100 billion neurons.
All of your movements, thoughts, and feelings, so pretty much everything you do, is the result of these neurons talking with one another. Because neurotransmitters are functionally integrated with the immune system, the endocrine system and impact muscles, organs and glands, neurotransmitter imbalances can cause widespread health problems such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety and hormonal imbalances. Their support in all life process is thus incredibly important.
Sourcing B Vitamins
Given their tremendous power, vitamins B deficiencies can lead to numerous degenerative diseases. Insufficient levels of vitamins B6 and B12 were found to lead to dementia. Deficiencies of vitamin B9 are known to cause neural tube defects of the fetus, leading to cognitive dysfunctions later in life. The list goes on.
As suggested by Lisa Mosconi in her new book Brain Food, 25 percent of all dementia cases, and most likely some of the remaining 75 percent, might be fully prevented by increasing consumption of B-vitamin-rich foods. That’s pretty sweet, isn’t it?
While a lot of B vitamins come from the food we eat, their absorption for many of us might be weak. Especially as we get older, our metabolism naturally slows down and absorption of some vitamins like vitamin B12 might decrease. For this reason, it is super important to supplement your diet with a B complex that contains a full spectrum of B vitamins in the most bioavailable form. And that is especially true if you’re vegetarian and avoiding most of vitamin B rich foods, such as fish, eggs and meat. Try our brain formula Power Up for the perfect, easily-digested B complex.
Choline for Memory
Choline is another type of B vitamin that supports the production of neurotrasmitters. And it is also very important for your brain. Choline is particularly key for manufacturing the neuro-transmitter acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is one of the main brain neuro-transmitters. It is crucial for memory and learning.
You are probably aware that Alzheimer’s is typically related with the memory loss. That is caused by a shortage of acetylcholine. Sadly, as many as 90% of Americans are deficient in this vitamin.
Around 10 percent of the total amount of choline circulating in the body is produced by our liver. Yet, the remaining 90 percent should come from the food we eat or supplementation, if necessary. Food sources include eggs, as one of the richest sources of choline, most fish, organ meat, shiitake mushrooms, wheat germ, quinoa, peanuts, and almonds. Amongst the supplement sources of choline we recommend a synergistic blend such as Power Up.
Minerals for Mental Health
Magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, iodine, selenium, manganese, and potassium. They represent another set of brain savers. They are all minerals, derived from the earth and primarily absorbed from fruits and vegetables. As much as vitamins, they play major role supporting our brain health. They do it by regulating nerve transmission, hydration and powering metabolism.
In adequate concentrations, minerals are essential for optimal brain function. Iron is crucial for production of haemoglobin which forms the part of our blood cells that carry oxygen and proteins. Magnesium is essential for well-functioning nervous system. It supports memory and learning. Copper is key to the health of our immune system, blood vessels, nerves, and bones. Zinc supports brain metabolism.
Too little of any of these minerals would slow your brain down.
While most of minerals are consumed by us daily through food and water, some of them get quickly wiped out from our systems. This usually happens because of stress and lifestyle factors. Magnesium that most people are deficient in is one of the examples. It is still important to remember that most of minerals are actually needed in small quantities. Excessive intake of intake, zinc and cooper might promote oxidative stress that makes your brain age faster. Caution and being smart about your choices are key. Choose the supplements with high bioavailability and digestibility – like our evening restorative blend Unplug,
Antioxidants and Flavonoids for Cognitive Decline and Ageing
Oxidative stress is one of the main causes of aging. Oxidation is something that happens in our brain continuously as our brain cells burn glucose and oxygen to produce energy. While generally our brains are good at managing this process, sometimes the amount of oxidation exceeds our brains’ ability to keep it in check. This is when oxidative stress happens. Fortunately, the nature has equipped us with amazing ways to deal with it.
Antioxidants and flavonoids are substances that naturally prevent oxidation from happening. They are capable of wandering throughout our bodies and brains, and fighting off whatever free radicals they encounter along the way. They are our police officers. They chase the bad guys away. Their role in preventing degenerative diseases is thus of incredible importance.
Antioxidants and flavonoids should definitely come from your food as the main source. Surprisingly antioxidant supplements have been proven not to work. Only nutrients from natural food sources were found to have lowered rates of cognitive decline and dementia.
For antioxidants, think of vitamin C, E and beta carotene found in broccoli, artichokes, carrots, bell peppers, watercress, spinach, peaches, grapefruits, kidney beans, lentils and corn. Spices and herbs – turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, oregano, cloves, thyme, parsley and basil also come to play. Flavonoids can be found in berries, pomegranates, apples, red wine and chocolate. Yes, chocolate. So, indulge in chocolate daily. The rule is dark, high quality chocolate. Or have raw cacao, that’s even better. Or our Raw Cacao Whey Protein powder – that’s certainly the best choice 😉
Is there anything else I should be taking?
The power of adaptogens
Food comes first, there is no doubt. If you really want to be ahead of the game, however, there are some very powerful ways to maximise your brain health and mental power. One of them includes supplementing with adaptogens. Yes, adaptogens that you hear about all the time in the health world. This buzz has a reason.
Adaptogens are herbs that increase your ability to cope with stress. In other words, they help the body to adapt to new or stressful situations. This is because they work as nerve tonics that calm the nervous system and deeply nourish tissues and fluids in the body. Most of them also have amazing brain protecting qualities. It seems they our perfectly suited to help us all survive in this crazy busy world.
While the list of adaptogens is long, we have our personal favourites:
Firstly, a potent blend of Rhodiola and Ashwaganda that have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. They are both useful for combating fatigue and stress, reducing depression and soothing a jangled nervous system. While Ashwaganda is soothing, Rhodiola has the ability to restore. In this tandem, they have an amazing power in aiding study, improving work performance and pepping up performance on the sports field. Golden roots indeed.
Another powerful Ayurvedic set includes Gotu Kola and Brahmi Powder (Bacopa Monnieri). These herbs are incredible at improving cognition and sharpening memory. Thanks to their strong memory-enhancing abilities, they are both currently in the spotlight as a natural treatment to help slow age-related decline and diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.
One more wonder herb is Kapikkachu which also has its roots in the Ayurvedic tradition. This herb is a naturally powerful motivator and focus enhancer. This is due to its high content of the amino acid L-dopa or levodopa, which is an essential precursor to the neurotransmitter called “dopamine.” In the Chinese herbal system, the herb is famous for having the power to restore the adrenal systems, hearing and cognitive functions.
The last pair comes from the Chinese medical tradition with herbs already famous in the West. Panax Ginseg and Gingko Biloba superstars. Panax Ginseng is known as the Fountain of Youth among the Chinese and is now increasingly used to support the treatment against Alzheimer’s. Just watching Ginkgo Biloba as it grows in some of the most polluted cities in and manages to thrive, demonstrates its incredible adaptogenic power. The alkaloids contained in the Ginkgo Biloba leafs are thought to ward off mental retardation, improve mental function, and provide detoxification, nourishment, and oxygenation for the brain. A real treasure.