The brain is a very complex organ that requires different nutrients to function properly. Nutritional deficiencies have been shown to contribute to psychiatric disorders, developmental disorders, and age-related cognitive decline. Studies support the idea that increasing the intake of brain-supporting nutrients will improve different aspects of cognitive function, including memory and learning.
The following vitamins and minerals are essential for a healthy brain:
- Thiamine – Thiamine is one of the different B vitamins that is considered particularly important for a healthy brain. Thiamine is abundantly present in the brain and nerve tissues. Its main function is to conduct nerve impulses. Lack of thiamine could lead to Korsakoff syndrome, a memory disorder often seen in alcoholics and people suffering from AIDS.
- Folic acid – This refers to compounds known as folates. Folates can be sourced from foods such as asparagus, lentils, and spinach. Half of the body’s folates are stored in the liver, which explains why liver damage can lead to deficiency in B vitamins. Folic acid is important in the synthesis of amino acids and the formation of nerve tissues.
- Ascorbic acid – The highest concentration of this vitamin is found in grains, particularly in the pituitary gland. Ascorbic acid is an antioxidant that can be sourced from green vegetables and citrus fruits. Ascorbic acid is important in the synthesis of dopamine, a neurotransmitter. It also protects the brain from oxidative stress.
- Calcium – This is the number one essential mineral for a healthy brain. It plays the role of nerve cell messenger. Calcium also regulates neurotransmission and controls nerve excitability.
- Magnesium – This mineral is needed for the conversion of the different B vitamins into their active form. Taking vitamin supplements will be useless if the body lacks magnesium and other minerals. Magnesium is important in transmitting impulses. The nervous system will be excitable if the body lacks magnesium and calcium.
- Zinc – Zinc is abundant in some neurons that are exclusively found in the forebrain. Zinc deficiency is associated with several neurological and psychological impairments.
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