How to feed your brain
9th February 2021 / Health
How to feed your brain
The human brain is made up of approximately 60% fat and contains high concentrations of cholesterol and polyunsaturated fats also known as PUFAs. So it comes as no surprise that a diet rich in healthy fats, vegetables, nuts and fruits is the perfect food to fuel the brain.
Studies show certain foods are particularly rich in helpful components like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and antioxidants, which are known to support brain health in a number of ways. Incorporating these foods into a healthy diet on a regular basis is a great way to improve the health of the brain, which could translate into better mental function, arguably better mood and protection against mental illness like depression. Dietary factors can affect multiple brain processes by regulating neurotransmitter pathways, synaptic transmission, membrane fluidity and signal-transduction pathways, in other words help to keep our brains functioning as they should! So let’s talk about the nutrients that are backed by the most science!
Omega-3 fatty acids
An expanse of research has investigated the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to brain health. Omega-3 fatty acids are abundant in the cell membranes of brain cells which helps to preserve cell membrane health and facilitate communication between our brain cells, both of which are essential for both cognition and focus. Studies have also shown that the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid or DHA, which is abundant in oily fish, can affect synaptic function and cognitive abilities by providing plasma membrane fluidity, which also supports cell signalling in the brain.
DHA constitutes more than 30% of the total phospholipid composition of plasma membranes in the brain, so is crucial for maintaining membrane integrity, vital for long term brain health. Although this may sound complicated, it just means that they help to preserve brain function and protect brain cells so you can be at your best and so can your brain! Our favourite sources of these all important omega-3 fatty acids are oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines or nuts, seeds or plant oils. Guidelines suggest approximately 450mg EPA and DHA per daily adult dose whilst current guidance suggests eating 2 portions of oily fish per week. Our Omega 3 supplement is also a great way to ensure you’re keeping your levels topped up, you can find out more here.
Vitamin D carries a cholesterol backbone, which means its fat-soluble. Commonly thought of as a vitamin, vitamin D is in fact a hormone that is known to regulate calcium homeostasis, maintain bone integrity and support our immune system. Vitamin D is the ultimate all-rounder as it’s also known to play a key role in brain health! A 2016 study reviewed vitamin D’s neuroprotective action against neurodegenerative processes associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s, results suggest it may help to increase brain plasma and enhance neurotransmitter activity in the brain. Alongside potentially boosting cognition, vitamin D is also a powerful anti-inflammatory! The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, which can often be hard to come by in the UK which is why Public Health England (PHE) recommends all UK adults take a Vitamin D supplement during winter months. As many of us are currently spending more time indoors, PHE have extended these guidelines as we may not be getting outside as much. If you want to find out more about our vitamin D, head to the product page here.
Zinc is an essential trace element which studies have shown to be integral to the functioning of the central nervous system (CNS) which is primarily made up of the brain and spinal cord. Zinc has been found to play a critical role in regulating communication between cells in our brain, primarily the communication between neurons in the hippocampus which is where our learning consolidation and memory ‘preservation’ processes occur, essentially governing the formation of new memories. If this isn’t exciting enough, it’s this cell to cell communication that zinc supports that helps to maintain long-term brain health! Our favourite zinc-rich foods include shellfish, legumes, nuts and seeds. If you want a little extra brain boost (we can’t blame you!) then we’ve also included zinc in our Brain Food, head to the product page to find out more!
The B-vitamins comprise a group of 8 water soluble vitamins that perform a whole host of essential functions within the body. They play a key role in everything from cell signalling to aiding the production of new blood cells . A particular subset of B vitamins, primarily vitamins B6, B9 and B12 are particularly prevalent to numerous aspects of brain function. One of the reasons they are integral for brain health is their ability to provide energy: The brain is an organ with an incredibly high metabolic and nutrient demand, consuming on average 20% our daily caloric intake - wow! B vitamins play a crucial role in the cellular metabolic processes that turn the food we eat into energy our body can use; but not only that, vitamin B12 in particular helps promote the development of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the brain.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the relationship between our brains and the B vitamins is the studies that link low levels of B vitamins with depression, chronic stress and anxiety resulting in symptoms that include low mood, fatigue, cognitive decline, and irritability. We’ve included the essential B vitamins for brain function in our Brain Food so we’ve covered all of your bases! To find out more about our Brain Food, just head to the product page here.
Turmeric is a potent botanical ingredient that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries; it has well established anti-inflammatory properties, immunomodulatory and long-standing antioxidant properties that has also been found to support working memory and promote calmness. Studies have also shown that curcumin helps to increase the brain hormone BDNF, which improves the function of neurons, encourages their growth, and strengthens and protects them. You can find out more about our new Curcumin here.
Over the next two weeks in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, we want to shine a light on the importance of nourishing your brain health, giving the tools you need to optimize and make the most of one our our most valuable tools! The overwhelming evidence that continues to emerge constantly highlights the need to protect one of our most fascinating organs!
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