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The 5 Best Nutrients for Your Brain

By: Marie Parks

Scientifically Reviewed By: Michael A. Smith, MD

Have you ever walked into a room with the intention of doing something, but when you got there, you had no recollection of what it was? It can be frustrating.

Luckily, many nutrients have been shown to help protect your brain and improve cognition, so that these "senior moments" may become less likely to occur. These nootropic brain nutrients have been studied for their ability to enhance memory for decades.

Of course, there's no such thing as a pill that will make you a genius or allow you to know things you didn't know before. That being said, the following eight nutrients do support ideal brain function, allowing you to recall a lifetime of memories – as well as what you had for breakfast – more efficiently.

Supercharge your memory with magnesium l-threonate

Older man, on magnesium regiment that can improve short and long term memory, looking out the window

Did you know that the mineral magnesium may help with learning and memory?

Research has shown that a specific form of magnesium, magnesium L-threonate, is the best form for increasing levels of magnesium in the brain. Magnesium L-threonate intake has been shown to result in improved short- and long-term memory, faster learning and better recall in preclinical animal studies.

Think fast with Bacopa monnieri

Intelligent woman using bacopa monnieri extract as a  study aid taking test

Bacopa monnieri extract is a very popular study aid, and for good reason. This well-known nootropic has been shown in many clinical trials to improve memory acquisition and retention, attention, and visual processing speeds.

Improve your alertness with Centella asiatica (Gotu kola)

Smiling business woman supplementing her diet with  gotu kola which may improve alertness, memory, and mood

Gotu kola has been the subject of extensive research—much of which shows that the ingredient can improve alertness, memory, and mood. How does it help us achieve this "in the zone" mindset? Preclinical studies show gotu kola may improve mitochondrial function and decrease brain inflammation.

Boost learning with lutein and zeaxanthin

Man on a couch looking at a computer boosts learning with lutein and zeaxanthinon

Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids known for their impact on eye health, but studies also indicate that they can encourage brain function. The lutein plus zeaxanthin combination has been shown in clinical trials to increase visual processing speeds and improve verbal learning, spatial memory and attention.

Stay focused with the power of periwinkle

Confident woman wearing sunglasses and blue scarf maximizes her brain with power of periwinkle

Maximize your brain power with vinpocetine, a compound derived from the periwinkle plant. It's been shown to enhance blood flow to the brain and, as a result, protect against the loss of neurons. The loss of neurons in the brain due to lack of blood flow, like from a stroke, often results in cognitive impairment.

In fact, several studies have shown that compared to placebo, subjects taking vinpocetine had significant improvements on cognitive tests measuring memory, attention, and concentration. In addition, vinpocetine has been shown to help improve cognitive impairment and depression in people who suffered ischemic stroke.

Energize your brain with acetyl-l-carnitine (ALC)

Focused man who energizes his brain with acetyl-l-carnitine talking on the phone

For the brain to function optimally, it needs to have a sufficient energy supply. Produced in the mitochondria, acetyl-l-carnitine helps provide cellular energy. Preclinical studies indicate that ALC may help reduce oxidative stress and improve dopamine signaling.

ALC also shows potential for improving Alzheimer's disease: a meta-analysis concluded that ALC led to clinical improvements for Alzheimer's patients. In addition, ALC may help fight fatigue.

Protect against dementia with huperzine A

Intelligent older woman who protects herself against dementia with huperzine A, reading a book

Huperzine A is a compound from the Chinese medicinal herb, Huperzia serrata, that may help to improve age-related cognitive decline and dementia. It has been shown to have a disease-modifying effect among patients with Alzheimer's disease, helping with cognitive function and performance. Numerous clinical trials support huperzine A's beneficial effects.

And added benefits: research suggests huperzine A may reduce oxidative stress, support mitochondrial function, and prevent accumulation of proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease.

Reel in the cognitive benefits of fish oil

Young woman enjoying a fish oil-rich meal that supplies omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA

You might not think of fish oil as a brain-supportive nutrient, since it's well known as a nutrient that supports your cardiovascular system, immune system and more. Indeed, fish oil supplies the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have been shown to be important for all aspects of health—including the brain. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, make up much of brain cell membranes.

Research has shown that people with higher blood DHA levels performed significantly better on cognitive tests than those with lower levels. In addition, a study conducted with almost 1,500 participants showed that taking omega-3 daily for 1.5 years dramatically reduced age-associated cognitive decline.

How a healthy lifestyle supports brain health

OIder man performing physical exercise which helps pump oxygenated blood to his brain

Of course, nutrients are only part of the overall strategy to protect your brain from decline. Physical exercise helps pump oxygenated blood to your brain, which prompts the production of brain cells. Restful sleep makes it easier for your brain to learn and recall, and what you eat is also important, so choose fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts over processed foods.

Remember, when it comes to keeping your brain at its best, combining cognition-supportive nutrients with a lifestyle of good sleep, exercise and nutritious foods is your smartest move.


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