Foods rich in antioxidant vitamins, B vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats affect brain blood flow and cell structure, which increases the ability to reason, learn, and memorize. The brain relies heavily on glucose for its energy. To metabolize glucose, the brain requires several forms of vitamin B. It also relies on amino acids and vitamin C for proper function of neurotransmitters—chemicals, released from nerve cells, that transmit electrical impulses to other nerve cells or muscle cells. Many foods contain brain nutrition—it's easy to incorporate them into your diet. So, focus on these vitamins and nutrient-dense foods to help keep your mind stay sharp.
Thiamin (Vitamin B1)
What it does: Might protect against short-term memory loss and confusion. Deficiency can result in nerve damage.
Foods: Beans (legumes), flaxseeds, lean roast pork, oats, pistachios, tuna
Daily requirement: Men: 1.2 mg, Women: 1.1 mg
Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
What it does: Converts carbs to glucose for brain energy; enables nervous system to function properly.
Foods: Almonds, avocados, eggs, lean beef, salmon, spinach
Daily requirement: Men: 1.3 mg, women 1.1 mg
Niacin (Vitamin B3)
What it does: Involved in blood circulation. Deficiency can lead to depression, fatigue, loss of memory, and apathy.
Foods: avocados, brown rice, green peas, lean chicken breast, sweet potatoes
Daily requirement: Men: 16 mg, women 14 mg
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What it does: Helps produce neurotransmitter molecules. Deficiency is linked to dementia.
Foods: Avocados, bananas, pistachios, salmon, sweet potatoes
Daily requirement: 1.3 mg for adults
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Folate (Vitamin B9)
What it does: Promotes production of DNA and red blood cells. Deficiency might lead to depression, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and irritability.
Foods: Asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, mangoes, edamame, lentils, spinach
Daily requirement: 400 mcg
What it does: maintains healthy nerve and blood cells. Possible symptoms if deficient: dementia, depression, poor memory, and nerve disorders such as numbness in hands and feet.
Foods: Clams, eggs, king crab, low-fat milk, skirt steak, Swiss cheese, tuna
Daily requirement: 2.4 mcg for adults
What it does: An antioxidant that repairs cell damage in the brain and other organs. It may have a bearing on memory and learning.
Foods: Broccoli, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, lettuce, pumpkin, red bell pepper, turnip greens
Daily requirement: men: 900 mcg, Women 700 mcg
What it does: Antioxidant that neutralizes unstable molecules in the brain and other organs; wards off fatigue and depression.
Foods: Cabbage (red/purple), bell peppers, guavas, kiwi, oranges, snow peas, strawberries, tomatoes
Daily requirement: Men: 90 mg, Women: 75 mg
What it does: Protects brain and other cells from free radicals. Also keeps blood vessels widened to prevent blood clots.
Foods: Almonds, avocados, olive oil, shrimp, spinach, sunflower seeds
Daily requirement: 15 mg for adults
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids
What they do: Form healthy brain and nerve cells; also involved in endocrine and immune systems.
Foods: Avocados, beans (legumes), Brussels sprouts, canola oil, chia seeds, salmon, walnuts
Daily requirement: Men: 1.6 mg, Women: 1.1 g