As a nutritionist, I always make it a point to maintain a well-balanced diet. A lot of it has to do with making sure I’m getting all the right vitamins, especially because it’s essential to prevent cognitive decline.
And given that the risk of neurological disease increases with age, one question I often get from my patients is, “What is the best vitamin to protect our aging brain?”
Each of our microbiomes is like a thumbprint, so a truly effective meal plan is customized to an individual’s unique needs. But the group of vitamins I give the highest priority to keep my brain young and healthy are the B vitamins.
Brain benefits of B vitamins
Depression, dementia and mental retardation are often associated with B vitamin deficiency. found a study from the Wayne State University School of Medicine.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency as a cause of cognitive problems is more common than we think, especially among elderly people who live alone and do not eat properly,” said Rajaprabhakaran Rajaretinam, a psychiatrist and lead author of the study.
There are eight different B vitamins, each with their own major health benefits:
1. Increasing your energy.
Vitamin B1or thiamine, is critical to the basic function of our cells and the metabolism of nutrients for energy.
The brain is one of the most metabolically active organs in your body, which means it needs the support of thiamine to prevent deficiencies that can lead to neurological problems down the line.
2. Degrading drugs.
Vitamin B2or riboflavin, acts as a helper for enzymes in our cells that carry out important reactions, such as in the body and brain.
It also helps with cell growth, energy production, and the breakdown of fats and foreign materials such as drugs.
3. Reducing inflammation.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, works with more than 400 enzymes to make materials like cholesterol and fats needed in the body and to convert energy for all of our organ systems. Niacin is also an antioxidant that helps reduce excess inflammation.
4. Support your maintenance of your overall brain health.
Vitamin B5or pantothenic acid, is essential for the production of a molecular compound called coenzyme A, which helps our body’s enzymes build and break down fatty acids for energy.
It also helps our cells generate acyl carrier proteins, helping to produce the necessary fats. The brain is mostly fat, so pantothenic acid is among the most important vitamins in maintaining brain health.
5. Fight disease.
Vitamin B6or pyridoxine, is notable for its role in disease prevention, as proper levels of this vitamin are associated with a lower risk of a number of cancers.
In addition, pyridoxine supports many chemical reactions in the body that support immune function and brain health.
6. Helps cells communicate better.
Vitamin B7, best known as biotin, regulates cell signals for fast and efficient communication in the body. In the brain, it is crucial for cell signaling through neurotransmitters.
7. Maintaining balance.
Vitamin B9or folic acid, is a popular supplement and key vitamin for maintaining brain and neurological health, optimal neurotransmitter function, and balanced psychological health.
Another benefit is that it helps promote cellular detoxification.
8. Helping your heart.
vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is an essential vitamin for the formation of red blood cells and DNA and supports the development and functioning of the nervous system.
B12 also helps break down homocysteine, a protein that can negatively affect cardiovascular health and lead to dementia when in excess.
The best foods with vitamin B
I’m a “food first” person, so I always encourage people to include foods containing these vitamins in their diet. However, our diets aren’t perfect, so there may be cases where supplements can help. If this is the case, my simple advice is to “test, not guess” – and check with your doctor first.
The good news is that B vitamins are among the easiest to include in your diet, as foods that are rich in one B vitamin often contain many, if not all, of the B vitamins when eaten. like whole foods.
Here are six B vitamin-rich foods I eat every day:
1. One egg contains a third of the recommended daily value of vitamin B7, while also containing small amounts of many other B vitamins.
2. Yogurt is high in both vitamin B2 and vitamin B12, as well as natural probiotics that support gut health and mental health. I like plain Greek yogurt for the added protein.
3. Legumes like black beans, chickpeas, edamame and lentils all help improve your mood and brain health. They are an excellent source of vitamin B9 and include small amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5 and vitamin B6.
4. Salmon is naturally rich in all B vitamins, especially vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. Be mindful of the source of your seafood and remember that frozen or canned salmon is also a budget option.
5. Sunflower seeds are one of the best plant sources of vitamin B5. You can get 20% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin from just one ounce of seeds!
6. Leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale are great sources of vitamin B9. This is the first food I offer to patients who want to lift a bad mood.
Dr. Uma Naidu is a nutrition psychiatrist, brain expert and faculty member at Harvard Medical School. She is also director of nutrition and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and the bestselling author of “It’s Your Food Brain: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods That Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More.” Follow her Twitter and Instagram.
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