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Last Updated on January 20, 2021

10 Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Brain Power and Focus

10 Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Brain Power and Focus

Your brain is the house your mind lives in. The brain is the most high-powered organ we have and requires the right amount and type of fuel to work properly. When we don’t give our brain the right fuel, it slows us down, dampers our focus, and makes us more unhappy and unmotivated. That’s why brain vitamins can be a key addition to your diet.

If you want to maximize your brain power so as to increase your focus, think more clearly, and live a happier and longer life, then pay attention because this article will give you the top nutrients you need to maximize your brain power and what foods to include in your diet in order to get them.

Here are what your brain needs and where to get them:

1. Omega-3s

Your brain is made up of 60% fat, so if you want a healthy and optimally performing brain, you need to ensure you’re giving your brain the right building blocks, and fat is one of the most important. Fat has been vilified over the years as being the big villain of health, but in reality, high-quality fat is not only good for you, it’s essential for your brain power and health.

Some of the most important fats to give your brain are Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, such as DHA, are the essential nutrients that form the outer layer of our brain cells and help improve cognitive function and support brain health overall.

In fact, not getting enough Omega-3s in your diet can affect normal brain development and cognition. It has also been shown to be implicated in premature brain aging and cognitive decline associated with a risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.[1]

Getting healthy sources of omega-3s from your diet is critical for optimal brain power.

Foods Rich in Omega-3s: Walnuts, chia seeds, sardines, salmon, flaxseed, eggs, fish oil

2. Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is critical for brain activity and has been known to calm the brain and nervous system to the point it has been called “nature’s natural valium.” Magnesium is essential for hundreds of metabolic processes within the body and brain, yet it is still the second most common nutritional deficiency in the world.

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Magnesium helps the brain by:

  • Providing anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Lowering stress hormones
  • Increasing neuroplasticity
  • Relaxing the nervous system
  • Helping to lift depression
  • Reducing anxiety

Foods Rich in Magnesium: Almonds, spinach, cashews, avocado, black beans

3. Vitamin B1: Thiamine

Many B vitamins are known to be beneficial for brain health and well-being, but for this article, let’s focus on some of the critical B vitamins.

B1, also known as thiamine, is needed for a large number of metabolic processes in the body, including the processes that manage your energy. Your brain uses tremendous amounts of energy throughout the day. Having low levels of thiamine can rob your brain of the vital energy that it needs.

Thiamine can boost your mood, energy, and alertness by providing the energy your brain cells need to work effectively and keep their strength up, making this one of the most important brain vitamins.

Low levels of thiamine have been associated with:

  • Nerve damage
  • Nerve inflammation
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of short-term memory
  • Confusion
  • Irritability

Having enough vitamin B1 (thiamine) is essential for optimal brain performance and health by providing your brain the energy is needs to get through the day.

Foods Rich in Vitamin B1: Seaweed, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, lentils, black beans

4. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is critical for helping to improve your mood to make you feel happier but is also important to combat mental fatigue. B6 is a critical component for building the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

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Serotonin is known as your happy neurotransmitter and is vitally important for improving your mood. Norepinephrine helps your brain stay focused and alert.

Symptoms of B6 deficiency include:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of focus and concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Memory trouble
  • Muscle pains

Foods Rich in Vitamin B6: Grass-fed beef, pistachios, tuna, turkey breast, avocado

5. Vitamin B9

Vitamin B9 is known as folate. Folate is especially important for normal brain development. Folate is an important component in creating many neurotransmitters that the brain uses to communicate and regulate our immune system. Folate is also a natural antioxidant, and studies have shown that it can help preserve brain function and improve memory.[2]

Low levels of folate can be detrimental to the brain. Low levels of folate have been shown to lead to increased degeneration in the cerebral cortex, as well as cognitive impairment and decline.[3]

Symptoms of low levels of folate include:

  • Lowered immune function
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Increased irritability or anxiety
  • Brain fog

Foods Rich in Vitamin B9: Spinach, beef liver, broccoli, asparagus, romaine lettuce

6. Vitamin B12

B12 is essential for many aspects of our health and wellbeing, including building strong bones, hair, skin, nails, immune system, and heart health. B12 is also extremely important for your brain and mental well-being and is one of the essential brain vitamins.[4]

B12 is necessary for many aspects of mental performance, including being able to memorize and stay focused. It also plays an important role in producing serotonin and dopamine. Dopamine is your motivation and reward neurotransmitter.

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Having low levels of B12 can have some serious consequences including:[5]

  • Brain fog
  • Memory loss
  • Depression[6]
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Hallucinations and Schizophrenia (severe cases)

B12 is commonly found in many animal products and meats, so those who eat a plant-based diet should pay special attention to their B12 to make sure they are getting enough of it in their diet from plant sources or supplementation.

Foods Rich in Vitamin B12: Beef liver, sardines, wild salmon, eggs, nutritional yeast

7. Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a very powerful and important antioxidant for your brain. Your brain consumes a lot of energy and oxygen in order to do its job. Antioxidants like Vitamin C protect the brain from the wear and tear of doing its job.

Vitamin C is also needed to produce important neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important regulators of your mood, so without Vitamin C to produce these them, your mood may suffer.[7]

Foods Rich in Vitamin C: Broccoli, citrus fruits, bell peppers, watermelon, spinach

8. Vitamin D

The “sunshine” vitamin is arguably one of the most important brain vitamins that many people miss out on. Vitamin D is usually associated with bone health and reduced risk of heart disease, but it’s been shown in research that Vitamin D may play a critical role in your brain performance. Several studies have shown that low levels of Vitamin D can impair cognitive function and performance.[8]

Fewer people are getting outside in the natural sunlight, leading to more cases of vitamin D deficiency than ever before. The best part about Vitamin D is that you can get it for free or extremely cheap. Just a few minutes a day of natural sunlight can make a big difference in your Vitamin D levels.

Foods Rich in Vitamin D: Natural sunlight, or find a Vitamin D dietary supplement

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9. Vitamin E

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are critical to help our bodies fight off oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a metabolic process that occurs in the body that wears and tears on our cells. Antioxidants fight against this wear and tear to keep our cells youthful and optimally functioning.

Vitamin E is an often overlooked vitamin for brain health. It prevents oxidative stress from damaging an important component of our brain cells, DHA. DHA forms the outer membrane of our brain cells, and Vitamin E works to prevents oxidative stress from damaging our brain cells to keep our brain young, energetic, and high-performing.[9]

Symptoms of Vitamin E deficiency include:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Balance issues

Foods Rich in Vitamin E: Almonds, kale, Swiss chard, parsley, olives

10. Zinc

Zinc is essential for neuron growth and performance. The highest concentration of zinc is located in your brain, particularly in your hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in regulating your limbic system, the region that regulates emotions. Neurons require zinc in order to communicate effectively with one another.[10]

Low levels of zinc are associated with:

  • Attention and focus problems
  • Lowered immune system
  • Acne or rashes
  • Diarrhea

Foods Rich in Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, grass-fed beef, cashews, mushrooms, spinach

The Bottom Line

Your brain works hard, and it takes plenty of nutrients and fuel to keep it working well. Getting the amount and type of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients can make the difference in feeling energized or feeling sluggish throughout the day.

Eat a wide variety of foods that include a vast array of the top brain vitamins and nutrients to ensure your brain is getting plenty of the resources it needs to work efficiently. If you want more brain power, make sure you give it brain power foods.

More Tips for Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Tom Morel via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Brain Research: Dietary omega 3 fatty acids and the developing brain.
[2] Journal of Neural Transmission: Folic acid prevented cognitive impairment in experimental pneumococcal meningitis
[3] Neurobiology of Disease: Folate deprivation induces neurodegeneration: roles of oxidative stress and increased homocysteine
[4] ShareCare: What are the health benefits of vitamin B12?
[5] Harvard School of Public Health: Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes and Symptoms
[6] Journal of Psychopharmacology: Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12.
[7] Dr. Prerana Gupta, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Teerthanker Mahaveer Medical College and Research Centre, Moradabad (U.P.).: Relationship Between Depression and Vitamin C Status: A Study on Rural Patients From Western Uttar Pradesh in India
[8] Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation: Vitamin D and cognitive function
[9] Neurobiology of Aging: Tocopherols and tocotrienols plasma levels are associated with cognitive impairment
[10] Biological Psychiatry: Zinc, the brain and behavior.

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Dr Brady Salcido

Dr Brady is a Doctor, Podcast Host, and Brain Optimization Expert sharing how you can use your lifestyle to upgrade your life.

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Published on May 13, 2021

How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

How Physical Inactivity Affects Your Energy Levels

We’ve all heard people say, “I’m too tired to exercise.” Perhaps, we also say this excuse ourselves when others ask why we don’t consistently engage in physical activities. According to The Heart Foundation, this is the number one reason given for physical inactivity.[1]

This is a paradox because we need the energy to exercise and yet, one major effect of physical inactivity is having depleted energy levels, which makes it extremely difficult to get moving in the first place. Oxygen is a key energy-producing fuel source, and lack of exercise limits oxygen supply to our brains and bodies, creating an energy slump.

So, how does physical inactivity affects our energy levels?

Low energy levels do more than just leave us feeling sluggish and unmotivated. The effects of physical inactivity set off a domino effect that topples our ability to focus, make smart decisions, manage our mood, build resilience against stress, and perform at our highest capacity—basically, all the fundamental pillars of maintaining optimal energy levels.

Left unchecked, this can lead to discontent in our own lives and create a ripple that impacts everyone around us.

There’s good news, though. You don’t have to suffer through hours at the gym, force yourself out of bed for a crack-of-dawn jog, or endure other such unpleasantries to shift this dynamic for yourself.

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Here are some of the ways the effects of physical inactivity play out in various areas of our lives and also some simple, painless activities to try that will enhance your energy levels.

1. The Relational Element

Do you ever feel drained of energy when you’re caught up in an argument with your partner or when your kid is having a meltdown? It’s like someone pulled the plug and every last drop of your life force is flushed down the tubes.

It turns out that a lack of physical activity could be a factor in this phenomenon. One study found that when people exercise, it creates a cascade of positive interactions with friends and family on the day of—as well as the day following—the activity.[2]

Better Together

These benefits are increased when we exercise with our loved ones. Next time you sense an impending family feud, take a timeout for some physical activity together. I remember many occasions when my own kids were toddlers, ditching our plans in a moment of frustration to go outside together quickly moved the day’s trajectory onto a more positive track, even if it was for just a few minutes. This still rings true today in their teen and preteen years. Though persuading them to change gears can require a bit more patience these days, it’s always well worth it!

Play a game of basketball or tennis. Bike around the block. Trek through your nearest trail or green space. Go critter spotting at a local park or in your own backyard. Not only can this tactic help diffuse a situation before it becomes volatile, but if you make it a habit, you’re also likely to notice an overall reduction in these energy-draining moments.

2. The Mental/Emotional Element

An estimated 40 million adults suffer anxiety disorders in the US alone.[3] When we are triggered by a threat, whether real or perceived, our brains pump out hormones to help us cope in what’s known as the “fight – flight – freeze” response. The aftermath can feel like a massive depletion of our energy.

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Sleep is an excellent method for recovering, but continuous anxious thoughts often make this difficult. Physical inactivity compounds this because it means we’re losing out on one of the most effective natural methods for regulating our sleeping patterns. Exercise also promotes mental clarity by effectively wiping our minds and bodies of the excess stress hormones instigated by anxiety.

Natural Regulators

It’s not only anxiety disorders that bungle our energy levels. Everyday stresses and mood fluctuations can make us feel like we’re stuck on an exhausting rollercoaster of emotion.

Physical inactivity contributes to the depletion of serotonin and dopamine—chemicals that help naturally regulate our mood and energy. Physical activity boosts these chemicals which enhances activity in the prefrontal cortex (the part of our brains responsible for higher-ordered thinking).[4] This process calms the limbic brain (our emotional headquarters), automatically shutting down energy-wasting emotional triggers.

3. The Intuitive/Spiritual Element

Exercise helps us grow our mind-body awareness while we learn to move out of our logical thought processes. The more we tune into our bodies and what they are telling us, the better we can tap into our inner knowing. We can stop using up our energy chasing after solutions or validation that comes from outside ourselves.

Our connectivity to the Universe or a higher power can be a catalyst for improving our energy levels as well. There are several approaches to enhance this through physical activity. Yoga and Tai Chi, for instance, are well-known spiritual practices used for centuries to connect mind, body, and spirit. From a Western perspective, they also help to create harmony between our needs for “achievement” energy and “restful” energy. Too much focus on either end of the spectrum can lead to burnout or depression.

A Powerful Combination

Meditation is another spiritual custom that is also a proven energy booster.[5] Unfortunately, sitting still and calming our minds can be a struggle, especially for people with anxiety issues.

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“Walking meditation” is one ritual that makes this easier while providing the powerful energy-boosting combination of both physical activity and intentional reflection. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley describes this as a “basic method for cultivating mindfulness . . ., which involves focusing closely on the physical experience of walking, paying attention to the specific components of each step.”[6]

Hiking in nature also counteracts physical inactivity while helping us reconnect with our spirituality by calling our attention to the wonders of the world beyond ourselves. Awe-inspiring experiences contribute to positive changes in mood, attitude, and behavior. This enhances our energy levels by freeing up our mental space from overthinking and negativity. We can trust in our own inner knowing and lean into the belief that the Universe always has our backs.

4. The Self-Mastery Element

How energetic do you feel when your inner critic is saying you’re “too weak,” “too old,” or “too broken” to achieve your greatest goals and live your full purpose in life? It drags you down, right?

When our brains believe these negative thoughts, it exhausts our energy levels, but fortunately, there is a simple method for counteracting these lies.

You guessed it—exercise.

Physical accomplishments change our self-perception and boost our feelings of empowerment and self-worth. The agility and flexibility gains we achieve through repetitive practice of HIIT (high-intensity interval training), martial arts, or metabolic conditioning sessions, for example, create neural patterns in our brains. This carries over and rewires our mind-body for grit, strength, coordination, and resilience in all areas of our lives. What could feel more energizing than knowing you are powerful and capable of overcoming any challenge that comes your way?

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Express Yourself

Our energy levels can also be improved through self-expressive activities (e.g., dance) by helping us unpack a mess of emotions that may be bogging us down. Reaping the rewards of physical activity doesn’t require us to be focused on appearance or weight. Just find something you enjoy and that makes you feel good to move your body, whether it’s a salsa class or a favorite sport, Pilates or Zumba, or just a stroll through the neighborhood.

We don’t have to jump in with the go-getter approach we tend to take with most endeavors either. We don’t even need to be what we would consider athletic, artistic, or dramatic. All that’s required is to take one step forward with a focus on personal progress. Remove the expectations, self-judgment, and comparisons, and watch yourself bloom.

5. Energy Beyond Exercise

Globally, one in four adults does not meet recommended levels of physical activity, according to WHO.[7] While it is important to understand the ramifications that inadequate exercise can have on our health and longevity, this is just one part of the equation. There is far more at stake here.

Modern living enables us to achieve most of our daily needs with the least amount of physical effort possible. Not only do we not exercise enough, but we also rarely move our bodies at all—except from couch to fridge or from the doorstep to the car.

Physical inactivity robs us of powerful elements that enrich our lives—deeper connections with ourselves, our loved ones, our inner peace, and the vastness of the Universe around us. Our ability to feel fulfilled and successful in life hinges on the link between movement and vitality. Simply put, physical inactivity dwindles our energy at every level.

Here is a breakdown to help you fit it into your schedule with ease: On each of 5 days per week, do 15 minutes of vigorous exercise (HIIT, jogging, metabolic conditioning, or fast swimming or biking) or 30 minutes of moderate exercise (brisk walking, dancing, hiking, tennis, or water aerobics). And remember, any form of movement is better than none.

More About the Importance of Physical Activity

Featured photo credit: Adrian Swancar via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] The Heart Foundation: The Top 10 Excuses for Not Exercising
[2] Science Direct: The cascade of positive events: Does exercise on a given day increase the frequency of additional positive events?
[3] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Facts and Statistics
[4] American Psychological Association: Working out boosts brain health
[5] NCBI: Meditation: Process and Effects
[6] Greater Good Science Center: Walking Meditation Practice
[7] World Health Organization: Physical activity fact sheet

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