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Last Updated on May 5, 2020

10 Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Brain Power

10 Brain Vitamins for Enhanced Brain Power

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, makes us more unhappy and unmotivated.

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-3’s

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 fat to give your brain are Omega-3’s. Omega-3’s such as DHA are the essential nutrients that form the outer layer our brain cells. In fact, not getting enough omega-3’s 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.[1]

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

Foods Rich in Omega-3’s: 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.

Magnesium helps the brain by:

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  • 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.

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 of building the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

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

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Symptoms of B6 deficiency include:

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

Foods Rich in Vitamin B6: Grassfed 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 memory.[2]

Low levels of folate can be detrimental to the brain. Low levels of folate have 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

Food 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 wellbeing.[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.

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

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  • 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 vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to their B12 to make sure they are getting enough of it in their diet from plant sources or supplementation.

Food 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 important neurotransmitters, your mood may suffer.[7]

Food Rich in Vitamin C: BroccolI, citrus fruits, bell peppers, watermelon, spinach

8. Vitamin D

The “sunshine” vitamin is arguably one of the most important vitamins that many people miss out on. Vitamin D is usually associated with bone health and heart health 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.

Food Rich in Vitamin D: Natural sunlight or find a Vitamin D supplement.

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.

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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

Food 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 to one another.[10]

Low levels of zinc are associated with:

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

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

Keep Your Brain Sharp With Brain Foods

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.

How would you fuel a Ferrari? You wouldn’t put the cheap gas in a Ferrari. It’s a high-performance machine, so you need to put in high-octane fuel to ensure optimal performance.

Eat a wide variety of foods that include a vast array of the top brain 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: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

More by this author

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 November 2, 2020

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

How to Use Your Unconscious Mind to Get What You Want

I get my best ideas when I’m not trying—when I’m zoning out in the shower or taking my dog for a walk. Suddenly, something I’ve been racking my brain to figure out seems to just come to me. It may seem like magic, but it’s actually just my unconscious mind coming through for the win.

What Is Conscious Thought?

Let’s start by explaining what the unconscious mind is not. I want you to think about what your dream house would look like if money were no object. Then, think about where you were the first time you can remember feeling joy.

That voice in your head that was talking you through those two tasks is your conscious mind. Simply put, any thought process that you are aware of (conscious of) is part of your conscious mind. I’m using my conscious mind as I sit here and write this article.

One of the major brain centers for conscious thought is in your prefrontal cortex. This is on the outside of your brain behind your forehead. Some of the downsides of conscious thought are that it’s energetically taxing and finite. What I mean is, your conscious mind can only think one thing at a time, and it burns through a lot of glucose to do so.

Try to figure out the square root of 2400 while creating a grocery list. You can skip back and forth between those two tasks, but your conscious mind can’t wrestle with both simultaneously.

Also, think of a time when you were utilizing your conscious mind for an extended period. Maybe you were in classes all day or busy with a tough work task late into the night. You were probably exhausted after such intensive and extended conscious thought.

What Is the Unconscious Mind?

That’s why the unconscious mind is such a valuable resource. It isn’t energy taxing, and it is virtually limitless. Your unconscious mind could be trying to figure out thousands of problems right now.

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The downside is that you aren’t conscious of any of it until you are—until your unconscious thoughts make it into your consciousness.

That’s why it behooves us to figure out how to create the right environment for our unconscious minds to flourish.

System 1 and System 2 Thinking

Daniel Kahneman’s seminal book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives us another way to think about the difference between the unconscious and conscious minds. Kahneman describes two different modes of thought called System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is quick, emotional, and intuitive, while System 2 is slow, methodical, and logical. System 1 works in tandem with System 2.

For example, if you see someone looking at you, your System 1 might assume they are upset with you. Then, your System 2 takes over to process information and discern what might actually be going on at that moment.

Kahneman warns us that System 1 and System 2 are metaphors for how the mind works.[1] It would be an oversimplification to try to explain specific regions where System 1 and System 2 thinking takes place. However, System 1 and 2 is a powerful way of thinking about different modes of thinking. Kahneman calls System 1 automatic thinking and System 2 effortful.

The idea of focus is key here. In a famous experiment, participants were told to watch a video and count how many times people in the video passed a ball to each other. This required their System 2 thinking. However, the intense focus required for this experiment caused most people to miss the fact that while the people in the video were passing the ball, a person in a gorilla suit slowly made his way through the shot.

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How to Make Your Unconscious Mind Work For You

Focusing too intensely can cause us to miss details and solutions better suited to our unconscious mind. That’s why we sometimes have to stop and chill out, instead of forcing solutions.

Here are five ways to make your unconscious mind work for you.

1. Manage Stress

Your unconscious mind is not a big fan of you being stressed out, overworked, or overwhelmed. Managing stress is important if you want to be able to come up with those effortless “aha!” ideas.

Imagine that you’re under a strict work deadline. Your anxiety is compounded by the fact that you’re worried about losing your job and that your entire family relies on your income. This is an incredible amount of pressure that makes it tough for your unconscious mind to break through with that effortless creativity.

Think back to the video where the person in the gorilla suit sneaks through all the people passing the ball around. Most people are so focused on the task at hand that they don’t see the most interesting part of the video. Stress and pressure can lead to a kind of tunnel vision that works the same way. Our attention becomes so narrowly focused that we aren’t able to zoom out and connect the dots between broader patterns and ideas.

That’s why it’s crucial to find ways to manage stress. I recently spoke with humor engineer Drew Tarvin who explained the 4 R’s of managing stress.[2]

First, try to reduce stress by eliminating stressors from your life. This might mean finding a less stressful job or leaving earlier for work.

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Next, reframe the stresses that you can’t eliminate. Reframing isn’t pretending that your stress doesn’t exist; it’s trying to think differently and change your perspective about stressors that do exist. This might mean looking at the bright side or trying to see the bigger picture. If I don’t want to quit my stressful job, I can try to reframe by thinking more about the money I make or the times I feel fulfilled at work.

The third step is to relieve stress. This means finding ways to relax throughout the day. You might try meditating or watching funny cat videos on YouTube to clear your head and relieve your stress.

Finally, refresh. Find ways to take more extensive breaks where you completely de-stress. Pre-COVID, this might have meant taking a vacation to a beach somewhere. But now, you’ll have to get more creative as you find ways to put your phone down, forget about work, and come back completely refreshed.

2. Take Breaks

Part of stress management is taking breaks. But taking breaks is also an important part of tapping into your unconscious mind.

When I’m trying to figure out how to structure an article or put together ideas for a larger project, I schedule in time to completely put the project down. This allows my unconscious mind the freedom to come up with some truly novel solutions, and unlike conscious thought, it feels effortless.

This is that experience of the light bulb suddenly going on while you’re showering or driving to work. When you aren’t focused on anything in particular, your unconscious mind has the quiet it needs to bubble up to become conscious thought.

So, take breaks. One strategy is what’s called the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you stop to take a five-minute break after every 25 minutes of work. This allows you to recharge. Plus, by systematically easing your intense focus, you are giving your unconscious mind opportunities to come up with some truly novel ideas.

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3. Get Creative

The unconscious mind is great at effortlessly seeing patterns and finding interesting solutions, but for this to happen, it needs some inspiration. That means creating and consuming as much creativity as you can.

Pick up an artistic or creative hobby. Paint, write, build, or dance. It’s also helpful to consume creativity. Go to museums, read poetry, and walk in nature. Taking in creativity with your conscious mind will give your unconscious mind all the inspiration it needs to be able to do its thing.

4. Don’t Force It

The most crucial takeaway about the unconscious mind is that you can’t force it. You can struggle and strain all you want when you’re using your conscious mind, but the unconscious mind can only bubble to the surface when you aren’t trying so hard.

Think back to that phenomenon of having an aha moment while you’re showering or walking your dog. The unconscious mind is better able to break through when you aren’t focused so intensely on whatever it is you’re trying to solve.

So, relax and give yourself some time and space. That’s when your unconscious mind is most likely to breakthrough.

5. Play

Finally, don’t forget about the power of play. Play is inherently fun, and a playful mode of thinking allows your unconscious mind more of a chance to innovate. If you turn your task into a game, you’ll be more relaxed, have more fun, and collaborate better with your colleagues. That means you’ll be more likely to riff and get to a more creative “unconscious mind” solution.

You can also add play throughout your day to tap into this freer, less constrained kind of thinking. Turn your commute into a game, play hide and seek with your children, or join a local bowling league. This will help you get reacquainted with your childlike sense of joy, wonder, and curiosity—all key ingredients to nurturing and fostering your unconscious mind.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with and utilizing your unconscious mind is very different from doing so with your conscious mind. Tapping your unconscious mind is a technique that, when done right, can help you get what you want by untapping your potential.

Featured photo credit: Katerina Jerabkova via unsplash.com

Reference

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