The Top 5 Nutrients for the Brain

The Top 5 Nutrients for the Brain

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Nutrients such as lutein, protein, and vitamin D are critical to helping your brain stay sharp

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JAN. 14, 2022   3 MINUTE READ

Your brain is hungry for nutrition. Even though this organ makes up only 2% of your body's weight, it gobbles up 20% of its calories. If you'd like to stay sharper, faster and more focused, these five nutrients for the brain can help. 

1. Lutein

This plant pigment is found in every part of the brain, and it aids in learning and memory. It's so powerful that a joint Abbott and University of Illinois Center for Nutrition, Learning and Memory study found that seniors with the highest blood lutein levels showed superior "crystallized intelligence," a measure of the ability to use skills and information acquired throughout the lifetime. In addition, research has shown that the amount of Lutein in your eye positively relates to the processing speed in your brain.

Top sources for lutein: Spinach, kale, corn, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, avocados and egg yolks.

2. DHA Omega-3

Did you know that fat makes up nearly 60% of your brain? A good goal is to choose the healthiest fats possible, like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This omega-3 fat comprises 25% of the brain's fat, helping to reduce inflammation and foster communication between brain cells.

Top sources for DHA: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. The body can also make DHA from flaxseeds, walnuts, and soybeans.

3. B Vitamins

This family of vitamins protects the brain in multiple ways. B vitamins like thiamin and niacin help metabolize nutrients for the brain for energy. Others, like vitamins B12 and folate, can help protect against dementia by breaking down homocysteine, a harmful substance that may lead to Alzheimer's disease.

Top sources for B vitamins: A balanced diet of lean meat, poultry, fish, dairy, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. If you're a strict vegetarian or vegan, consider a B12 supplement, as this vitamin is only in animal foods.

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D does more than keep your bones and heart strong. It may also help you maintain a sunnier disposition by helping brain cells produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.

Top sources for vitamin D: Trout, salmon, organ meats like liver, milk, fortified cereals, and eggs.

5. Protein

Healthy muscles don't just keep you strong. They're also linked to better cognitive abilities in older folks. Enter protein. Protein provides building blocks that preserve muscle mass, which is especially important since most people begin to lose muscle as early as age 40. For optimum muscle health, aim for 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal.

Top sources for protein: Lean meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, beans, and lentils.

Is a High-Protein Diet Good for Weight Loss?

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Key Takeaways

• Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet.
• Getting adequate protein can help with muscle loss associated with intentional weight loss.
• High-quality, high-protein foods can help you meet your protein needs.

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What Are Protein-Rich Foods? 8 Protein-Inspired Meal and Snack Ideas

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A skillet with protein-rich eggs in tomato sauce.


Key Takeaways

• Protein helps maintain muscle and support weight loss maintenance.
• Aim for about 25-30 grams of protein per meal.
• Choose protein-rich foods for meals and snacks to help meet your daily protein needs.

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