The Best Vitamins for the Brain

The Best Vitamins for the Brain

The secret to a sharp mind lies in smart foods. The brain, just like the body, needs nutrients to keep it in shape. Certain types of vitamins can help improve brain function, decelerate brain degeneration and prevent some neurological diseases. Those special brain nutrients are vitamin B1, B3, B6, B12, C and E.

Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
Vitamin B1 is directly involved with brain function, as it helps the brain process its fuel: glucose. Vitamin B1 deficiency can cause poor memory, numbness, fatigue, irritation or more serious neurological disorders such as Wernicke's encephalopathy, a syndrome characterized by confusion, memory loss, delusions and eye problems. People who are at risk of vitamin B1 deficiency are those who frequently consume alcoholic beverages. This explains why most alcoholics find it difficult to process their thoughts even when they are sober. Good sources of Vitamin B1 are wheat germ, sunflower seeds, soybeans, green peas and whole-wheat bread.

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 is another important brain vitamin, as it helps increase blood flow to the brain, lower blood pressure and reduce blood cholesterol. Vitamin B3 deficiency can cause a wide range of health problems from a physical level such as dermatitis and diarrhea, to severe brain disorders like dementia. Dr. J. Richard Wittenborn of Rutgers University has used Vitamin B3 as a part of schizophrenic treatment, and found significant improvement in certain patients. However, there have not been many other studies that support the link between schizophrenia and vitamin B3 deficiency. Vitamin B3-rich foods are turkey, tofu, calf's liver, peanuts, tuna, cottage cheese, milk and beans.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 has an important role in the formation of neurotransmitters or brain nerve messengers. A deficiency of this vitamin can result in depression and mental confusion. To allow your body to absorb more vitamin B6 from food, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Good sources of vitamin B6 include bananas, wheat germ, fish, soybeans, spinach and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B12 is vitally necessary for an aging brain. The brain needs this vitamin to maintain healthy brain function and help with red blood cell formation. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause memory loss, fatigue, irritability, anemia and mild depression. To increase your B12 level, add these vitamin B12-rich foods to your menu: beef liver, roast beef, oysters, sardines and herring.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
Vitamin C plays a significant role in neurotransmitter regulation, and aids in the manufacture of norepinephrine, a major neurotransmitter that acts as a stimulant. We need this vitamin, therefore, to fight stress and keep the brain active. Smoking and alcohol consumption may lead to vitamin C deficiency. Good sources of vitamin C include broccoli, cabbage, watermelon, cauliflower, papaya and grapefruit.

Vitamin E (Tocopherol)
Vitamin E can help prevent strokes by strengthening the blood vessels and protecting them against damage from oxidation. A two-year study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that it can help slow the brain deterioration in Alzheimer's patients. Brain degeneration happens when oxidation of free radicals causes the build up of amyloid, a protein substance that interferes with the neurological network. The antioxidant properties in vitamin E can help decrease amyloid level and keep the brain in good shape. Vitamin E-rich foods are walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, whole wheat, sweet potatoes, leeks and asparagus.