When you think of supplements that show your brain some love, good ol’ omega-3s—known for the pivotal role they play in brain function—immediately come to mind. And it’s true; omega-3s really do a brain good. But they’re not the only nutrient that benefits your body’s HQ.
In fact, from choline to CoQ10, many other nutrients show a promising ability to boost brain health. Whatever your goals may be, the following supplements can help keep your noggin firing at full force.
1. Magnesium L-Threonate
Magnesium l-threonate, a specific form of the do-it-all mineral magnesium, has been shown to offer cognitive benefits in a number of scientific studies, like this National Institute on Aging clinical trial.
This form of magnesium, which was discovered by MIT researchers, can only be found in supplements, says New York City-based dietitian Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., who recommends it to many of her clients. “Research suggests that magnesium l-threonate may help improve brain plasticity,” she says. “This can have positive effects on memory, learning, and cognition.”
Preliminary research also suggests that magnesium l-threonate may help with mood issues.
You’ll find magnesium l-threonate supplements in capsule form, which typically contain 130 to 200 milligrams per serving.
2. Vitamin B12
B12 does a lot for your body and brain: “Vitamin B12 helps with DNA synthesis, memory and nervous system function, and more,” says Amanda A. Kostro Miller, R.D., L.D.N., nutrition advisor for Fitter Living.
“Insufficient B12 can lead to anemia and associated symptoms, such as fatigue, paleness, weakness, weight loss, and irritability,” she says. In particular, vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to cognitive decline in elderly people.
The average adult needs 2.4 micrograms of B12, which is found in animal proteins and fortified foods (like cereal) per day.
Vegans, vegetarians, and older people may have a hard time getting enough of this essential vitamin from their diets—and may want to consider a supplement.
Don’t know much about choline? It’s another key nutrient for brain health, says Kostro Miller. In fact, choline plays a role in brain development and metabolism and regulates memory.
“Choline is important both in the early stages of life as well as later in life when memory starts to decline,” she says.
Beef liver is one of the foods highest in choline, Kostro Miller says. However, eggs, potatoes, cruciferous vegetables, and some varieties of beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, also contain some.
4. Coenzyme Q10
Also known as CoQ10, coenzyme Q10 is naturally present in your heart, liver, and other organs. “Coenzyme Q10 is important for mitochondrial efficiency,” says Dr. Terry Wahls, M.D., author of The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.
What’s mitochondrial efficiency, you ask? Basically, how well your mitochondria, the so-called “powerhouses of your cells,” create chemical energy called ATP. Since your brain uses a lot of ATP, keeping its mitochondria in tip-top shape is key.
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“As we mature, particularly beyond age 50, it becomes more difficult to make enough coenzyme Q10,” Wahls explains. Plus, certain medications also compromise our ability to manufacture it.
Though 100 to 200 milligrams is the standard daily dose of CoQ10, people with certain medical conditions may need more, according to Wahls. People with cognitive concerns, for example, may take 300 to 600 milligrams twice a day.
“Eating heart or liver three times a week will also give you more coQ10, Creatine, lipoic acid, and other critical mitochondrial nutrition,” Wahls notes. If that doesn’t appeal, support your brain with supplements.
5. Lutein + Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin, two of about 600 carotenoids (pigmented antioxidants found in certain plants and green leafy vegetables) out there, are found in the human brain and eyes, says board-certified neuro-opthamologist, Dr. Kaushal Kulkarni, M.D.
“They have been shown in several studies to support measures of cognitive function, including memory, attention, reasoning ability, executive function, and visual-motor reaction time,” he says.
For major brain support, Kulkarni recommends 20 milligrams of lutein and four milligrams of zeaxanthin per day, amounts that can’t be achieved through diet alone.
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