We’ve all had those days when our brains feel foggy: when we can’t focus and our memory is less-than sharp. And chances are, you’ve resorted to extra caffeine and a sugary snack in an effort to jolt your brain back into full function. But what if you could consume something that’s actually healthy for your brain instead?
That’s the idea behind numerous supplements, foods and drinks that contain nootropics, substances purported to improve cognition. Nootropic cocktails may contain any number of things including B vitamins, L-theanine, niacin, as well as various herbs and amino acids. But despite the growing popularity of these brain boosters, there is little scientific evidence to back up most of their claims. “I love the idea of boosting brain power, but show me any science that a supplement is better than movement, meditation and nutrient-dense brain food when it comes to mental health,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia University and author of Eat Complete (Harper Collins, 2016).
According to Ramsey, boosting brain power is actually pretty simple. He even made a little rhyme about the key brain foods to make it easy to remember: “Seafood, greens, nuts and beans.” Eating more of those core foods can go a long way toward keeping your brain healthy—and a healthy brain works better. Important nutrients for feeding your brain include omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, iron, choline, lycopene, vitamin E and carotenoids. It’s not about a specific food or magic bullet supplement, but rather categories of healthy foods that provide high levels of these proven brain-boosting nutrients. “Our brains consume 20 percent of everything we eat,” says Ramsey. “This nourishment provides energy and nutrients to create and sustain the quadrillions of connections that construct the brain, plus the electricity that courses between those connections.” In other words: if you want a better brain, feed it better food. Read more