I always make it a point to maintain a well-balanced diet because I’m a nutritional psychiatrist. Making sure I get all the necessary vitamins is a big part of that, especially since they’re crucial for preventing cognitive decline.
The question “What is the best vitamin for protecting our aging brains?” is one that I frequently get from my patients because the risk of neurological diseases rises as we age.
Since each of our microbiomes is unique, like a thumbprint, an effective eating strategy must be tailored to the needs of each individual. However, I give B vitamins the highest priority in order to maintain the health and youth of my brain.
B vitamin advantages for the brain
A study from the Wayne State University School of Medicine found that a lack of B vitamins is frequently linked to depression, dementia, and mental impairment.
Rajaprabhakaran Rajarethinam, a psychiatrist and the study’s lead author, claims that a B12 vitamin deficiency is more common than we realize as a cause of cognitive problems, particularly in elderly people who live alone and eat improperly. There are eight different types of B vitamins, and each has distinct main health advantages:
1. Boosts Energy
The basic operation of our cells and the metabolism of nutrients for energy both depend on vitamin B1, or thiamin.
The brain is one of your body’s most metabolically active organs, so it requires thiamin support to avoid deficiencies that could cause neurological issues in the future.
2. Dissolving pharmaceuticals.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, works with enzymes in our cells to help them carry out critical reactions in the body and brain.
Additionally, it aids in cell growth, energy production, and the breakdown of external substances like drugs and fats.
3. Inflammation reduction.
Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, collaborates with more than 400 enzymes to produce the cholesterol and fat the body needs as well as to transform energy for all of our organ systems. Niacin is an antioxidant that aids in lowering excessive inflammation.
4. Promoting the general health of your brain.
For our body’s enzymes to build and break down fatty acids for energy, coenzyme A, a molecular compound made from vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is necessary. Additionally, it aids in the production of essential fats by helping our cells create acyl carrier proteins. Pantothenic acid is one of the most crucial vitamins for supporting brain health because the brain is primarily composed of fat.
5. Take on disease.
Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, is notable for its function in disease prevention because adequate levels of this vitamin are linked to a reduced risk of several cancers.
Additionally, pyridoxine aids numerous physiological processes that support healthy immune and brain function.
6. Facilitating improved cell communication.
Biotin, a form of vitamin B7, controls cell signals to ensure rapid and effective communication throughout the body. It is essential for neurotransmitter-mediated cellular signaling in the brain.
7. Maintaining your equilibrium.
An essential vitamin for supporting the health of the brain and nervous system, ideal neurotransmitter function, and stable psychological well-being is vitamin B9, also known as folate. The fact that it promotes cellular detoxification is an additional advantage.
8. Supporting the heart.
Cobalamin, also known as vitamin B12, is crucial for the production of DNA and red blood cells as well as for the growth and maintenance of the nervous system. B12 aids in the breakdown of homocysteine, a protein whose excess can harm cardiovascular health and cause dementia.
The top sources of vitamin B
I always advise people to include foods containing these vitamins in their meals because I am a “food-first” person. Our diets are not perfect, though, so there may be times when supplements can be beneficial. If that’s the case, my straightforward advice is to “test, not guess” and start by talking to your doctor.
The good news is that B vitamins are among the simplest to include in your diet because, when eaten as whole foods, foods high in one B vitamin frequently contain many, if not all, of the other B vitamins.
I regularly consume the following six foods high in vitamin B:
1. One egg provides one-third of the daily recommended value of vitamin B7 and small amounts of many other B vitamins.
2. Yogurt contains significant amounts of vitamins B2 and B12, as well as natural probiotics that promote both gut and mental health. I enjoy plain Greek yogurt because it has extra protein.
3. Legumes can improve your mood and brain health, including lentils, black beans, chickpeas, edamame, and chickpea flour. In addition to being a good source of vitamin B9, they also contain trace amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, and B6.
4. Salmon naturally contains high levels of all the B vitamins, particularly vitamins B2, B3, B6, and B12. Be mindful of the origin of your seafood, and keep in mind that canned or frozen salmon is also an affordable choice.
5. One of the best plant sources of vitamin B5 is sunflower seeds. Just one ounce of seeds provides 20% of the daily recommended value for this vitamin.
6. Leafy greens are a great source of vitamin B9. Examples include spinach, Swiss chard, and cabbage. The first food I recommend to patients who want to improve their mood is this one.
The Harvard Medical School faculty member and nutritional psychiatrist Dr. Uma Naidoo is an authority on the brain. In addition, she is the best-selling author of “This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods that Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More” and the director of nutritional & lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. Reach her on Twitter and Instagram.