It’s common knowledge that there are certain foods like fruits and vegetables that provide important nutrients to keep our bodies healthy, but did you know there are foods you can eat to support your brain health and function as well?
At Brainlab we are dedicated to improving health, and we know that food is one piece of the puzzle. That’s one of the reasons why at the Brainlab Restaurant and Tower Café located at our Headquarters in Munich, we offer nothing but the best for our employees with dishes made from seasonal, market-fresh produce and ingredients.
As a company with “brain” in our name, we took it upon ourselves this month to look into the research to identify compounds that support brain health.
See below to learn about four science-backed compounds that are correlated with positive neurological impacts and how you can consume them:
1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are structural components of neuronal membranes and are mainly sourced from our diet. As building blocks for the brain, they are integral for cell membrane health and communication between brain cells. They can be protective against some psychiatric conditions and neurodegenerative diseases because of their anti-inflammatory and structural properties.(1-4)
What to eat: Nuts (walnuts tend to have the highest amount), fish (salmon or herring) and plant oils(5)
Flavonoids are a group of natural compounds found in many fruits and vegetables that prevent oxidation, inflammation and cell mutations in the body. They can limit neurodegeneration and prevent or reverse age-dependent losses in cognitive performance. They also help maintain the number and quality of neurons in the brain.(6-8)
What to eat/drink: Berries, apples, citrus fruits, tea and red wine(9)
3. Folate + Related B Vitamins
Folate, or Folic Acid when in supplement form, is the natural form of Vitamin B9 that helps form DNA, breaks down harmful substances in the body and is necessary for cell division, making it critical during growth and for brain health. As a result, folate deficiency is linked to aging brain processes, cognitive impairment, the increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia.(10-12)
What to eat: Dark green leafy vegetables, beans, asparagus and rice(13)
Caffeine is a stimulant, so low to moderate doses can increase activity in your brain. It also has a positive effect on short and long term memory in adults and plays a role in enhancing processing speed.(14-17)
What to drink: Tea, coffee and some cocoa-based drinks. Energy drinks and certain soft drinks have added caffeine, but be aware that many of those beverages may contain a high amount of sugar(18)
- Wysoczański T, Sokoła-Wysoczańska E, Pękala J, Lochyński S, Czyż K, Bodkowski R, et al. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and their Role in Central Nervous System – A Review. Current Medicinal Chemistry. 2016 Mar 16;23(8):816–31.
- Mazza M, Pomponi M, Janiri L, Bria P, Mazza S. Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in neurological and psychiatric diseases: An overview. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2007 Jan;31(1):12–26.
- Dyall SC, Michael-Titus AT. Neurological Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. NeuroMolecular Medicine [Internet]. 2008 Jun 10;10(4):219–35. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12017-008-8036-z
- Giacobbe J, Benoiton B, Zunszain P, Pariante CM, Borsini A. The Anti-Inflammatory Role of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Metabolites in Pre-Clinical Models of Psychiatric, Neurodegenerative, and Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Psychiatry. 2020 Feb 28;11.
- National Institutes of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements – Omega-3 Fatty Acids [Internet]. Nih.gov. 2017. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Omega3FattyAcids-Consumer/
- Vauzour D, Vafeiadou K, Rodriguez-Mateos A, Rendeiro C, Spencer JPE. The neuroprotective potential of flavonoids: a multiplicity of effects. Genes & Nutrition. 2008 Oct 21;3(3-4):115–26.
- Ayaz M, Sadiq A, Junaid M, Ullah F, Ovais M, Ullah I, et al. Flavonoids as Prospective Neuroprotectants and Their Therapeutic Propensity in Aging Associated Neurological Disorders. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. 2019 Jun 26;11.
- Matias I, Buosi AS, Gomes FCA. Functions of flavonoids in the central nervous system: Astrocytes as targets for natural compounds. Neurochemistry International [Internet]. 2016 May 1 [cited 2023 Apr 3];95:85–91. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0197018616300092
- Linus Pauling Institute. Flavonoids [Internet]. Oregon State University. 2014 [cited 2023 Apr 3]. Available from: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids#:~:text=Food%20sources
- Reynolds EH. Folic acid, ageing, depression, and dementia. BMJ (Clinical research ed) [Internet]. 2002;324(7352):1512–5. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1123448/
- Reynolds EH. The neurology of folic acid deficiency. Handbook of Clinical Neurology [Internet]. 2014 Jan 1;120:927–43. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780702040870000619
- Zhang X, Bao G, Liu D, Yang Y, Li X, Cai G, et al. The Association Between Folate and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2021 Apr 14;15.
- National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements – Folate [Internet]. ods.od.nih.gov. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Folate-HealthProfessional/#:~:text=Sources%20of%20Folate
- Fiani B, Zhu L, Musch BL, Briceno S, Andel R, Sadeq N, et al. The Neurophysiology of Caffeine as a Central Nervous System Stimulant and the Resultant Effects on Cognitive Function. Cureus. 2021 May 14;13(5).
- Nehlig A, Daval JL, Debry G. Caffeine and the Central Nervous system: Mechanisms of action, biochemical, Metabolic and Psychostimulant Effects. Brain Research Reviews. 1992 May;17(2):139–70.
- Sherman SM, Buckley TP, Baena E, Ryan L. Caffeine Enhances Memory Performance in Young Adults during Their Non-optimal Time of Day. Frontiers in Psychology [Internet]. 2016 Nov 14;7(1764). Available from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01764/full
- McLellan TM, Caldwell JA, Lieberman HR. A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews [Internet]. 2016 Dec;71(1):294–312. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763416300690
- Evans J, Richards JR, Battisti AS. Caffeine [Internet]. PubMed. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/#:~:text=This%20drug%20is%20most%20commonly