8 Nutrients for Better Brain Functioning

All nutrients are necessary for health, but some are especially related to the proper functioning of the brain.

A study by researchers at the University of Illinois and published in the journal NeuroImage has linked high levels of certain nutrients in the blood with a better connection between neurons and an enhancement of intellectual abilities.

The research, conducted with the participation of 116 healthy people over 65, has focused on 32 key nutrients in the Mediterranean diet , which, according to previous research, were associated with better brain function and healthy aging.


Doctors Christopher Zwilling and Aron Barbey discovered that the synergistic action of some of these nutrients was associated with better brain health and cognition . These nutrients are as follows:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in foods such as flax and chia oil and seeds, and in nuts (in addition to fish).
  2. Omega-6 fatty acids, found, for example, in corn, sunflower, pumpkin seeds and pistachios.
  3. Carotenoids, found in yellow, red, and orange foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and apricots. They are also usually found in green vegetables.
  4. Lycopene, a carotenoid that is found essentially in tomatoes and to a lesser extent in watermelon.
  5. Riboflavin or vitamin B2, which is found, in addition to foods of animal origin, in vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, legumes, whole grains, mushrooms and nuts such as almonds.
  6. Folic acid, found in green leafy vegetables, such as lettuce or spinach.
  7. Vitamin B12, found in foods of animal origin (meat, fish, and dairy). Vegetarians get it with supplementation.
  8. Vitamin D, which is obtained mainly by its synthesis in the skin to that exposed to the sun. Some foods provide small amounts.


The study is especially valuable because the association has been made from very accurate blood tests , not through food consumption surveys. And the participants’ brain function was observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging, rather than using only cognitive tests.

Analysis of the data found a strong link between high levels of the mentioned nutrients, better test results, and enhanced neural connection activity.


And among the nutrients he highlighted the importance of the trio omega-3, omega-6 and carotenes. Specifically, omega-3s strengthen frontoparietal neural networks, which is reflected in general intelligence, the ability to focus, and goal-oriented behavior.

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