Best Supplements For Your Brain, According to Dietitians
Oftentimes when people think about taking supplements, they consider the nutrients they need to maintain a healthy body, but what about a healthy mind? Brain health is just as crucial to overall health (if not more), yet it continues to be overlooked.
Of course, supplements to improve your skin, give you energy, or help joint pain can be beneficial, but we were curious about the best supplements to keep our brains sharp as we age. We consulted Niket Sonpal, MD, internist and gastroenterologist, Teralyn Sell, Ph.D., psychotherapist, and brain health expert, and Nicole Avena, Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and a visiting professor of Health Psychology at Princeton University.
Then, don't miss the Best Supplements to Take Every Day, According to a Dietitian.
Omega-3 fatty acids
When it comes to keeping your brain sharp as well as improving overall mental health, omega-3 fatty acid supplements are the way to go.
"Omega-3 has been shown to improve functions in the brain, such as memory and reaction times," says Sonpal, adding that the fatty acids play an important role in fighting against the aging process of the brain.
As far as mental health goes, this nutrient (which is found in fatty fish), has been thoroughly researched for its ability to alleviate symptoms of depression. Though, Sell notes that quality over quantity is the most important thing to consider when choosing an omega-3 supplement.
"Omega 3 fatty acids have been well researched as an anti-inflammatory," says Sell. "What we now know is that inflammation is a key player in mental health."
Bottom line: As far as preserving mental sharpness, combating anti-aging, and improving your mental health, omega-3 fatty acids are great for supporting brain health.
Not sure which to buy? Avena suggests Essential elements® Omega-3 Fish Oil. "Essential elements Omega-3 Fish Oil has high omega-3 content with powerful antioxidant benefits that support immune, heart, and cognitive health," she says.
While you're stocking up on omega-3, it's also important to make sure you're getting enough B vitamins to help support neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, which can help to regulate your mood.
"B vitamins are often an overlooked heavy hitter in the brain health game," says Sell, adding that a B-complex vitamin (which includes all eight B vitamins) is better than taking just one of the B vitamins on its own."B vitamins have a synergistic relationship with each other, so a complex is typically better than using them singularly," she explains.
However, Sonpal points out that vitamin B12 is especially important for improving mental health. "This vitamin plays a vital role in producing the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for stabilizing our mood and happiness," he says. "Without vitamin B12, there is a concern for the risk of clinical depression."
Avena recommends two vitamin B supplements: Vitafusion Brain Food and Neuriva Plus. "Vitafusion makes a gummy that features Ashwagandha, Phosphatidylserine, and B vitamins to help support brain nourishment, stress, and focus," she says. Neuriva Plus, on the other hand, is a brain health supplement meant "to help support six indicators of brain performance: focus, memory, learning, concentration, accuracy, and reasoning," Avena adds.
Vitamin E functions as an antioxidant and may support overall brain health.
"Research suggests that vitamin E protects the brain from oxidative stress, which is when the production and accumulation of oxygen in the brain are not balanced," according to Sonpal. "Some side effects of oxidative stress are fatigue, memory loss, and recurring headaches."
For more, be sure to check out The 9 Most Essential Vitamins You Need in Your Diet, According to Yale Experts.
Just because it's last on the list, doesn't mean amino acids are any less important. In fact, Sell says amino acids are the most important supplement for brain health. However, be sure to check with your doctor before taking amino acids to make sure it doesn't interfere with any other medications and supplements.
"Amino acids are the building blocks for neurotransmitters," says Sell. For example, without amino acid 5HTP your brain couldn't produce serotonin, aka the "feel good" hormone that helps generate feelings of well-being and happiness. Similarly, the amino acid L-tyrosine is the precursor to dopamine, the neurotransmitter responsible for influencing our mood and feelings of reward and motivation.
For more, be sure to check out 5 Best Drinks for Clearing Brain Fog, According to Experts.