There’s been a lot of buzz in recent years about natural nootropics. Advocates argue that these all-natural supplements may help to boost cognitive function, improve memory, and reduce the effects of aging on the brain. The problem is, the connection between supplements and brain health is a little more complicated than most people, including health and wellness enthusiasts, realize.
The Five Keys to a Healthy Brain
While there are plenty of supplements for brain health that live up to all of the hype, most of them don’t boost brainpower directly. Instead, they make it easier for the people taking them to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When it comes to brain health, that means focusing on these five key areas:
- Eating Well
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important things anyone can do to support optimal brain health. Experts often recommend whole-food diets that consist primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats to reduce inflammation and improve overall health. Most people can also benefit from taking probiotic and prebiotic supplements that support a healthy gut microbiome, which researchers now believe to be tied to cognitive function.
- Regular Exercise
Moderate to intense physical activity gets the blood pumping through the entire body. Increasing blood flow to the brain supports a process known as neurogenesis in which new neurons are created. As a result, regular exercise is a great way to maintain optimal brain health, especially for older adults.
- Sufficient Sleep
Getting enough rest is essential to maintaining optimal brain health. If improving sleep hygiene isn’t enough, it may be worth looking into supplements that contain magnesium and other sleep-promoting nutrients.
- Brain Training
The brain is a muscle, so it needs exercise. Challenging the brain with memory exercises, puzzles, and new hobbies can help people of all ages, including older adults, maintain high levels of cognitive function.
- Social Interaction
As people get older, they tend to spend less time socializing and meeting new friends. Those who want to maintain cognitive flexibility and organize ideas more efficiently should make a point of socializing with others. Hearing new perspectives and sharing new experiences can help to keep key parts of the brain active and healthy.
Essential Nutrients for Maintaining Brain Health
The most important aspect of maintaining optimal brain health is getting the basics right, as described above. However, there are undeniably some nutrients found not just in food but also in certain herbs and supplement products that can give the brain a boost. They include:
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids act as essential building blocks for cell membranes and boast powerful neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory effects. Consuming sufficient omega-3s has been linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as well.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells throughout the body, including those in the brain, from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress contributes significantly to cognitive decline, so getting enough vitamin E is especially important for older adults.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 are all essential to maintaining normal brain functioning because they boost the production of neurotransmitters. Anyone who struggles with B vitamin deficiencies should be taking daily supplements.
How to Choose the Best Supplement
Health-conscious consumers should beware of claims that seem too good to be true. While there are plenty of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and herbs that can help people maintain cognitive function, there’s no replacement for a healthy lifestyle. Look for supplement manufacturers that explain how their products work instead of making unverifiable claims.