Brain Foods: fats, minerals and vitamins to support brain function.
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When it comes to brain-nutrients, this is what I know:
- DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) – Is the primary structural component of the human brain. Very abundant in brains and eyes.
- B-12 – those deficient in B-12 can suffer irreversible brain damage.
- Iodine – lack of iodine is the worldwide leading cause of preventable mental retardation in developing minds.
- Zinc – Most of the bodies Zinc is found in the brain and eyes. It’s role is not fully understood.
These nutrients do more than support brain function, they are integral to the minds makeup and function.
DHA is an Omega 3 fatty acid. The other Omega 3 fatty acids are ALA (mostly plants) and EPA (mostly meats). Both EPA and DHA are great for you. The body can inefficiently make EPA from ALA, and can very inefficiently make DHA from EPA. I don’t know if you can get enough DHA+EPA from ALA (e.g. flax seeds and omega-3 eggs) alone.
DHA is mainly found in seafood. You can get it from Fish Oil, and vegans can supplement with microalgae oil.
Fatty acids are absorbed in the presence of Biotin (vitamin B-7). So avidin, which binds biotin, will also inhibit absorption of omega 3 fats.
Avidin, found in eggs, binds Biotin (a B-Vitamin) and will prevent fatty acid absorption. Cooking helps, but avoid having egg whites everyday.
Best Sources: Fish, Mollusks, Brain
This vitamin is often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets. The B-12 deficient women in this post are Indian, and probably ate lots of vegetables. The problem is that no vegetable has any B-12.
Best Sources: Mollusks, Kidney, Liver
Iodine deficiency leads to cretinism. And iodine deficiency is one of the worlds leading causes of mental retardation. Most western diets have enough, because our foods are enhanced. Here’s a list of easy, good sources of Iodine.
- A diet insufficient in Zinc and Selenium will impair Iodine usage.
- Goitrogen’s are a class of antinutrient that impairs Iodine uptake. It’s found in many plants and nuts including Broccoli, canola oil, carrots, soy and beans.
Best Sources: Fish, Mollusks, Sea Vegetables
Vegans are at risk of Zinc deficiency, since its main source is meat. Zinc deficiency seems to be tied in with depression, and zinc is largely found in our brains and eyes.
- Phytates (found in whole grains) prevent absorption of many minerals.
- I’ve heard tannins (red wine) can also hinder zinc absorption.
- High concentrations of iron will also impede zinc absorption
Best Sources: Mollusks, meat, mushrooms
Most of the brain development nutrients are abundant in fish and mollusks. Most vegetables are lacking in these nutrients and some have anti-nutrients that make these nutrients even less accessible.
Future nutrition will probably have seafood rich meals and diets winning the brain-health index.