Dr. Uma Naidoo, a psychiatrist, nutritionist, brain specialist and faculty member at Harvard Medical School, outlined a set of foods to eat to maintain a balanced diet, ensuring that the body gets all the right vitamins, especially because they are essential to prevent cognitive decline.
She said that given that the risk of neurological disease increases as we age, one of the frequently asked questions is: “What is the best vitamin to protect our brains from ageing?”
Each of our microbiomes is like a thumbprint, so an effective eating plan is customized to each person’s unique needs, Nadeau writes in an article for CNBC. But at the same time, she nominated B vitamins as a priority to maintain a young and healthy brain.
Benefits of B vitamins for the brain
She noted that a study from Wayne State University School of Medicine found that depression, dementia, and mental impairment are often associated with a lack of B vitamins.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency as a cause of cognitive problems is more common than we think, especially among older adults who live alone and do not eat properly,” said study psychiatrist Rajapraphakaran Rajarithenam.
She explained that there are 8 different B vitamins, each with its own primary health benefits:
1. Increase your energy
Vitamin B1, or thiamine, is necessary for the basic function of our cells and the metabolism of nutrients for energy.
The brain is one of the most metabolically active organs in your body, which means it needs thiamine support to prevent deficiencies that can lead to neurological problems in the future.
2. Dismantling of medicines
Vitamin B2, or riboflavin, acts as a cofactor for enzymes in our cells that carry out important reactions, such as the body and brain.
It also helps with cell growth, energy production, and the breakdown of fats and exogenous substances such as drugs.
3. Reduce inflammation
Vitamin B3, or niacin, works with more than 400 enzymes to produce substances such as cholesterol and fats needed within the body, transforming energy for all of our organs. Niacin is also an antioxidant, which helps reduce excess inflammation.
4. Support your overall brain health
Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, is needed to make a molecular compound called coenzyme A, which helps the body’s enzymes build and break down fatty acids for energy.
It also helps our cells produce acyl-carrying proteins, which help produce essential lipids. The brain is primarily made of fat, so pantothenic acid is one of the most important vitamins in supporting brain health.
5. Fight disease
Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, is notable for its role in disease prevention because adequate levels of this vitamin are associated with a reduced risk of a number of cancers.
Additionally, pyridoxine helps with many chemical reactions in the body that support immune function and brain health.
6. Helping cells communicate better
Vitamin B7, known as biotin, regulates cell signals for rapid and effective communication throughout the body. In the brain, it is critical to transmit cellular signals via neurotransmitters.
7. Keep your balance
Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is a popular supplement and an essential vitamin to support a healthy brain and nervous system, and lead to balanced mental health.
Another benefit is that it helps encourage cellular detoxification.
8. Help your heart
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is essential for the formation of red blood cells and DNA, and for supporting the development and function of the nervous system.
B12 also supports the breakdown of homocysteine, a protein that can negatively affect cardiovascular health and lead to dementia when you gain weight.
The best foods that contain Vitamin B
Naidoo, author of the bestselling book This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to Surprising Foods That Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and more, recommends relying on food for this group of vitamins. However, she noted that our diets are not perfect, so there may be cases where supplements may help, but it is essential to get tested and consult your doctor first.
She said B vitamins are among the easiest vitamins to get into your diet because foods rich in one type of B vitamin often contain many, if not all, of them.
Here are 6 foods rich in vitamin B that you can eat daily:
1. One egg contains a third of the recommended daily value of vitamin B7, while also containing small amounts of many other B vitamins.
2. Yogurt is high in vitamin B2 and vitamin B12, as well as in natural probiotics, which support gut and mental health.
3. Legumes like black beans, chickpeas and lentils help boost your mood and brain health. It is also an excellent source of vitamin B9, and contains small amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5 and vitamin B6.
4. Salmon is naturally rich in all B vitamins, especially vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
5. Sunflower seeds are one of the best plant sources of vitamin B5. You can get 20% of the recommended daily value for this vitamin from just one ounce of seeds.
6. Leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale are a great source of vitamin B9. This is the best food for patients who want to improve bad mood.