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Brain Power Nutrition

By USA Hockey, 02/28/17, 10:30AM MST

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Make sure your brain is in the best shape for thinking, learning, and focusing

Your brain requires significant resources. It requires a minimum of 20 percent of your baseline daily calories just to fuel its activity. Properly fueling and hydrating your brain will help you make sure your brain is in the best shape for thinking, learning, and focusing.

Brain-Boosting Foods include:

  • Iron –   Even slight dips in iron levels can produce fatigue and impairment in thinking, productivity, and energy levels.*  Foods such as red meat, beans, and dark leafy vegetables are good sources of iron in the diet.
  • Hydration – Studies have shown that dehydration of even less than one percent of body weight can lead to cognitive decline. In dehydrated individuals, drinking water increased memory and focused attention. The larger the degree of dehydration, the worse the participants’ memory and attention levels were.
  • Healthy Fats – Omega-3 fats make up a large portion of the brain and are specifically involved in promoting communication between brain cells and the neurotransmitters that promote focus and mental performance.* These fats also promote the body’s normal response to inflammation and might help to slow the normal aging processes of the brain.* Omega-3 fats can be found in fish like salmon and sardines, as well as flax and chia seeds, and nuts like walnuts.  In addition, many individuals supplement their diets with an Omega 3 supplement.
  • Probiotics – It seems there may be some truth to why you feel “butterflies in your stomach”. Some bacteria in our digestive tract can talk directly to the brain, probably through the vagus nerve, and can impact the nervous and immune systems as well as the regulation of hormones.* Eating a varied diet and fermented foods can help promote healthy gut bacteria, and you can also consider adding a probiotic supplement.
  • Greens – Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, and potentially vitamin K have been linked to promoting cognitive health.
  • Choline – Foods high in choline, such as egg yolks, are excellent nutrition for the brain. Choline is an important nutrient for the creation of acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter in your brain.
  • Creatine –  Long associated with athletic performance and muscle health, more and more researchers are looking at creatine for its role in brain health.* Creatine is important for its ability to help regulate energy and to support cognitive function.* Research has shown an increase in cognitive scores in those who supplemented with creatine compared to those who did not.*  Creatine is found in the diet primarily in red meat and other animal protein sources. An average mixed diet can contribute one gram of creatine daily, but many research protocols call for three grams or more, persuading many people to consider supplementing with creatine monohydrate.

Wang Y, Kasper L. The role of microbiome in central nervous system disorders. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2013;38:1-12.

Murray-Kolb L, Beard J. Iron treatment normalizes cognitive function in young women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007;85:778-787.

Hardman R, Kennedy G, Macpherson H, Scholey A, Pipingas A. Adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet and effects on cognition in adults: A qualitative evaluation and systematic review of longitudinal and prospective trials. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2016;3 DOI:10.3389/fnut.2016.00022

Benton D, Jenkins K, Watkins H, Young H. Minor degree of hypohydration adversely influences cognition: a mediator analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016;Sep:104(3):603-612. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.132605. Epub 2016 Aug 10.

Zilberter T, Zilberter E. Breakfast and cognition: sixteen effects in nine populations, no single recipe

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