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What to Eat to Stay Mentally Sharp with Age

Diet & Nutrition Inspiring People
Diet & Nutrition Education
by Katherine Baker, 28 January 2018

Like all of the body’s organs, the brain undergoes physiological changes with age. Genetics, health habits, and environmental factors accumulate over time and can either enhance or diminish the brain’s function. In addition to engaging in regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, and engaging in learning activities that require mental focus, eating a balanced diet can help keep your brain sharp with age. Below is a guide to what to eat to stay mentally sharp with age.

How The Brain Changes With Age

With age, the brain undergoes several physiological changes. Neurons, the cells that the brain uses to transmit information, begin to decline, as does the number of nerve cells in the cerebral cortex, which can impact hearing and speech.

Neuron loss in other parts of the brain can also impact memory, cognitive function, balance, and posture. Moreover, the blood supply to the brain decreases overall. All of these changes can lead to changes in mental function and capacity.

Nutrition and the Brain

Proper nutrition is important for brain function. Nutrient deficiencies can have detrimental impacts on the brain and nervous system and contribute to memory loss and decreased cognition, so a balanced diet is essential to ensure mental sharpness with age.

The brain utilizes more calories than any other organ in the human body. Feeding it enough energy, in addition to giving it the proper nutrition, is important.

Read on to learn more about specific mental capacities and associated nutrients.

Neurotransmitter Synthesis

Many neurotransmitters are derived from amino acids, which are made by the human body or consumed from the diet. Serotonin1 (aka one of the neurotransmitters in your brain that helps your brain signal happiness, among other things) production, for example, is largely dependent on brain concentrations of its precursor amino acid L-tryptophan, which is dependent on diet.

Catecholamines, including norepinephrine and dopamine (neurotransmitters that help your brain signal pleasure), are important neuromodulators in the central nervous system and are synthesized from precursor amino acid L-tyrosine.

Additionally, acetylcholine is synthesized from the vitamin choline. Acetylcholine is an important neurotransmitter released by nerve cells to send signals to other cells, which is important for cell communication and overall health.

If you are concerned about the nutrients listed above, one serving of Nuzest Clean Lean Protein contains a full day’s worth of tyrosine, as well as roughly 80% the recommended daily intake of tryptophan.

Short-term Memory

To keep short-term recall sharp, adequate intake of vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin B12 is essential.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, bell peppers, and strawberries. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant found in almonds, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocado, and many other foods.

B12 is an essential vitamin many adults do not get enough of, and is important for the immune system and cardiovascular health and to avoid anemia. The preferred form of vitamin B12 is methylcobalamin. Folate (best consumed in the L-methylated form) works with vitamin B12 to prevent anemia.

You can read more about vitamin B12 here, and folate here.

If you are not consuming a robust, diverse diet, a supplement such as Good Green Snack may be wise to fill any nutritional gaps. 

Cognition

Cognition is "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses." Optimal cognition is supported by a variety of nutrients. Avoiding anemia is important for proper cognitive function, so proper iron and vitamin B12 intake are essential. Folate also supports cognition. The antioxidant vitamin E2 also helps protect the brain from oxidative stress by quenching free radicals.

Vision

Vitamin A and essential fatty acids are important for vision.

Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin, is a precursor of rhodopsin, the photopigment found in rods in the retina of the eye. Without vitamin A, night vision may be compromised.

Vitamin A is found in many foods, including beef liver and eggs, and its precursor beta-carotene is also found abundantly in many foods including carrots and sweet potatoes. Some people do not fully convert beta-carotene efficiently to retinol, and they chose to consume preformed vitamin A and mixed carotenoids in their diet. 

Mental Health

As mentioned above, the brain requires certain vitamins and minerals to synthesize neurotransmitters, which can impact mental health at all life stages.

Whether or not you struggle with mental health issues, adding these nutrients to your diet is important to help you think and feel your best.

Performance in Problem-solving

A variety of factors impact problem-solving abilities with age. In addition to engaging in mental exercises, certain nutrients are associated with optimal problem-solving abilities. Riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin C are all important to maintain brain health.

Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is found in some meats, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and some beans, nuts and fortified cereals. Folate is found in dark leafy greens, avocado, citrus, beans, and peas, and vitamin B12 is found in some meats, dairy products, eggs, and nutritional yeast, certain algae, and some fortified cereals. Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits and juices, as well as many other fruits and vegetables, including red bell peppers and strawberries.

Your body undergoes many changes as you age. Proper nutrition is one way you can ensure that you stay mentally sharp and healthy throughout the years.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13261
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4276978/

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