Right Nutrients

The right nutrients

Nutrients are molecules in food that we need to give our bodies energy, and to grow, develop and reproduce.

By Understanding the brain, we can better fuel our bodies with The right food and nutrients to enhance the health and function of our brains.

This means making sure that our diet contains all of the nutrients required to maintain and operate our nerve cells, neurotransmitters and hormones. There are two major types of nutrients:

Macronutrients

  • Carbohydrates: the body’s main source of energy, providing quick energy boosts. They break down to glucose to provide the large amounts of energy used by the brain.

  • Proteins: are broken down into amino acids. These are then used to help to build and repair tissue, to help the body manage its structure, to fight infection or converted into hormones and neurotransmitters.

  • Fats: provide energy and help the body to absorb certain vitamins. They help form connections between membranes, protect cells, cushion organs and send send signals around the body. These include the essential fatty acids DHA and EPA.

Micronutrients

  • Vitamins and minerals that are essential for energy production and synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters. These include vitamins folic acid (vitamin B9), flavanoids (vitamin P), iron, iodine, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and selenium.

Our top 10 nutrients for brain health

There are several nutrients that will help to enhance brain health. Our top 10 recommendations are:

1. DHA | 2. EPA | 3. Iron | 4. Iodine | 5. Folic acid | 6. Vitamin B12 | 7. Vitamin C | 8. Vitamin D | 9. Vitamin E | 10. Flavanoids

1. DHA

Also known as…
Docosahexaenoic acid

What it does…
A long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, DHA is a major component of nerve and retinal membranes, which enables rapid communication between them.

Why it is important…
DHA supports brain development, including memory, learning, behaviour, neural repair, vision and emotions. It can help to alleviate anxiety, depression, mood changes and aggression.

Key foods…
- Oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna

Other good foods...
Contain ALA, a precursor of DHA and EPA
- Certain nuts, like walnuts
- Seeds, like pumpkin or flax seeds
- Oils containing flaxseed and rapeseed

We recommend…
Eating at least two portions of oily fish a week.

Suitable for…
Everyone, including pregnant women.

2. EPA

Also known as…
Eicosapentaenoic acid

What it does…
A long chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acid, EPA is a major anti-inflammatory agent. It helps to regulate and reduce cellular inflammation and encourages blood flow.

Why it is important…
EPA helps to support brain functioning and memory and lowers the risks of health factors that contribute to the development of mental health issues and degenerative diseases.

Key foods…
- Oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna

Other good foods...
Contain ALA, a precursor of DHA and EPA
- Certain nuts, like walnuts
- Seeds, like pumpkin or flax seeds
- Oils containing flaxseed and rapeseed

We recommend…
Eating at least two portions of oily fish a week.

Suitable for…
Everyone, including pregnant women.

3. Iron

What it does…
Iron is an essential constituent of haemoglobin in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the brain for generating its huge energy needs.

Why it is important…
Iron is essential for normal neurological function. Lack of iron causes anaemia, weakness and low resistance to infection.

During pregnancy, iron deficiency can negatively impact a baby's brain function, including their social and emotional processing, language skills and fine motor skills.

Key foods…
- Red meat
- Liver

Other good foods…
- Lentils
- Chickpeas
- Green leafy vegetables
- Breads and cereals

We recommend…
Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet.

Suitable for…
Everyone, especially people at risk of anaemia and pregnant women.

4. Iodine

What it does…
Iodine is a key constituent of thyroid hormones that are essential for brain development and adult brain function.

Why it is important…
Significant lack of iodine causes hypothyroidism, which can lead to cretinism, a serious impairment of brain development.

During pregnancy, iodine defiency can limit a baby's brain development, leading to lower intelligence and poorer social interactions as it grows.

Key foods…
- Seafood
- Meat

Other good foods…
- Milk
- Some cereals



We recommend…
Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet.

Suitable for…
Everyone, especially young women and pregnant women.

5. Folic acid

Also known as…
Folate, Vitamin B9, ‘Vitamin M’

What it does…
Folate works with Vitamin B12 and is essential for production of red blood cells and for the development of the brain and spinal cord.

Why it is important…
For women planning to become pregnant and during pregnancy, lack of folic acid can cause a baby to develop spinal cord defects and increase risk of brain damage.

Folic acid deficiency can also contribute to age-related hearing loss.

Key foods…
- Green leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits
- Bananas
- Beans

Other good foods…
- Fortified cereals
- Bread
- Brown rice
- Marmite

We recommend…
- Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet
- Taking folic acid supplements in combination with Vitamin B12

Suitable for…
Pregnant women, women planning pregnancy, and people in older age.

6. Vitamin B12

Also known as…
Cobalamin

What it does…
Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells and for the development of the brain and spinal cord.

Why it is important…
Vitamin B12 helps to prevent anaemia and feelings of being tired and weak.

For people in older age, it can prevent ‘pernicious’ anaemia, peripheral neuropathy or cognitive deficits resulting from brain damage.

Key foods…
- Liver
- Meat
- Fish


Other good foods…
- Cheese
- Fortified cereals



We recommend…
Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet.


Suitable for…
Everyone, especially pregnant women and people in older age.

7. Vitamin C

Also known as…
Ascorbic acid

What it does…
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Build up of oxidants causes immune failure and brain damage leading to fatigue and mental disorders.


Why it is important…
A lack of Vitamin C is common and can cause tiredness, mental health issues and may be linked to Alzheimer’s disease. In severe cases, it can lead to lethal scurvy.

Key foods…
- Citrus fruits
- Potatoes


Other good foods…
- Non-citrus fruits
- A range of vegetables

We recommend…
Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet.


Suitable for…
Everyone.

8. Vitamin D

Also known as…
Ergocalciferol, cholecalciferol

What it does…
The main role of Vitamin D is to control calcium levels in the blood, making sure the brain, bones and immune system receive consistent levels.

Why it is important…
A lack of Vitamin D is very common. It can increase risk of diseases such as colon and breast cancer, and lead to cognitive changes and low mood. In growing children, severe cases can lead to rickets.

Key foods…
- Oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna
- Liver
- Eggs

Other good foods…
- Fortified cereals


We recommend…
- Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet
- Safely spending some time in the sun

Suitable for…
Everyone, especially people in countries with limited sun exposure.

9. Vitamin E

Also known as...
Tocopherols, tocotrienols

What it does…
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and helps with the formation of red blood cells.


Why it is important…
Vitamin E helps keep the brain healthy and strengthens the body's natural defence against illness and infection.

A lack of Vitamin E has been linked to infertility and to hemolytic anaemia, in which red blood cells break down faster than usual.


Key foods…
- Oily fish, like mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna
- Olive oil
- Nuts
- Seeds

Other good foods…
- Wheatgerm, like cereals

We recommend…
Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet.

Suitable for…
Everyone, especially men and women who want to conceive.

10. Flavonoids

Also known as...
Vitamin P, Polyphenols

What it does…
Flavonoids act as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. They are a large group of phytonutrients responsible for the color in fruits and vegetables.

Why it is important…
Flavonoids protect the heart and the nervous system, and are anti-cancer.

A low deficiency of flavonoids is common, but severe deficiency is rare. When it occurs, it is linked to an increased risk of chronic inflammation, and degenerative disease.

Key foods…
- Almost all fruits and vegetables




Other good foods…
- Nuts

We recommend…
Including the suggested foods in a healthy, balanced diet.

Suitable for…
Everyone.