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14 nutrients for better brain health

Updated: Apr 15

Our brain is the most complex organ in the body. This 1.3kg control and command centre contains more than 80 billion neurones, which facilitate every action, every feeling and every thought in our bodies. Brain contains also blood vessels and capillaries, which provide brain cells with the oxygenated and rich blood they need in order to thrive. There are also hormones, neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin etc) that help pass neural messages from cell to cell.

What are nutrients for better brain health?

Photo source: Unsplash

Our brains consume 20 percent of everything we eat and the foods we consume provide the nutrients and energy to produce and support each element that makes up our brains. For example B vitamins help with conducting nerve impulses; selenium, magnesium, zinc provide building blocks to form cells and brain tissue, but also help with synthesising neurotransmitters. If our bodies are deprived of any of the below brain-healthy nutrients- our mood, cognition, overall function will ultimately suffer. If we don't consume enough B12, iron and folate containing foods, our bodies can't make the adequate levels of serotonin, which is important mood-enhancing chemical.

People who have experienced depression, anxiety, brain trauma know how brain has the influence to affect your overall wellbeing dramatically. I have experienced it first-hand and know the importance of food as one of the several pillars important for healing from brain injuries, brain surgeries, reduce anxiety and depression. In the below article I will cover the 14 nutrients that are important for better brain health, why they are needed and how to get them from foods.

Vitamin A

Carotenoids, like lycopene, serve as an antioxidant and protect the brain; lutein and zeaxanthin protect your vision.

Found in chicken liver, beef liver, sweet potato, mustard greens, carrot, pumpkin, butternut squash, kale, broccoli, spinach, red bell pepper, green peas, tomato, butter, egg yolk, cod liver oil, raw whole milk, cheese, mango, papaya, peach, cantaloupe melon, dried apricots, oatmeal, basil.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine)

Thiamine helps to turn glucose for usable energy. Low thiamine will contribute to low energy, apathy, brain fog and irritability.

Found in nutritional yeast, spirulina and other seaweeds, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, pecan nuts, black beans, lentils, organic soybeans, navy beans, white beans, pinto beans, mung beans, peas, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, beef liver, pork, trout.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

Important for tryptophan production (mood enhancing hormone and precursor for serotonin), helps to fights inflammation, reduces homocysteine (build up of this amino acid causes inflammation), lowering depression.

Found in turkey breast, wild salmon, grass-fed beef, chicken, pistachios, tuna, pinto beans, avocado, blackstrap molasses, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chickpeas, bananas, potatoes.

Vitamin B9 (folate)

Folate regulates mood, sense of pleasure and clarity of thinking. Also, folate processes homocysteine.

Found in chickpeas, Brussel sprouts, asparagus, lentils, black-eyed peas, chicken liver, beef liver, spinach (cooked), Romaine lettuce, avocado, broccoli

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Protects your brain cells, needed for making serotonin and dopamine, reduces inflammation (homocysteine)

Found in beef liver, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, lamb, wild-caught salmon, nutritional yeast, feta cheese, grass-fed beef, cottage cheese, eggs, oysters, mussels, clams.

Vitamin C

It’s highly concentrated in the cerebral spinal fluid that surrounds your brain and is important for cognitive performance

Found in black currant, red pepper, green bell pepper kiwi, guava, orange, strawberries, papaya, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, parsley, pineapple, mango, lemon, grapefruit, honeydew melon, peas, tomatoes.


Needed for brain development, function, learning and memory.

Found in beef liver, salmon, chickpeas, navy beans, eggs, grass-fed beef, turkey, chicken, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, scallops, goat milk


You need iron in the form of hemoglobin to transport oxygen to the brain. Iron helps to make serotonin, dopamine (feel good hormones).

Found in spirulina, beef and chicken liver, grass-fed beef, lentils, dark chocolate (85% cocoa), spinach, sardines, black beans, pistachios, raisins, pumpkin seeds, eggs, chickpeas, kale, chicken, sesame seeds, oysters.


Important for the proper function of the nerve cells and brain cells; stimulates brain growth, helps to control blood sugar.

Found in seaweed, amaranth, cooked spinach, kale, chard, sunflower seeds, black beans, mung beans, soybeans, mackerel, cashews, flaxseeds, almonds, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, avocado, banana, broccoli, Brussels sprouts.

Monounsaturated fats

Both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are important for brain health, helping lowering depression.

Found in olive oil, beef, fish, almonds, salmon, flaxseed oil, hemp seeds, mustard, grass-fed meat

Omega- 3 fats

DHA especially (in fish) in Omega-3 helps to build brain cells, fight inflammation in the brain.

Found in wild salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, cod liver oil, tuna, caviar, oysters, walnuts, leafy greens, ground flaxseeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, soybeans, natto, egg yolks.


Every nerve impulse and each of your heart beats depends on potassium. Caffeine can negatively affect potassium absorption.

Found in avocado, lima beans, Swiss chard, beet greens, acorn squash, kale, spinach, sweet potato, wild-caught salmon, dried apricots, pomegranate, coconut water, white beans, banana, broccoli, sardines, peas, beets, grapefruit.


Selenium helps with the production of glutathione (an important antioxidant in your brain), improves blood flow. Offers protection from oxidative damage.

Found in Brazil nuts, salmon, tuna, halibut, shrimp, lobster, turkey, cottage cheese, chicken, mushrooms, eggs, navy beans, sardines, sunflower seeds, grass-fed beef, oats, beef liver.

Excess selenium can be toxic, therefore supplement only short period of time.


Zinc is key to your immune function, which protects you from infections, excess inflammation, and cancer.

Found in oysters, lamb, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, grass-fed beef, chickpeas, lentils, cocoa, cashews, kefir, yoghurt, ricotta cheese, mushrooms, spinach, avocado, chicken, almonds, eggs.

Food has the power to improve mental health, preventing conditions like anxiety and depression or helping to alleviate these symptoms. It's our choice how we want to feed our brain.

If you have health goals you want to reach, health challenges you are trying to conquer and are looking for a health and nutrition coach to support you on your wellness journey, don't hesitate to reach out to me at


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