Over the last twenty years, studies on the correlation between certain components contained in food and brain well-being have made significant progress. In particular, a 2008 research, which appeared in Nature Reviews Neuroscience and cited 186 times in subsequent publications, focused on this issue, attesting to the positive impact of certain nutrients and exercise. In 2019 a significant review on Current Aging Science explored this line, talking specifically about nootropic foods.
SMART NUTRIENTS AND NOOTROPIC FOODS: WHAT ARE THEY?
In summary, as emerged from the studies, here are the smart nutrients with nootropic effects found in foods, which have been recognized as beneficial properties for the brain.
Omega 3. These fatty acids play a neuroprotective action, for cognitive development at a young age, as well as for contrasting cognitive decline in the elderly, proving useful against anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s and other disabilities. With the diet, it is necessary to maintain a balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6, with a ratio of about 3 to 1. We find them mainly in blue fish, salmon and trout, and to a lesser extent in nuts, seeds, avocados, krill , chia and kiwi.
Curcumin. It counteracts senile dementia, helps in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and stimulates the production of new brain cells, supporting memory. In addition, it stands out for having many therapeutic uses, thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is the active ingredient of turmeric, a spice that can be used to flavor rice and vegetable dishes.
Flavonoids. As we have seen in a recent study, they are beneficial substances with strong antioxidant power, which counteract the negative action of free radicals, protecting against neurodegenerative diseases. We find them in these foods: cocoa and dark chocolate, green tea, blueberries, ginkgo tree and citrus fruits.
Vitamins B, C, D, E, K. Although they have different specific qualities, as a whole they all support the nervous system and counteract oxidative stress and free radicals. We can find B vitamins in various foods, but B12 is absent in vegetables; C in citrus fruits and vegetables; D in fish products, whole grains and mushrooms; those of group E in nuts, seeds, olives, wheat germ, avocado and asparagus; K in many vegetables, greens and legumes.
Choline. It defends the health of the cognitive system and the integrity of cells, with positive effects also on memory; it is present in egg yolks, liver, chicken and lettuce.
Selenium, magnesium, copper, iron and chromium support efficiency and cognitive functions, at all ages. We find selenium in nuts, whole grains, meat, fish and eggs; magnesium in legumes, seeds and whole grains; copper in crustaceans, liver, cocoa and black pepper; iron in legumes, fish and meats; chromium in seafood, meat, eggs and whole grains.
Caffeine. In low doses, it would have a protective action against dementia, and in particular against Alzheimer’s disease, while the effects on Parkinson’s disease require further investigation. It is present in coffee, tea and cocoa.
As mentioned, there are many other nootropics or smart nutrients proper, but they are not commonly found in foods. Some medicinal herbs and roots, such as ginseng, lemon balm and gotu kola, are considered natural sources of some of these substances.