Eating Yourself Smarter
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Brain health is largely determined by a diet and lifestyle, but it can be supported further with the right supplements. Today we are going to break down some of the top nutrients and supplements for eating yourself smarter!
ALA: Alpha-linolenic acid
ALA is an omega-3 fatty acid, but unlike other popular omega-3s, this one cannot be synthesized in the body, you must get it via diet. ALA is suspected to increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is a huge part of how you maintain neurons and increase learning and memory. ALA can be found in olives, avocados, walnuts, and extra virgin olive oil.
Activated charcoal has so many benefits I have a whole article on its various uses! Its extreme efficiency for detoxing (it’s used in the ER for overdoses) can prevent toxins from reaching your brain. Activated charcoal works as a sponge to soak up toxins and heavy metals that can mess with brain health in ways such as causing brain fog, depression, and anxiety.
Activated charcoal soaks up everything, so be sure to take it away from food and other supplements. However, if you’re drinking or eating something that contains anti-nutrients, you can take activated charcoal with your alcohol or meal to help reduce toxic load.
Also known as ‘butyrate,’ butyric acid is a fatty acid found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter. Butyric acid inhibits NF-kB gene activation in the colon, which is involved in inflammatory immune responses, thereby acting as an anti-inflammatory and minimizing inflammation of your central nervous system: the brain included. Grass-fed butter is my favorite way to get the benefits of butyric acid!
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is another fatty acid beneficial for brain health. It can improve immune response and can protect brain health, too! It is found in grass fed beef and lamb as well as in grass fed butter.
CoQ10 works as an antioxidant helping to break down free radicals, as a ‘coenzyme’ helping to break down food, and also plays a crucial role in the production of ATP, our cell’s energy currency. In addition to all of this, research has found CoQ10 has the potential to treat mitochondrial disorders and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). A 2014 study showed that those with higher levels of CoQ10 were 77% LESS likely to develop dementia. You can get CoQ10 from oily fish, grass fed beef, organ meat, or as a supplement.
Curcumin has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory agent in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Because of its ability to inhibit inflammation, curcumin has been studied as a treatment for colitis, arthritis, and cancer. Curcumin has the potential to protect against chronic neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is the active ingredient in turmeric, which can be used in food or as a tea, or you can take pure curcumin as a supplement!
DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid
This omega-3 fatty acid is well-known as a brain nutrient–the brain is primarily made up of fat, so when you consume foods rich in DHA, you are quite literally consuming brain food! DHA is crucial for brain development in infants, and equally important as an adult to have a healthy, properly functioning brain. DHA deficiency is associated with ADHD, fetal alcohol syndrome, depression, aggression, and something called “adrenoleukodystrophy”–the degradation of the myelin sheath that protects nerve cells. Studies have shown DHA improves memory, increases reaction time, and prevents aggression!
You can get DHA in your diet via wild caught seafood like: shrimp, lobster, anchovies, salmon, mackerel, and tuna as well as in grass fed beef and pastured eggs. It is a bit harder to get adequate amounts of DHA on a vegetarian/vegan diet, but there is some degree of bioavailable DHA in spirulina and chlorella.
Glutathione, known as the ‘master antioxidant,’ plays a vital part of protecting your cells from oxidation and helping to get rid of toxins from your body. Glutathione helps regenerate other antioxidants and restore them back to their active state.
You must consume adequate protein to produce glutathione (between 0.5-0.8 grams per pound of body weight). You can enhance your body’s production of glutathione by consuming foods which contain the precursor to glutathione, like milk thistle, whey protein, arugula, broccoli, and cauliflower, and foods that support methylation including avocados, liver, grass-fed beef, and spinach. You can also supplement with glutathione–I recommend sublingual or liposomal forms which have proven to be the most bioavailable.
Remember: there is more than one piece of the health puzzle. You can’t take supplements and eat fast food and expect them to do all the work for you! Brain-boosting foods are the same foods that create whole body health. Pastured eggs, grass fed beef, healthy fats, and lots of green leafy vegetables are a huge part of eating yourself healthier and smarter. When you are implementing healthy diet and lifestyle choices, supplements are a great way to further support a healthy brain and body.