Regardless of your age or life stage- nurturing your brain is essential. And while many factors play an important role in your brain health, like quality sleep, exercise and managing stress, proper nutrition can also have a major impact. Here’s 4 B-vitamins that play a vital role in ensuring a healthy brain: folate, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and thiamine.
But first, what are B-vitamins?
B-vitamins are a family of 8 vitamins that play many critical roles in your body, including energy metabolism, blood cell formation – and you guessed it – proper brain function.1 They’re water-soluble, meaning any B-vitamins that your body does not need immediately, get excreted in your pee. Since your body does not have any B-vitamin reserves to dip into, it’s important to meet your daily needs through diet or supplements.
1. Folate (folic acid) – vitamin B9
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is essential for preserving brain health. It’s a key building block for neurotransmitters – brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin which impact your mood and memory.2,3 Low levels of folate can lead to increased irritability, brain fog and fatigue. Keep those blah days at bay by piling your plate with folate rich foods including leafy greens, fruits, eggs, beans and nuts. Taking a folate supplement may be necessary if you have certain digestive disorders, are deficient, or are pregnant or breastfeeding. When shopping for a supplement- you’ll likely see folate listed in its synthetic form- folic acid. Don’t let the word ‘synthetic’ deter you. Folic acid is a well absorbed, acceptable form of folate.*
2. Cobalamin – vitamin B12
Of all the B vitamins to support brain health, vitamin B12 is probably the most well-known. This celebrity vitamin helps produce red blood cells that carry much needed oxygen to your brain. Vitamin B12, like its partner in crime folate, is also needed to churn out those “happy” chemicals that impact your mood.5 Good sources of vitamin B12 are beef, clams, salmon, and eggs. If you’re on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, adding nutritional yeast or a B12 supplement can help ensure you’re getting enough.*
3. Riboflavin – vitamin B2
You may already be familiar with the eye-promoting benefits of riboflavin, but it also plays a role in keeping your brain healthy. Riboflavin assists enzymes in your cells to carry out important brain functions and helps keep your brain chemicals in check.6 Riboflavin may also help combat mild headaches and discomfort, which are thought to be caused by imbalances in brain chemicals, though more research is needed.4 Riboflavin can be found in beef, milk, almonds, eggs, and fortified oats.*
4. Thiamine – vitamin B1
Thiamine is vital for keeping up your mental strength and mood. It plays an incredibly important role in converting nutrients into energy for your brain cells to work properly. While 94% of people get enough thiamine in their diet- confusion and short-term memory loss are often the first signs of deficiency.7 Pork chops, mussels, tuna, black beans, and acorn squash are great sources of thiamine.*
Natalie is a nutritionist with a Bachelor’s in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of North Florida. Natalie believes that proper nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated and is determined to help others reach their health goals.