Our brain is an organ, it requires nutrients to perform is function. This demands blood flow, oxygen, nutrients, and all of the regulatory and maintenance systems like the immune and endocrine systems to keep it healthy. This is no different than our liver, heart, or lungs. We rely on a sharp mind to make the right decisions in life and allow us to find logical solutions to the problems we face on a daily basis.
As such, in order to keep the brain working at its best, we need to feed it the right nutrients to keep it functioning at the highest level possible. We have nootropics to assist this, which are great in supplemental levels, but what about our food? Are there nootropics we could be consuming within the very food we eat?
How Nootropics Work
Nootropics come in a variety of forms each delivering their benefits in different ways. Some are nutritious, providing the brain with the materials it needs to build important neurotransmitters, cell structures, and strengthen the blood brain barrier. Other compounds slow the breakdown of neurotransmitters or stimulate their production directly.
Nootropics Found In Food
Blueberries are one of the most beloved berries in the plant kingdom. Their deep blue color and intense flavour are loved by many. What few people realise, however, is that blueberries are also considered to be nootropic in high doses.
Blueberries owe their color to a class of compounds known as anthocyanins. This class of compounds includes a number of nootropic substances like resveratrol (the neuroprotective component in wine), as well as a very similar molecule known as pterostilbene.
Pterostilbene has been shown to protect the brain from the natural degenerative effects of ageing and was shown to provide stronger benefit than even the well revered resveratrol. Studies have shown pterostilbene and its related chemicals are able to slow the ageing process in mice.
Despite the fact that pterostilbene requires a much smaller dose than many of the other nootropics on the market (10 mg/day). In order to achieve this dose, we would need to consume about a half cup (70g) of blueberries each day.
Citrus fruits contain a ton of health promoting chemicals like the immune enhancing vitamin C, gut microbiome-enhancing fiber, as well as the minerals calcium, potassium, zinc, and copper.
There is another important phytochemical common in the citrus fruits that offers nootropic benefit known as inositol. This chemical is very similar in structure to glucose, which is a common sugar molecule found in plants. Inositol may look alot like sugar, but acts more like a vitamin, which has lead people to refer to it as vitamin B8.
High doses of Inositol has been shown to be as effective as the pharmaceutical medication fluvoxamine towards reducing the symptoms of anxiety. Most of inositols effects rely on its ability to calm the mind, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and buffer the bodies ability to resist stress. All of which are important mechanisms for nootropic substances in general.
Eggs are a great source of choline, which is a chemical used to produce gastric acids as well as the neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. This neurotransmitter is essential in the process of learning and memory, and is one of the main targets for nootropic substances in one form or another.
Although eggs don’t directly stimulate the production of acetylcholine, it prevents the rate-limiting step during manufacture by ensuring enough of the raw materials are available for natural production.
A single chickens egg offers about 115 mg of choline, located mostly in the yolk. According to the Food And Drug Administration, the daily recommended dose of choline is 425 mg for adults.
A large portion of our brain is made up of fatty acids, especially the omega-3 class of fatty acids. These fatty acids come in two main forms, DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). In order to maintain optimal brain function, we need to ensure enough of these omega fatty acids are consumed to maintain these brain structures. In fact, decreased fatty acid intake has been linked with neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and depression.
Fish, and in particular fish oil, just so happens to be one of the best sources of these fatty acids. Regular intake of fish oil has been shown to have a positive impact on a range of cognitive disorders including ADHD, Schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s.
Green tea is high in the nootropic amino acid isomer known as L-Theanine. It’s fast becoming one of the most popular nootropic substances in the world. This amino acid isomer is found almost exclusively to the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), the exception being a few species of fungi. Fortunately, this compound isn’t needed in high doses to be effective, but does require fairly regular consumption in order to reach optimal results.
L-theanine has a wide range of beneficial effects on the brain, including:
- Mild euphoric
- Reduces the effects of stress
- Increases blood flow to the brain
- Protects the brain from age-related degeneration
- Mild antidepressant
Additionally, L-theanine protects the body from many of the negative side effects of caffeine, which has lead to its inclusion in nearly any nootropic formula containing caffeine.
L-theanine can be found in sufficient doses in Green and black tea. The highest content of L-theanine, however, is found specifically in shade-grown green teas such as gyokuro or high quality sencha.
The best source of L-theanine, however, is from matcha, which is a powdered, shade-grown tea in which the entire leaf is consumed in the form of a powder. The reason this form of green tea is so high in L-theanine is simply due to the fact that the entire leaves are consumed rather than steeped like normal tea so not a single constituent is left behind.