12 vitamins and minerals for the brain: what foods improve brain and memory function

Posted on Jul 16, 2022      26

What vitamins and minerals and amino acids the brain needs to work properly. Let’s also tell you where they are found.

Why you need to eat right for your brain to work properly

The more foods in the diet that raise blood sugar levels, the higher the weight and the faster the hippocampus shrinks. The hippocampus is the part of the brain that helps us cope with stress and regulates our mood by controlling the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. In addition, it is in the hippocampus that most of the neurogenesis - the formation of new brain cells - takes place.

Remember: refined sugar, uncooked foods, pastries with margarine and other bad things that contribute to high blood sugar levels, can cause the same damage to the hippocampus as trauma or severe stress.

As a result, new neuronal growth is stunted, serotonin (the good mood hormone) levels decrease and cortisol (the stress hormone) levels increase.

Research on the effects of a healthy diet on the brain

In 2015, a study was published showing the relationship between diet and hippocampal volume in people. It was observed that a healthy balanced diet not only improves cognitive function but also allows new nerve cells in the brain to sprout.

In addition, a “sensible” diet was associated with a larger hippocampus, while a Western style of eating was associated with a smaller hippocampus. This relationship persisted even when other variables, such as level of education or physical activity, were considered.

You can’t eat right without fruits and vegetables, and they contain antioxidants that help protect the hippocampus from oxidative stress, another process that contributes to brain cell death.

And plant foods are also rich in cofactors - specific vitamins and minerals that the brain needs to produce two important anti-stress agents, serotonin and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This is important because healthy levels of serotonin and GABA make us more optimistic about the world and promote peace of mind. So what substances are important to our brains?

Minerals and vitamins for the brain: what are their benefits for the body and what foods you can find them in

The brain regulates the vital functions in the body. Also, thanks to its work we can speak, perceive information, plan something, make crucial decisions, experience emotions, remember important data thanks to this organ we achieve our goals.

It is necessary to consume a sufficient amount of nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep the brain toned, otherwise energy and productivity will go down, there will be fatigue and irritation (and much more). Let’s break down what vitamins, minerals and amino acids you need to consume for better brain function, and what foods do they contain?


This is an amino acid that the body converts to 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan), and then serotonin is  synthesized from 5-HTP. Serotonin is beneficial for brain activity. It energizes us and also controls other neurotransmitters.

When its levels are low, the susceptibility of brain receptors to stress hormones increases. As a result, all it takes is a small trigger to provoke a strong stress response.

Serotonin under the influence of the enzyme N-acetyltransferase is converted into melatonin - this hormone helps us quickly fall asleep and get a good night’s sleep.

Sources. Chia seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, pistachios, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, soybeans, tofu, cheese, buckwheat, bran, sprouted grains, quinoa, bananas, avocados, fish (salmon, cod, bass), meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, chocolate.


Glutamine (glutamine) is one of the 20 standard amino acids (conditionally essential), which is the building block for protein. Glutamine is also essential for the synthesis of GABA, the most important inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, which has sedative and nootropic effects. GABA fuels the brain, stimulates energy metabolism in nerve cells, and increases mental performance.

Sources. Meat, fish, eggs, beans, quinoa, cabbage, parsley, beets, sprouted grains, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, almonds, pistachios, peanut butter.

Vitamin B6.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) levels decrease when you’re stressed, so it’s especially important to replenish it when you’re nervous. Not only does pyridoxine calm the nervous system, but it also acts as a cofactor for two important brain neurotransmitters - serotonin and GABA: it helps the body convert 5-HTP to serotonin and the amino acid glutamine to GABA.

Pyridoxine activates metabolic processes in the brain, improves memory, attention, and overall mental performance.

In addition, pyridoxine is involved in the production of melatonin (which is why some of its supplements often contain B vitamins) and also helps maintain healthy adrenal function, on which good brain function depends.

Sources. Chicken, beef, beef liver, milk, eggs, barley, millet, corn, peas, carrots, beets, cabbage, bran.

Folate (vitamin B9)

Takes part in the formation of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, regulates hematopoiesis, and therefore plays an important role in preventing anemia. But folic acid is very useful for mothers-to-be: it plays a huge role in the mental and physical development of the fetus.

Like pyridoxine, folate helps the brain convert tryptophan from food first into 5-HTP, which is then synthesized into serotonin. Natural folate found in vegetables and legumes is more effective and beneficial to us than synthetic folic acid added to cereals, for example.

Sources. Leafy vegetables, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, asparagus, legumes, bananas, pineapples, avocados, oranges, lemons, peanuts, sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) plays an important role in normal nervous system function, some protein function, and blood cell formation. Its deficiency can cause depression, fatigue and weakness, which immediately affects brain function.

This vitamin is not synthesized in the human body and enters it with food of animal origin.

Sources. Subproducts (primarily liver), meat, fish, eggs, dairy products. It is recommended that vegans add to their diet foods enriched with this vitamin (cereals, soy, yeast).

Vitamin B12 is sensitive to light, so, for example, yeast with this element is best stored in a cool, dark place.

Thiamine (vitamin B1)

It increases resistance to stress, relieves stress, normalizes sleep, and has a general stimulatory effect on the nervous system.

Sources. Brown rice, soybeans, corn, oatmeal, buckwheat, wheat bran, sprouted grains, nuts.


Nearly 48% of Americans are deficient in this element in their diet, and their already modest levels drop severely during times of stress.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. Calcium, needed for bones, cannot be absorbed without it, and is essential for the metabolism of glucose, amino acids, fats and the transport of nutrients needed for energy production.

Magnesium is important for good cardiovascular and nervous system function. It also has an anti-stress effect and has a calming effect on the brain, thus ensuring good sleep.

Sources. Fish (especially salmon and halibut), all kinds of cabbage, zucchini, zucchini, spinach, beet greens, chard, cashews, almonds, sesame seeds, cocoa, chocolate.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) helps the body convert 5-NTP, derived from tryptophan, into serotonin. In one study, over 100 people were exposed to a stressor. Those who took vitamin C had blood pressure and cortisol levels returning to normal faster than those who drank the pills (placebo).

The greatest amount of vitamin C in the body is concentrated in the adrenal glands. But during stress, the supply of this valuable vitamin is rapidly depleted - all because ascorbic acid is necessary for the production of cortisol.

The problem is that if the adrenal glands lack vitamin C, they activate the production of cortisol, which further increases anxiety.

That said, high doses of ascorbic acid help balance stress hormone levels in the body, and soothe the stress-depleted brain.

Sources. Bell peppers, chili peppers, tomatoes, all kinds of cabbage (including sauerkraut), parsley, spinach, garlic, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, apricots, plums, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, melon.


Zinc acts as a cofactor that helps the body turn 5-HTP into serotonin. In addition, it has been found: sufficient levels of this mineral activate memory and promote better absorption of new information, and can prevent a cognitive decline in old age.

The highest concentration of zinc in the body is in the hippocampus, the part of the brain where new neurons are formed.

Sources. Oysters, crab meat, flounder, halibut, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, chicken, yogurt, tofu, soybeans, beans, lentils, peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, cashews, almonds, peanut butter, oatmeal.


This nutrient helps maintain optimal brain function. It is metabolized into acetylcholine, the main balancer of the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces stress hormones in the event of a provocative situation.

Choline also helps maintain healthy levels of GABA, important for normal brain function.

Sources. Egg yolk, beef, shrimp, wild salmon, cod, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, zucchini, flaxseed, soy, peanut butter, almonds, avocado, chocolate.


Not only the health of bones, but also our mood depends on calcium. The lack of this element can lead to increased anxiety. Deficiency of this element is not uncommon among men and women. Often the reason for this is insufficient levels of vitamin D, which is necessary for the effective absorption of calcium.

Vitamin D is fat soluble, so in order to absorb it (and then calcium), it is important to maintain healthy levels of fats in the body.

Another problem is that phytic acid and oxalic acid found in some foods (rhubarb, spinach, legumes, seeds) can inhibit calcium absorption. Vegans eat a lot more plant foods that contain both acids, so they’re the ones at higher risk for bone fractures than those who regularly have meat and dairy products in their diet.

Sources. Natural unsweetened yogurt, cheese, milk, vitaminized soy milk fortified with calcium, tofu, salmon, sardines, turnip greens, white cabbage, broccoli, hazelnuts, almonds, pecans.

Teg:   brain  vitamin