Nutrients For Brain Health & Performance


Key Takeaways

  • Top three things that support nerve health in the short and long term: EPA, phosphatidylserine, choline

  • To condition healthy food preferences: take something good for you, pair it with something that will increase blood sugar (not spike, but elevate slightly) for 7-10 days to rewire the dopamine reward system

  • Food impacts our brain and health but there’s also a learned response to how our brain functions in response to foods

  • Some foods to enhance short and long term cognition: fish, blueberries, eggs, cottage cheese, cabbage

  • The goal is to get proper nutrients via food; use supplements as a backup as needed

  • Start feeding window at least one hour after waking and end the window about 2-3 hours before sleep

  • Keep feeding window consistent day to dayS without extreme shifts in either direction

Mediators & Modulators Of Brain Health

  • Two categories of things that will help the brain function: (1) mediators and (2) modulators

  • Unless you are sleeping well on a regular basis, your brain will suffer – you won’t be able to focus well, learn quickly and there is data linking poor sleep to Alzheimer’s and dementia

  • Cardiovascular health & exercise: get 150-180 minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise which supports heart health and brain health

Foods For Brain Health

  • Nerve cells and other cells in the brain are made up of structural fats which come in large part from the foods that we eat (i.e., essential fatty acids & phospholipids)

  • Fat is the most important element for brain function

  • Most people are getting enough omega-6s in the diet but not enough omega 3s

  • Foods high in omega 3s to consume daily: mackerel, salmon, herring, oysters, caviar

  • You can get EPA and omega-3s from plant-based sources like chia seeds, but literature is mixed on the ideal source (i.e., seafood vs plant-based)

  • Supplementing with EPA & omega-3 if you don’t consume enough fish (1.5-2g EPA) is a good idea

  • Phosphatidylserine (300mg per day) has also been shown to improve cognition and reduce cognitive decline

  • Food sources of phosphatidylserine: fish, cabbage

  • Choline (500mg-1g per day) also supports brain health and focus by ensuring substrate that creates acetylcholine

  • The best food source of choline is eggs

  • There is some new literature supporting the consumption of creatine (5g/day) for brain health & cognition for people not consuming meat

  • The goal is to get proper nutrients via food, then use supplements as a backup as needed

  • Blueberries: consuming 1-2 cups (or 400-600mg per day) of blueberries per day has been shown to cognition and potentially offsets cognitive decline, reduced oxidation of LDL

  • Glutamine offsets negative effects of cognition caused by altitude and other oxygen deprivation states (e.g., apnea) – and can reduce sugar cravings

  • Food sources of glutamine: cottage cheese, meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, cabbage, spinach

Are We Hardwired To Like Or Dislike Certain Foods?

  • Our nervous system is trying to figure out whether we like, dislike, or feel neutral about foods we eat

  • The brain receives electrical signals in response to foods, but there’s no distinction between sweet or savory – but the perception of what you like is deeply rooted in the brain

  • Hidden sugars: sugars placed into processed foods that are designed to trigger activation, driving you to pursue more of these foods

  • Why we choose certain foods: taste, subconscious signaling from gut-based on the nutrient content of foods, learned association between taste and perceived food value

  • We are hardwired in the brain to pursue more of what brings a taste of sweetness and increase in blood glucose levels

  • Though subconscious, we are seeking foods that allow neurons to be metabolically active

Rewiring Taste System For Better Or Worse

  • You can rewire sense of taste and preference for particular foods

  • The best way to enhance the microbiome is to consume 2-4 servings of low sugar fermented foods per day

  • Artificial sweetener: consuming something with a non-caloric artificial sweetener (no initial effect on blood glucose) does make you crave sugary foods which will increase blood glucose

  • If you get into a pattern where you consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners then follow with sugary food, eventually, you will impact insulin regulation even when you consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners alone

  • The best way to consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners is by drinking beverages without food that can raise blood glucose levels

  • The insular cortex is responsible for interoception, relaying what’s going on inside our body: fatigue, fullness, acidity

  • Rewiring for foods that taste neutral to you: subjective signals about what you tell yourself about the food you’re eating can impact how food tastes and how the body utilizes food

  • Tip – condition healthy food preferences: if you want to eat more of something that’s good for you, pair it with something that will increase blood sugar (not spike, but elevate slightly) for 7-10 days to rewire the dopamine reward system

  • Food impacts our brain and health but there’s also a learned response to how our brain functions in response to foods