Surveys show that optimal mental functioning is a top concern as people age. “Research findings demonstrate that some of these changes begin much earlier than most people might think—even in our 40s there is some loss of brain volume,” says Sarah Tindall, N.D., M.S., from the National University of Natural Medicine. “So it’s never too early or late to take steps to optimize brain health.”
And there is no question that stress is an important piece of the brain health puzzle. “Throughout the past year and the increased stress everyone has experienced because of the pandemic, I have had many patients report memory concerns. Stress management techniques and good self-care are important for health overall, but are incontrovertibly helpful for overall mental, brain and cognitive well-being,” says Tindall.
To support your brain health, Tindall recommends consuming nutrient-dense foods, with a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains,
and healthy fat and proteins, and adequately hydrating. Also, reducing exposure to environmental toxins, getting adequate sleep, exercising regularly, and staying mentally engaged and socially connected will support your cognitive function. Finally, she suggests trying these research-backed supplements.
Powerfully antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, turmeric and curcumin, which is a component of turmeric, protect brain health, says Tindall, as well as help with arthritis, pre-diabetes and heart disease. “Turmeric provides more of a whole-herb approach, and curcumin offers a stronger, isolated treatment,” says Tindall. The research points toward curcumin: A 2020 review found 18,000-plus studies on curcumin’s benefits, and a 2019 review of randomized controlled trials found that 90 mg of curcumin twice daily improved visual memory, learning and attention. Take a bioavailable form of curcumin for best absorption, says Tindall.
Try these immunity-boosting supplements:
It’s common to see recommendations for B vitamins to support brain health because they’re needed for a wide variety of biochemical processes, including metabolism, making neurotransmitters, and healthy nerve function. A 2019 meta-analysis linked B vitamins with improved mood and decreased stress.
An Ayurvedic herb that has been used for thousands of years for cognitive support, bacopa monnieri helps with memory and attention, says Tindall. Specifically, a 2021 study found that taking 320 mg of bacopa monnieri in the morning with breakfast resulted in more accuracy in memory tests, and other studies have found that it also decreases anxiety and depression.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
An abundance of scientific evidence illustrates how taking this supplement can help reduce inflammation and promote healthy brain development and function, says Tindall. Research shows that around 1 g per day of EPA or DHA (two common omega-3s) improves memory in older adults, and a new study shows that even higher doses (2 g DHA daily) may be needed for brain benefits. Choose from fish-based or algae omega-3 supplements; Tindall says it’s of critical importance to select one that is high-quality and third-party tested to ensure it is free from heavy metals and contaminants.