Trying to keep your brain health in check is a no-brainer (pun intended). Since having a healthy brain is essential to our ability to communicate effectively, make decisions, and generally live an independent and productive life, it is no wonder why so many people are focused on keeping this key organ in tip-top shape.
A wide variety of factors can impact our brain health, and not all factors are within our control (we’re looking at you, age and genetics). But factors like our dietary choices may profoundly impact how our noggin fares as we go through the aging process.
Among the many diets out there, the MIND diet appears to be your best when choosing a diet pattern for supporting your brain health. As a combination of the Mediterranean and the DASH diet, this way of eating is rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and a wide variety of micronutrients that may keep our noodles sharp. Plus, this diet limits fried food, red meat, cheese, and sweets.
Choline—the brain-boosting nutrient many of us are not eating
Would you believe that a nutrient that is linked to cognitive health, DNA synthesis, a healthy pregnancy, and the body’s ability to remove cholesterol from the liver is only consumed in adequate amounts by approximately 10% of the US population?
Choline is an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t make it in adequate amounts; therefore, you need to get this nutrient from your diet or supplements. This B-like vitamin certainly hasn’t got its moment in the spotlight that it deserves, especially when it comes to how this nutrient can affect our brain health.
Choline is essential for the body’s process of producing acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that impacts memory, temperament, and intellect. Adequate concentrations of choline in the brain are believed to protect against age-related cognitive decline and certain types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease, possibly because having enough in the body may preserve neurons, brain volume, and neuronal transmissions.
How much choline do we need?
In fact, results from a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that, among a cohort of over 3,000 subjects, those who consumed more choline appeared to have a more profound reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. According to this study, those who consumed the least amount of choline every day were significantly associated with an increased risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
A different study evaluating over 2,000 people showed that low choline concentrations were associated with poor cognitive performance.
Our choline needs can vary based on age, gender, and whether we are pregnant or lactating. From newborn babies to people well into their golden years, choline is one nutrient that continues to be important to consume throughout the lifecycle.
Here are the Adequate Intake (AI) levels for choline based on various ages, genders, and stages of the lifecycle, according to the National Institute of Health as measured in milligrams (mg).
Some of the best sources of choline include egg yolks, liver, beef, chicken, fish, and soybeans. Other foods, like cauliflower, peanuts, quinoa, and potatoes have this nutrient too, just not as large of quantities as the previously listed sources.
You can stick to these natural sources of choline to help you meet your needs. But if you want a bit more hand-holding when combing the grocery aisles looking for a choline-packed snack or ingredient, read on to learn which items belong in your cart.
Eggs are one of the best sources of choline, with around 150 milligrams of this key nutrient per egg. Eggland’s Best eggs not only contain choline, but they also have double the omega-3s compared to ordinary eggs. And since omega-3 fatty acid intake is linked to improved brain health, including these eggs in your diet gives you a 1-2 punch in the brain health-support department. These eggs also contain 6 times more vitamin D and 10 times more vitamin E compared to ordinary eggs. Since both of these nutrients are linked to brain health too, opting for Eggland’s Best eggs is a no-brainer!
With 55 milligrams of choline per serving, this bar from Brainiac is a perfectly portable choline snack that is easy to nosh on during the day. But choline isn’t the only brain health-supporting nutrient in these bars. Each serving also contains 150 milligrams omega-3 fatty acids and 2 milligrams of lutein – two other nutrients that may help keep our brain health where we want it to be.