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Nourishing Your Noggin

The top 5 vitamins and minerals to boost your brainpower

Filling Up on Folate

Folic acid or folate is another important B vitamin for the brain, says Sahelian. "Getting adequate folate can make one a little more alert, and improve memory and focus." It helps lower blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine that is known to damage brain cells, he explains. It's found in abundant supply in many foods including beans, fruits, green leafy vegetables, lentils, and whole-wheat cereals. Shoot for 400 micrograms a day, he says.

Stirring Up Serotonin With B6

Vitamin B6 helps convert 5-hydroxy-tryptophan (5HTP) in into the mood chemical serotonin and it also helps in making dopamine. "These are big mood and alertness chemicals," he says. Aim for roughly 2 to 10 milligrams a day if you supplement. B6-rich foods include bell peppers, cranberries, turnip greens, cauliflower, garlic, tuna, mustard greens, and kale.

Maximizing Magnesium

Magnesium is an important brain nutrient because it protects the brain from neurotoxins," says City Island, N.Y.-based Carolyn Dean, ND, MD, author of The Miracle of Magnesium. "Some enlightened surgeons give extra magnesium to their patients before and during surgery, especially brain surgery, for this reason," she tells WebMD. The dosage for protecting the brain in general is 300 milligrams one to three times a day. According to Dean, nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, and whole grains have magnesium, but most other foods have little, she says. "Cooked and processed foods also lose a lot of magnesium making it a very deficient mineral."

Seeing to More C

"Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that can intercept free radicals before they affect the brain," says Dean, also the health advisor to yeastconnection.com. It's found in foods such as broccoli, legumes, oranges, potatoes, and strawberries. If you are taking supplements, aim for 500 micrograms once or twice a day, she says. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that people taking vitamins C and E were 78% less likely to have had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's at the study's start and 64% less likely to have developed the disease four years after the study began.

Of course, before taking any supplements talk to your doctor first, many may interfere with the absorption of medications you may be taking or may cause bothersome side effects.

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Reviewed on October 01, 2004

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