Nutrition for Cognitive Health and Enhancement

I’d like to draw your attention through the work of Dr Michael Greger to an important brain cross-training strategy that I have not covered extensively: nutrition for cognitive health and enhancement.

I’m not talking about synthetic compounds such as racetams or eugeroics (armodafinil and modafinil) here — just naturally sourced dietary compounds. These alone can have a profound effect on brain function.

Watch the three videos below to give you useful introduction and practical guide for making some dietary changes.

1. Lutein

What is it? One of 600 known naturally occurring carotenoids which are organicpigments produced by plants. Lutein is the dominant dietary pigment in the retina of the eye as well as the brain.

Reported benefits in controlled trials? Spatial memory, reasoning ability, and complex attention.

Why does it help with brain function? Probably because it is a powerful antioxidant, and has anti-inflammatory properties. (The brain is particularly susceptible to oxidation and inflammation.)

Sources? Best sources are dark leafy green vegetables — e.g. kale or spinach. Make them into a smoothy!

2. Dietary nitrates

What are they? Vasodilators that widen (dilate) the blood vessels, improving blood flow and allowing more oxygen-rich blood to reach the heart and brain.

Reported benefits in controlled trials? Sustained attention, high cognitive load executive function tasks, athletic performance.

Why does it help with brain function? It boosts the production in our brain of nitric oxide — the ‘open-sesame’ molecule that dilates our blood vessels improving blood flow with oxygen and nutrient supply to the brain. (Note that blood flow to the brain tends to decrease as we age.)

Sources? Best sources are dark leafy green vegetables and beets. The ideal number of units per day is around 8 according to Dr Gregor over at NutritionFacts.org. One large leafy green salad or smoothy or a typical 15 oz can of beets should meet this requirement.

This was written by Mark Ashton Smith, Ph.D. and originally published on his excellent newsletter for IQ Mindware.

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