Maintaining a healthy brain may seem difficult, but there is something very simple within our grasp that can contribute to this: food.
Of course, just eating is not enough … you have to eat well, with a diet rich in vitamins.
“You have power at the tip of your fork,” Uma Naidoo, a nutrition psychiatrist at Harvard University School of Medicine in the United States, tells BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language service.
Naidoo is the author of the book This is your brain on fooda guide with foods that help the body and brain function, those to avoid and those most harmful.
For the expert, there is a key vitamin to keeping our brains young and healthy, something she addresses in this interview, among other topics. Watch.
BBC – What is the best vitamin to protect our brain from aging?
Uma Naidoo – The best vitamin to cover various aspects of brain health is vitamin B.
There are several types of this vitamin, and each has an important function for the brain.
Naidoo is the author of the book “This is your brain on food” – Photo: GENTILEZA UMA NAIDOO / BBC
BBC – What’s So Special About Vitamin B?
Naidoo- There are 8 types of B vitamins.
Vitamin B-1, called thiamine, helps with basic cellular functions and the metabolism of different nutrients to help us gain energy. A low thiamine level can lead to poor cognitive function and other problems in the body.
Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, is essential for the formation of red blood cells and DNA, but it also supports the nervous system, development and brain function. It does more specific things, like helping to break down homocysteine, a heart-damaging protein that can also lead to some form of dementia.
One of my favorites that I always talk about is vitamin B-9, folic acid. Participates in neurotransmitter activity, DNA formation and cell detoxification.
A low level of folic acid is also associated with a bad mood. So, by eating green leafy vegetables, which are usually rich in natural folic acid, you promote good mood and mental health.
These are just some of the functions of the B vitamins.
Nutrition psychiatrist recommends eating white yogurt and blueberries – Photo: GETTY IMAGES / BBC
BBC News – Are all B vitamins good for the brain?
Naidoo- They have benefits that go beyond the brain, but they all have some contributing element.
Some are more directly related to the brain, such as vitamins B-12, B-9, and B-1. And others help with much-needed bodily functions, such as the formation of blood cells.
BBC News – Where can we find B vitamins?
Naidoo- In many different foods.
I like to help people with mnemonic exercises (combining initials or letters of a more complex concept or thought to form words or phrases that are easier to remember).
One of them is: BIGYESS (in English, something like “a big yes”). The letter “B” is the initial of beans in English and also includes cereals, lentils, legumes … These are rich in vitamin B.
“G” stands for greens. Group all the different types of green leafy vegetables together. The greener they are, the better, as they are rich in folic acid.
“Y” stands for dairy yogurt, which contains riboflavin, which is vitamin B-2 and also contains vitamin B-12. Always choose plain yogurt. There are also non-dairy yogurts that contain these vitamins.
“E” is the first letter of eggs in English (eggs). If you consume eggs, I always suggest buying them from hens without cages. They are very rich in vitamin B-7, which is biotin.
Salmon is rich in B vitamins such as B-2, B-3, B-6 and B-12 – Photo: GETTY IMAGES / BBC
The first “S” is for salmon. Many people know that salmon is rich in B vitamins, which include vitamin B-2 or riboflavin, vitamin B-3 or niacin, vitamin B-6 or pyridoxine, and vitamin B-12 or cobalamin. Everyone helps the brain.
And the other “S” is for sunflower seeds. These are one of the richest sources of vitamin B-5, called pantothenic acid. Twenty percent of the recommended daily value of this vitamin can be obtained with just 28 grams of these seeds.
It is easy to add them to salads or drinks to get this vitamin.
BBC News – What Is The Recommended Daily Amount Of Vitamin B To Support Our Brain Health?
Naidoo – When it comes to foods, we’re not always sure about the exact dosages of vitamins they contain. And this is where I like to talk about a healthy and balanced diet.
Try to include different foods in a healthy and balanced diet. Don’t eat only beans, don’t eat only green leafy vegetables because you will miss out on the other seven B vitamins.
On the internet you can find the different existing B vitamins and the recommended daily doses. In the United States, we use the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) as a guide.
BBC News – Are There Any Downsides to Vitamin B Consumption?
Naidoo- Your body absorbs everything it needs and the rest will be excreted in the urine.
When it comes to vitamins, believing that eating or drinking more is more beneficial is often a myth. Use the recommended amount and eat healthy.
Some of the excesses of several vitamins, not just vitamin B, can have side effects. It is important to be careful.
BBC News – What do you recommend to your patients to eat?
Naidoo- The first step is to understand the signs of a person’s health, what types of foods they like to eat and what they don’t.
A great example is yogurt, which contains probiotics and offers great benefits. Blueberries are also good.
But blueberry yogurt may not be the healthiest option, because many fruit yogurts are very high in added sugar, which is not healthy for the brain. It is much healthier to take a bowl of yogurt and add frozen or fresh blueberries, sweetened with a little cinnamon and a touch of honey.
If you don’t eat shellfish, eggs, or dairy, look for alternatives. A great source of vitamin B-12 for vegetarians is nutritional yeast.
BBC News – Any other advice?
Naidoo- I would like to say two more things.
The first: eat the orange, don’t buy the orange juice box. Because orange has the fiber, nutrients, vitamins, minerals you need. Orange juice usually has a lot of added sugar and removed fiber, making it a less healthy version of the fruit.
The second: you have the power at the tip of the fork. It is something that is under your control and it is very powerful for you to know.
– This text was published at https://www.bbc.com/portuguese/geral-63237031