Key Nutrients for a Healthy Brain on a Vegan Diet
Despite what some of the more militant carnivores would have you believe, everything that the brain needs can be found in a vegan diet. There are a few key nutrients associated with a brain health, and all are bountifully provided by nature. Indeed, the vegan diet shares much in common with the Mediterranean diet, which is renowned for it’s promotion of longevity, as well as the DASH diet, which protects the heart, in that all three involve the consumption of large amounts of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, grains and pulses. The key to maintaining a healthy brain on a vegan diet is to know two things: what nutrients the brain requires for health and optimum cognitive function, and which foods contain them in sufficient quantities.
Zinc is considered to be crucial for maintaining a supple memory, as well as well as general brain health. An excellent source of zinc can be found in pumpkin seeds, which can be eaten by themselves or cooked into flapjacks, granolas or soups.
Antioxidants are one of the most important nutrients for the brain, being associated with the protection of brain cells against free radicals, and studies have shown positive correlations between antioxidant consumption and enhanced cognitive performance, including learning and memory. Blueberries are particularly packed with this type of antioxidant, while tomatoes are also chock full of lycopene, another antioxidant that can help protect the brain from dementia.
Vitamin K is another important nutrient when it comes to preserving cognitive function, and is present in leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Studies have shown that a person eating 1-2 portions of leafy greens per day showed a cognitive performance 11 years younger than those who ate none. Spinach might not build up your muscles like Popeye promised, but it will certainly help to strengthen your brain.
Ursolic acid has been linked with the protection of brain cells, and even their regeneration, as well as potentially offering protection from ischemic strokes. It is found in abundance in cranberries, which should be eaten either sun dried or fresh in order to truly feel the benefits.
Magnesium is needed to maintain the health of brain cell receptors, which are responsible for the speed with which messages are transmitted in the brain. It also helps to keep the blood vessels relaxed in order to ease the passage of blood into the brain. Chickpeas are a great source of magnesium, so that homemade humus is a winner on more than one level!
Omega Fatty Acids
Omega fatty acids are another compound that has been linked with improved cognitive function and general brain health. They are particularly prevalent in seeds such as chia and sunflower, with chia seeds having 7.5 times more omega-3 fatty acid, pound for pound, than salmon, as well as being stocked with protein. These seeds can be eaten raw, or sprinkled onto salads to add a tasty crunch.