Top 10 Supplements To Improve Your Brain

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Top 10 Supplements To Improve Your Brain
Top 10 Supplements to Improve Your Brain Graphic © Background photo: Pixabay (PD)

When it comes to maximizing brain power and promoting healthy brain function, your diet plays an essential role. Eating a healthful variety of foods is key to meeting the nutritional needs of your brain and helping it run at peak capacity. So, what are the best foods for healthy brain function? Dr. David Jockers, a doctor of natural medicine, shares his top 10 supplements to improve your brain; here are his 10 recommendations together with our additional research:

1: Vitamin D

Several studies link vitamin D to improvements in overall mental health. It may increase your cognitive performance, memory, mood, and help alleviate the risk of depression and anxiety. [1][2][3][4]

You can get your vitamin D from regular sun exposure, oily fish, egg yolks, cow’s milk, or supplementation. But how much vitamin D is best for your brain? “I recommend 1,000 international units daily per 25 pounds of body weight,” Dr. Jockers says. “Vitamin D is fat soluble, so always take it with food… ideally early in the day because it’s slightly stimulating.”

2: Fish Oil

Fish oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Research links these compounds to a number of health benefits, including improving brain health. [5][6]

DHA is essential for developing and maintaining the structure of brain cells. [7] Taking omega-3 supplements rich in DHA may help improve reaction times, memory, and thinking skills. [8] When it comes to EPA, it’s been shown to help protect the brain against aging and damage—thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. [9]

You can get omega-3s from fatty fish, algae, flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, or supplementation. Dr. Jockers recommends around 2 grams of EPA/DHA daily for optimal brain health.

3: Probiotics

We’ve been told to trust our gut feelings. According to emerging scientific research, there’s some truth to this expression. The gut is increasingly being recognized as a “second brain” with the ability to affect your mental health and mood. This is courtesy of the gut-brain axis—whereby your gut’s microbiota communicates with the brain. [10]

A healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive system is linked to improved brain health. One way to achieve this is by taking probiotics, which are basically good bacteria to keep you healthy. [11] Some benefits of taking probiotics include improved memory and mood. They may also reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Some sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, soft cheese, and supplementation.

4: Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral with a wide range of functions in the body—including energy production, enzymatic reactions, and nerve function. [12] Yet most people don’t consume enough magnesium in their diets.

Some benefits of magnesium for brain health include supporting the blood-brain barrier, reducing susceptibility to stress, improving cognitive functions, and improving symptoms of depression and anxiety. [13][14][15][16]

The best sources of magnesium include dark green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and legumes. But because most people don’t meet their daily recommended mineral intake, taking supplements may be worth the consideration.

5: Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays a crucial role in brain function and nerve tissue health. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition, Health, & Aging, examined around 39,000 people and reported that low vitamin B12 levels were associated with poorer memory and attention. [17]

Another study appearing in the journal Cureus found that taking vitamin B12 supplements improved attention/memory in 78% of the participants and cognition in 84% of them. [18]

Good dietary sources of vitamin B12 include eggs, dairy products, fish such as tuna, poultry, and grass-fed meats. The vitamin does not typically occur naturally in plant products, which is why people who follow vegan or vegetarian diets are at a higher risk of developing B12 deficiency.

6: Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

CoQ10 is an essential cofactor that is produced naturally in your body and stored in the mitochondria to help generate energy and offer antioxidant benefits. [19] But since mitochondrial function and production of CoQ10 decreases with age, it’s important to also get it from foods such as fish, nuts, and meats or supplements.

Research shows that CoQ10 may help protect the brain from the harmful effects of oxidative stress and prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases. [20][21]

7: N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)

N-Acetyl Cysteine is a compound that is mainly valued for its role in the production of glutathione—a master antioxidant that helps neutralize free radicals that can damage neurological tissue. Studies suggest NAC can help improve symptoms of people with neurological health conditions and boost memory. [22]

Keep in mind that you need to take adequate amounts of vitamin B12, B6, and folate for your body to make cysteine. You can get cysteine from protein-rich foods like legumes, eggs, poultry, some seeds, and supplements.

8: Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral necessary for several body processes, such as nerve function, digestion, and metabolism. A healthy zinc intake may improve learning function, memory, and positively affect the symptoms of many neurological conditions. [23][24]

Foods that are high in zinc include meats, nuts, seeds, eggs, whole grains, legumes, fish, shellfish, dairy products, and certain vegetables.

9: Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Alpha-lipoic acid is a potent antioxidant that may help slow the progression of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s by suppressing inflammation and fighting harmful free radicals. [25] It may also help with memory loss and cognitive development. [26][27]

You can get ALA from supplements or foods like red meats, organ meats, green pears, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and rice brain.

10: Phosphatidylserine

Capping off Dr. Jockers’ top 10 list of brain-boosting supplements is phosphatidylserine—a type of fat found in your brain. Some studies suggest that the compound could play a role in preserving brain health and reducing age-related mental decline. [28][29]



[1] Penckofer, S., Byrn, M., Adams, W., Emanuele, M. A., Mumby, P., Kouba, J., & Wallis, D. E. (2017). Vitamin D supplementation improves mood in women with type 2 diabetes. Journal of diabetes research, 2017:

[2] Cheng, Y. C., Huang, Y. C., & Huang, W. L. (2020). The effect of vitamin D supplement on negative emotions: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Depression and anxiety, 37(6), 549-564:

[3] Castle, M., Fiedler, N., Pop, L. C., Schneider, S. J., Schlussel, Y., Sukumar, D., … & Shapses, S. A. (2020). Three doses of vitamin D and cognitive outcomes in older women: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 75(5), 835-842:

[4] Menon, V., Kar, S. K., Suthar, N., & Nebhinani, N. (2020). Vitamin D and depression: a critical appraisal of the evidence and future directions. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 42(1), 11-21:

[5] Dyall, S. C. (2015). Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 7, 52:

[6] Chang, C. Y., Ke, D. S., & Chen, J. Y. (2009). Essential fatty acids and human brain. Acta Neurol Taiwan, 18(4), 231-41:

[7] Weiser, M. J., Butt, C. M., & Mohajeri, M. H. (2016). Docosahexaenoic acid and cognition throughout the lifespan. Nutrients, 8(2), 99:

[8] Stonehouse, W., Conlon, C. A., Podd, J., Hill, S. R., Minihane, A. M., Haskell, C., & Kennedy, D. (2013). DHA supplementation improved both memory and reaction time in healthy young adults: a randomized controlled trial. The American of Clinical Nutrition, 97(5), 1134-1143:

[9] Bozzatello, P., Brignolo, E., De Grandi, E., & Bellino, S. (2016). Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids in psychiatric disorders: a review of literature data. Journal of clinical medicine, 5(8), 67:

[10] Galland, L. (2014). The gut microbiome and the brain. Journal of medicinal food, 17(12), 1261-1272:

[11] Wang, H., Lee, I. S., Braun, C., & Enck, P. (2016). Effect of probiotics on central nervous system functions in animals and humans: a systematic review. Journal of neurogastroenterology and motility, 22(4), 589:

[12] Razzaque, M. S. (2018). Magnesium: are we consuming enough? Nutrients, 10(12), 1863:

[13] Morris, M. E. (1992). Brain and CSF magnesium concentrations during magnesium deficit in animals and humans: neurological symptoms. Magnesium Research, 5(4), 303-313:

[14] Pickering, G., Mazur, A., Trousselard, M., Bienkowski, P., Yaltsewa, N., Amessou, M., … & Pouteau, E. (2020). Magnesium status and stress: the vicious circle concept revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), 3672:

[15] Jaeger, J. (2018). Digit symbol substitution test: the case for sensitivity over specificity in neuropsychological testing. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 38(5), 513:

[16] Botturi, A., Ciappolino, V., Delvecchio, G., Boscutti, A., Viscardi, B., & Brambilla, P. (2020). The role and the effect of magnesium in mental disorders: a systematic review. Nutrients, 12(6), 1661:

[17] Nalder, L., Zheng, B., Chiandet, G., Middleton, L. T., & De Jager, C. A. (2021). Vitamin B12 and folate status in cognitively healthy older adults and associations with cognitive performance. The journal of nutrition, health & aging, 25(3), 287-294:

[18] Jatoi, S., Hafeez, A., Riaz, S. U., Ali, A., Ghauri, M. I., & Zehra, M. (2020). Low vitamin B12 levels: An underestimated cause of minimal cognitive impairment and dementia. Cureus, 12(2):

[19] Garrido-Maraver, J., Cordero, M. D., Oropesa-Ávila, M., Vega, A. F., De La Mata, M., Pavón, A. D., … & Sánchez-Alcázar, J. A. (2014). Coenzyme q10 therapy. Molecular syndromology, 5(3-4), 187-197:

[20] Beal, M. F., & Matthews, R. T. (1997). Coenzyme Q10 in the central nervous system and its potential usefulness in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 18, 169-179:

[21] Matthews, R. T., Yang, L., Browne, S., Baik, M., & Beal, M. F. (1998). Coenzyme Q10 administration increases brain mitochondrial concentrations and exerts neuroprotective effects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 95(15), 8892-8897:

[22] Mokhtari, V., Afsharian, P., Shahhoseini, M., Kalantar, S. M., & Moini, A. (2017). A review on various uses of N-acetyl cysteine. Cell Journal (Yakhteh), 19(1), 11:

[23] Sandusky-Beltran, L. A., Manchester, B. L., & McNay, E. C. (2017). Supplementation with zinc in rats enhances memory and reverses an age-dependent increase in plasma copper. Behavioural brain research, 333, 179-183:

[24] Portbury, S. D., & Adlard, P. A. (2017). Zinc signal in brain diseases. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(12), 2506:

[25] Maczurek, A., Hager, K., Kenklies, M., Sharman, M., Martins, R., Engel, J., … & Münch, G. (2008). Lipoic acid as an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Advanced drug delivery reviews, 60(13-14), 1463-1470:

[26] Haddadi, M., Jahromi, S. R., Sagar, B. C., Patil, R. K., Shivanandappa, T., & Ramesh, S. R. (2014). Brain aging, memory impairment and oxidative stress: a study in Drosophila melanogaster. Behavioural brain research, 259, 60-69:

[27] Packer, L., Tritschler, H. J., & Wessel, K. (1997). Neuroprotection by the metabolic antioxidant α-lipoic acid. Free radical biology and medicine, 22(1-2), 359-378:

[28] Kim, H. Y., Huang, B. X., & Spector, A. A. (2014). Phosphatidylserine in the brain: metabolism and function. Progress in lipid research, 56, 1-18:

[29] Engel, R. R., Satzger, W., Günther, W., Kathmann, N., Bove, D., Gerke, S., … & Hippius, H. (1992). Double-blind cross-over study of phosphatidylserine vs. placebo in patients with early dementia of the Alzheimer type. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 2(2), 149-155:

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