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Nutra-Brain- I

By Sangita Das

A healthy mind is a healthy body. And it is well known that vitamins are needed to protect the body's well being. But did you know that you need a healthy diet, supplied with all the necessary nutrients, to have a healthy mind too? Scientists have shown that many vitamins and minerals not only nourish the body but also have important and far-reaching effects on your mood, your mental functioning, and even your general outlook.

A deficiency of any nutrients that is used by the brain can cause irritability, depression and mental malfunctioning. Are you getting enough of the right nutrients to keep your head hale and hearty? To be sure, protect your mind from deficiencies of the following nutrients:

Vitamin B1 or thiamine is essential for the optic nerve, which carries images from the eye to the brain. There results a degenerative change in the optic nerve due to the deficiency of thiamine.

During World War II, malnourished prisoners developed an abnormal optic nerve. Treatment with thiamine alone reportedly halted the progression of this disorder.

Vitamin B1 is central to carbohydrate digestion. Since carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, like glucose, which fuel the brain, this vitamin is also crucial to one's intelligence. Deficiency of vitamin B1 is responsible for the bizarre behavior sometimes seen in alcoholics. Many alcoholics can't metabolize carbohydrates, so their brains don't get enough energy to function properly. If an alcoholic has DT's (Delirium Tremors), they can be treated with vitamin B1 and magnesium. In fact people who drink a lot of alcohol need to protect themselves from deficiency of B1. Since the alcohol impairs absorption of this vitamin, those who drink large quantities should take a once- a- day vitamins that will supply them with Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin B1.

RECOMMENDED INTAKE: The recommended intake of thiamine is 1mg daily for most women and between 1.2-1.4mg for most men. Older people who consume lot of alcohol or those who overcook their food or dieters or those who don't eat thiamine rich food need to be most careful of this deficiency.

Sources Quantity Thiamine Amount
Boiled kidney beans 1/2cup 0.14mg
Boiled soybeans 1/2cup 0.13mg
Boiled chickpeas 1/2cup 0.09mg
Whole-wheat flour 1/4cup 0.17mg
Raw brown rice 1/4cup 0.17mg
Low fat soy-flour 1/4cup 0.18mg
Boiled navy beans 1/2cup 0.18mg

This vitamin also known as pyridoxine is used in the brain to help produce an important brain chemical called serotonin. If there is deficiency of vitamin B6 in the body, the production of serotonin gets diminished. A low level of serotonin leads to depression and irritation.

Those using oral contraceptives must be conscious to get enough B6, because that reduces the efficiency of body to use B6.

RECOMMENDED INTAKE: The RDA for vitamin B6 is almost 2mg/day. Excessive amounts could cause irreversible degeneration of the nerves.

Sources Quantity B6 Amount
Raw brown rice 1/4cup 0.28mg
Cooked lentils 1/4cup 0.35mg
Dried sunflower seeds 1/4cup 0.45mg
One banana Medium Size 0.66mg

Vitamin B12 or cyanocobalamine is crucial for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Its deficiency results in irritation, forgetfulness, mental confusion and depression. Severe deficiency of B12 leads to senility. This is because Vitamin B12 is required to produce myelin, the material that insulates the nerves and helps electrical messages sent through the nerves to get to their destinations.

Vitamin B12 is also necessary to form blood cells. Since blood cells carry energy all over the body, including the brain, a deficiency of them may affect mental abilities. However those who partake meat, chicken, fish, or soy products even just once a week have a five or six year supply of B12 stored in their liver. Deficiency of vitamin B12 is mostly found in elderly persons and can be overcome by improving their diets or taking a series of injections of the vitamin.

RECOMMENDED INTAKE: The body only needs the tiniest amounts of vitamin B12 to function properly. The RDA is 3mcg/day. Vegetarians however have to be especially careful, since B12 is found mainly in animal food sources.

Sources Quantity B12 Amount
Hardboiled egg 1 large cup 0.7 mcg
Low-fat cottage cheese 1/2 cup 0.7 mcg
Whole milk 1 cup 0.9 mcg
Non-fat yogurt 1 cup 1.4 mcg
Cooked chicken 3 oz 3 mcg


Mrs. Sangita Das has done her masters in Nutrition Science from Calcutta University. She has featured in many Television shows relating to cookery, healthy diet and food. She has edited and published a book on Nature Diet Therapy entitled "Diet Therapy - A Few Recipes Related To Some Common Ailments" .

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