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The Connection between Nutrition and Cognitive Functions

The Connection between Nutrition and Cognitive Functions

Maintaining optimal brain health requires a balance of three main aspects: nutrition, the creation of new cells, and the destruction of old connections. Although the average person does not have direct and conscious control over these processes, diet plays a crucial role in maintaining the overall health of the body, including cognitive functions. Nutrition is important for both physical and mental well-being. Supporting cognitive functions involves improving memory, attention, concentration, and increasing energy levels.

Vital components of healthy brain function

Optimizing brain health and cognitive functions involves maintaining healthy levels of oxygen and fuel (such as glucose and lactate) and promoting normal blood circulation in the brain.


Oxygen is essential for the optimal functioning of the brain, which is the body’s communication center. The amount of available oxygen in the brain and the entire body depends on factors such as breathing rate, circulation, and the presence of optimal levels of hemoglobin in the body – a protein in the blood that transports oxygen to all organs. Various lifestyle factors can increase oxygenation in the body. Deep breathing, meditation, and physical activity can also help improve oxygen levels in the body and the brain.


Glucose is the main source of energy for the body, including the brain. It plays an important role in maintaining memory, concentration, and energy levels. Maintaining stable glucose levels, along with healthy blood circulation, is essential for optimal brain function.

Unstable blood sugar levels can lead to problems such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can manifest with symptoms like fatigue, memory problems, irritability, poor concentration, and rapid irritability. Anxiety and depressive moods can also be associated with variations in blood sugar levels. Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes referred to as “type III diabetes” due to its connection with insulin resistance.

Lactate is an important metabolite that also plays a role in maintaining brain health and cognitive functions. The brain can use lactate as an energy source, and it also acts as a signaling molecule in the brain.

Lactate is formed from lactic acid, which is a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism – energy production without the presence of oxygen. Red blood cells produce lactic acid through anaerobic metabolism, while muscles, which have mitochondria, utilize both aerobic and anaerobic metabolic pathways. Muscles generate a significant amount of lactate, and the brain is one of the few organs that can use it as an energy source, along with the heart and liver.


Circulation is another important aspect of brain health and cognitive functions. Healthy blood flow is essential for delivering fuel to the brain. Since the brain does not store oxygen and fuel like other organs, maintaining regular blood flow to the brain is crucial for its optimal functioning.

The adult brain consumes a significant amount of calories, which it obtains from the consumed food – that’s why nutrients need to be regularly and sufficiently delivered to the brain to ensure optimal brain activity.

The Ginkgo biloba plant is known for its beneficial effect on circulation in small blood vessels, including those in the brain. This herb can improve blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which can enhance cognitive functions and memory.

In addition to its positive impact on circulation, Ginkgo biloba also has stabilizing properties on mitochondria. Mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of cells that produce energy. Stabilizing mitochondrial function can improve overall brain health and function.

The Brain: Always Under Construction

The brain is a constantly developing and changing organ. It adapts every day to acquire new information, skills, languages, and create and store memories. This is achieved through the formation of new neurons and the elimination of unnecessary synapses – a process of recycling that promotes overall brain health. The brain builds itself through nerve growth factors (NGF), which are produced by nervous tissue. NGF is beneficial in the treatment of neuropathies, traumatic brain injuries, and multiple sclerosis. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) also plays an important role in neuroplasticity and has anti-inflammatory activity. It has been proven that BDNF helps with anxiety and depression due to its anti-inflammatory properties.

Maintenance of Cognitive Functions

Scientific research has identified several plant extracts, as well as individual vitamins and minerals, that support brain function by stimulating nerve growth factors (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).


Hericium erinaceus, also known as Lion’s Mane mushroom, is a medicinal mushroom that has been proven to stimulate NGF. This mushroom enhances brain plasticity, allowing it to adapt to changes and different stimuli in the environment. Additionally, Lion’s Mane improves memory and has BDNF-like activity in the hippocampus. These properties make Lion’s Mane extremely beneficial for maintaining brain function.

Consumption of medicinal mushrooms can help stimulate NGF and BDNF, contributing to improved memory, information assimilation, and brain adaptation to various stimuli.

Green Tea

Green tea is known for its positive effects on health, including brain function. Scientific studies have confirmed that green tea enhances the function of the nerve growth factor (NGF). Research shows that green tea can increase NGF levels up to 25 times.

In addition to stimulating NGF, green tea is also known for its rich content of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory and protective properties for brain cells. They help reduce oxidative stress in the brain, which can contribute to aging and degenerative brain diseases.


Blueberries are known for their anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. These beneficial properties have a positive overall effect on the body’s health, including brain function. The anthocyanins in blueberries can contribute to reducing inflammatory processes in the brain and protecting against various diseases. Furthermore, the antioxidant properties of blueberries have a protective effect against oxidative stress and related damage to brain cells. Consuming blueberries as part of a healthy diet or in the form of dietary supplements has a positive impact on brain function by increasing BDNF levels. This helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, and information assimilation.

Other herbs, vitamins, and foods that have been proven to improve the function of BDNF include:

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
  • Saffron (Crocus sativus)
  • Magnolia
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc

Levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) can be reduced due to an unhealthy lifestyle and certain predisposing factors. Consuming foods high in sugar and fat, obesity, insulin resistance, excessive calorie intake, poor sleep, stress, and smoking can lead to decreased levels of BDNF.

The intake of certain herbs and nutrients contributes to maintaining optimal levels of BDNF. These include:

  • Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)
  • Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica)
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Cocoa

These natural ingredients have the potential to enhance neuroplasticity and maintain brain health by increasing the production of BDNF and protecting brain cells from damage.

In conclusion

In conclusion, to maintain our active lifestyle, we need to pay special attention to our brain and cognitive functions. In addition to taking care of our muscles, bones, and organs, we must also maintain the health of our brain function.

One of the most important steps in this regard is to eat properly and diversely. Including a wide range of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in our diet is essential for obtaining all the nutrients necessary for the normal functioning of the brain.

We should not forget the importance of physical activity. Sports and an active lifestyle play a key role in maintaining brain health as they promote blood circulation and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Regular workouts improve cognitive functions, memory, and mood.

Forming healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep and managing stress, are also crucial for maintaining brain health. Lack of sleep and excessive stress can impair brain functions and decrease the levels of neurotrophic factors like BDNF.

In summary, to maintain the health of our brain, we need to take effective and adequate care of it through proper nutrition with a rich variety of foods, regular physical activity, and adhering to healthy habits. This is a holistic approach that will contribute to the optimal functioning of our brain and the overall health of our body.

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