With the New Year rapidly approaching our thoughts turn to the resolutions we intend to set for ourselves in order to start the year off in the best possible way. More often not our resolutions are centred around certain fitness and diet goals we aspire to – to lose a few pounds, to tone up, to take up running etc. However, after the miserable year we’ve all just had (pandemic anyone!?!) shouldn’t we be investing more time in looking after our mental health?
In much the same way as we nourish our body with supplements or perhaps even by switching to a more plant based diet, our brain also needs supplementing to optimize its performance and get the best out of it. Nootropics, and more importantly natural nootropics, are exactly what your brain has been crying out for it. Take a look at our guide to the smart way to feed your brain.
What Are Nootropics?
Nootropics, or smart drugs as they are often referred to, are groups of compounds that assist with our learning, memory recall, focus and so much more. The concept is still relatively new and scientific research shows mixed results, however that being said it is a market that has expanded rapidly as more and more of us seek help with our cognitive functions.
Nootropics are said to:
- Improve mental functions – cognition, memory, intelligence, concentration, problem solving abilities, critical thinking, and focus.
- Prevent cognitive decline in adults by aiding neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain’s neural network to grow and make new connections thus continuing to master new skills, store memories and information and to recover from trauma.
- Induce formation of new neurons – nootropics can stimulate neurogenesis in much the same way as exercise.
- Increase oxygen supply to the brain – natural nootropics in particular help to increase blood circulation to the brain and this at the same time increases energy and oxygen flow.
If you place as much value on your mental health as you do your physical health, there are ways you can incorporate nootropics into your daily routine without the need for a complete overhaul. For example, products such as Livit Superbrain Creamer can easily be added to your morning smoothie or coffee to help supercharge your day.
What Are Natural Nootropics?
Now obviously, no one wants to put substances into their body when they’re unsure what they contain and so the keyword when you first look into nootropics is ‘natural’. Remember superfoods, you know, that buzzword from a few years back? Things like goji berries, kale, blueberries, kale, matcha to name but a few? Well superfoods and foods that contain high levels of vitamins and minerals are what we’re looking for when it comes to natural nootropics.
Natural is always going to be better than synthetic. Our body and brain wasn’t designed to have unnatural substances put in them, and so if whenever there is a natural option it goes without saying that this is the better option.
Take a look at this list of natural nootropics:
Medium Chain Triglycerides
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT) are fats found in foods such as coconut oil. Our diets tend to be made up of long chain fatty acids, which to be fair is good as they are our primary and most important dietary lipids. However, MCT are metabolized directly in the liver and converted to ketones. Ketones act as an alternative energy source during metabolic stress and they help to maintain normal brain cell metabolism. It is an instant energy supply, which is very much needed when we feel mentally exhausted.
The reishi mushroom or Ganoderma lingzhi, is a polypore fungus, which has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for its brain boosting properties. This powerful fungus contains diverse phytochemicals, with a structure resembling that of a steroid hormone and the consumption of these can help with learning, memory enhancement and improving overall cognition.
The taste is very bitter, which is why it is often found in powdered form so that it can be added to other food products to make it more palatable. Its various bioactive components have been shown to have a therapeutic effect on the human brain, as well as helping to fight against fatigue and depression.
Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline (GPC)
Alpha Glyceryl Phosphoryl Choline is a natural compound found in the brain that helps to facilitate learning and memory. It is found mainly in animal products (rich food sources of choline include beef liver, eggs, fish, nuts, and salmon) which is why vegetarians and vegans can often be deficient in it, although there is a small amount of it in tofu and soy beans.
In some European countries, alpha-GPC is a prescription drug for Alzheimer’s disease and in the US it is sold as a dietary supplement for memory enhancement.
BACOPA – Bacopa Monnieri
Also known as brahmi or water hyssop, Bacopa Monnieri is an ancient Ayurvedic herbal remedy that is so powerful even small extracts of it have been proven to have nootropic qualities. The herb contains anti-oxidants that help to neutralize free radicals, which are the main causes of neurodegenerative disorders.
In addition it is an anti-inflammatory, it enhances memory, it helps to boost brain function, it reduces stress and anxiety, can be used to treat ADHD symptoms, and is anti-epileptic.
Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA)
Gamma Amino Butyric Acid, or GABA to keep things simple, is a naturally occurring non protein amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in our brain. We’ve all faced a lot more stress this year, and GABA is exactly the nootropic to help fight against any built up anxiety and stress. It works by attaching itself to the GABA receptors in our brain and this in turn produces a calming effect.
Foods rich in GABA include fermented products such as kimchi, miso and tempeh, as well as wholegrains, fava beans, soy, lentils, and other beans; nuts including walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds; fish including shrimp and halibut; citrus, tomatoes, berries, spinach, broccoli, potatoes, and cocoa. With such a diverse range of foods it should be easy to implement this particular nootropic into your diet in a bid to relieve anxiety, reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and treat attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
As with everything in life, it is all about balance. Achieving good mental health is a combination of different things balanced to suit you and your lifestyle. Regular exercise, healthy eating, getting outdoors for fresh air, taking time for yourself, as well as many other factors are all simple changes you can make to improve your mental health, but nootropics are that little bit extra, that helping hand if you like, for those days when you need something a bit more.
If you’re thinking of starting your 2021 with as much clarity and focus as you can muster, then check out Superbrain.