You don’t need rocket science to know that more than anything it is your brain that craves for the morning tea. A brain booster, that shot of caffeine goes straight to the brain and gets you going. Caffeine, therefore, like many other natural herbs and foods, classifies as nootropics. Yes, an age-old science, nootropics is becoming a cool concept among healthy eaters around the world. Also, with more mental and psychological complications on the rise, people want to do what it takes to prevent the onset of brain diseases and age gracefully.
“As per clinical definition, for any substance to be called a nootropic, it must a) enhance memory and learning ability, b) help the brain function under disruptive conditions, c) protect the brain from harmful chemical damage, d) improve neuronal firing mechanisms, and e) lack any sedative, stimulant or toxic effects,” says Manjari Chandra, senior nutrition consultant. Just like the body improves with proper nutrition and exercise, so can the brain with proper brain training techniques and mental nutrition.
How do nootropics work?
Nootropics may improve various aspects of memory performance, resulting in improved learning and information processing. A branch of nootropics may help target attention-related brain chemicals for improved focus and concentration. Stress is a brain depressant and impairs cognition. Nootropic adaptogens may help to keep brainpower charged throughout a long day or in a harsh thinking environment.
Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulatory anti-sleep compound shown to reduce tiredness, thereby waking you up and giving you quite a buzz. It’s one of the first true nootropics, but one shouldn’t overdo it.
L-Theanine: L-Theanine is an extract from Matcha tea and green tea, and promotes relaxation without sedation. There are many benefits associated with L-Theanine including reduced anxiety, cognitive enhancement and sleep quality improvement.
Bacopa: Bacopa Monierri or Brahmi has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to improve intellect, memory and anxiety for thousands of years! It reduces anxiety, keeps you calm and enhances your memory. Bacopa works by blocking stress signals in your brain.
Ginseng: Ginseng is a root extract shown to improve mood and cognition by virtue of its anti-fatigue effects, especially in individuals who already experience mental fatigue.
Omega 3s: Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, krill or algae oil, is shown to reduce inflammation, improve cognition, mood and cardiovascular health,
as well as help protect your brain. Fish oil is shown to improve cerebral blood flow and oxygenation (blood flow in your brain).
Tyrosine: An amino acid found in eggs, turkey, beef, seaweed, soybeans, and Swiss cheese, it is necessary for the production of neurotransmitters that play significant roles in mood regulation. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are linked with depression, apathy, fatigue, and lack of concentration.
Curcumin: It is the active ingredient in turmeric. Curcumin has been shown to boost BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor), which helps lower the risk of brain diseases. Curcumin works best when heated with food. It is known to add to brain clarity and reduce mind fogginess.
“Vary your diet to keep the brain young. Our modern diet revolves around maybe 20 ingredients, whereas our ancestors ate more like 150!
— Rachel Kelly, author of The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food
— Inputs from Manjari Chandra, senior nutrition consultant.
Disclaimer: Nootropics are also available as supplements, but it is always a better idea to get brain nutrition from your diet.