Nootropics In Your Food!

A few years back I was invited to write an article for a nootropic research platform. I am now able to share it directly with you to enjoy.

At this point you probably have heard a lot of talk about nootropic chemicals and how they can affect your body to give you a boost both mentally and physically. My question to you what is causing us to need this boost in the first place? As humans have evolved, wouldn’t we have evolved with these chemicals in our daily life to use them? Well, we did! Many of these chemicals are also available in foods and plants that our individual native cultures grew up eating and drinking. If you think back to what you already know about how you give your body the edge mentally and physically you should come up with a few things quickly. Coffee, proteins, and sugars are probably some of the first that came to your mind and these do have the effects individuals are often looking for. The next question then becomes how can you optimize your food intake to get the best nootropic effects.

After you have read 3 Nootropics Everyone Should Know About you have already had a brief introduction to two commonly used nootropics that are made from two B vitamins, choline and B-6. Choline is really the hard hitter here and it is essential to optimize the amount of choline your body has, regardless of your desire for its nootropic effects or not. Choline is part of the most common neurotransmitter in your body, acetylcholine, and as such is involved in a wide variety of pathways in the body. It also has a large impact on transportation of fat molecules in and out of cells, bringing nutrients and removing waste, supporting cellular metabolism and membrane fluidity [1]. 

Choline deficiency is not uncommon. If your body is low in choline you may experience insomnia, fatigue, kidney and nerve-muscle problems, as well as fat accumulation in your blood. Don’t some of these symptoms sound like reasons you would turn to nootropics? These symptoms can occur from a diet low in choline containing foods. Choline is made of three molecules: vitamin B-3, folic acid, and the amino acid, methionine. If we are low in any of these three molecules our body will not be able to self-synthesize choline and we will start to notice many of the symptoms that cause us to turn to using nootropics. So how can we make sure to get enough choline, methionine, B-3, and folate in our diet?

When it comes to getting choline from your foods there is one thing to remember. Choline breaks down with high heat so avoiding over cooking to get the most choline from your food. The highest dietary compound containing choline is lecithin, a food additive from soybeans. The highest whole food sources are eggs, 112mg/egg, shrimp, 92mg/4oz, and collard greens, 60mg/cup cooked. The average adult female is recommended to have 425mg a day and, for males, 550mg. On the other end, toxicity symptoms of high levels of choline are common when supplementing with 5-10g a day. A suggested upper limit is set at 3.5g a day by the National Academy of Science where a risk of blood pressure lowering effect starts to show up, which may not be a risk but a benefit to some. It would be hard to reach toxic levels by eating whole food sources of choline. Focusing on eating more foods high in choline can give you the edge that you can also receive with supplementation, without worry of hitting a toxic level [1]. It is also important to make sure you get enough of the three molecules that make up choline. Of them, methionine does not have recommendations by the National Academy of Science. It found highest in eggs, fish, and sesame seeds [2].

Niacin, or vitamin B-3, is not known for its association with the nervous system or cognitive function. It is however, known to affect the bodies overall energy levels. Niacin is essential to the body to convert your food into usable energy. The highest niacin containing foods are chicken, tuna, and turkey, containing between 40-80% of your daily needs in one serving. If you are a meat eater you should then have no trouble getting enough niacin in your diet. A vegetarian may have more trouble getting enough of this nutrient if they are not eating a proper diet. The highest niacin containing plant foods are a few specific mushrooms, raw green peas, and raw asparagus with each only having between 5-17% of your daily needs in one serving. Again, cooking alters the availability of the niacin in the food, specifically within plant food [3]. The National Academy of Science now recommends, for the average adult male, 12mg a day, and females, 11mg, of niacin [4] (in 1998 it was recommended for males to have 16mg and females 14mg [3]). A tolerable upper limit to niacin supplementation is 35mg per day and no upper limit has been determined for whole food sources [3].

Folate is one nutrient that has been specifically linked to Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia related symptoms. When receiving high enough levels, folate works as a preventative measure against dementia. Signs of deficiency in folate include irritability, mental fatigue, forgetfulness, depression, insomnia, and fatigue, general and muscular. These are very similar to our choline deficiency symptoms and reasons for taking nootropics. Beans are the winners here with the highest daily values being lentils, pinto, and garbanzo beans, all 70-90% of your daily need in one serving, spinach coming next at 65% and only more beans and greens to follow. Folate is key to the development of the nervous system of children while still in the womb. This is why so much of our food is already supplemented with added folate. Eating enough beans and green vegetables gets you the amount you need [5]. The National Academy of Science recommends all average adults have 320 micrograms a day and for pregnant females, a much higher, 520 micrograms a day [4]. 

For more information on where to find whole food sources of these and other nutrients visit The World’s Healthiest Foods at www.whfoods.org 

Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online for more learning opportunities or work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultations. 

Sources

1. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=50

2. http://www.iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/5_Summary%20Table%20Tables%201-4.pdf

3.  http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=83

4. http://foodinfo.us/SourcesUnabridged.aspx?Nutr_No=506

5. http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=63

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