Nutrition Facts Breakdown: Foods for Your Brain

Jeanne Sager
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Flickr photo by iLoveButter
Reading the nutrition facts on your food is a good way to ensure you're eating healthy. But do you know what all those letters and numbers mean?

Today we break down the nutrition data and tell you what to look for if you're trying to boost your brainpower.

Lending a hand is Erin Palinski, a registered dietician in private practice in New Jersey.

What nutrients can help brain function?

Omega-3 fatty acids -- These can contain DHA, a fatty acid that can't be made by our body (it needs to be derived from the food we eat) and helps our nervous system to function. Recent research has found a link between low levels of DHA and the development of Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss.

Folic acid -- A study showed that women who increased their intake of folic acid along with the B vitamins vitamin B6 and B12 had improved memory recall. Folic acid, along with vitamin B12, can help to lower homocystine levels in the body. High levels of homocystine have been linked to a greater occurrence of Alzheimer's disease (along with other diseases such as heart disease).

Vitamin E -- One study suggested that poor memory can be prevented with adequate
vitamin E intake.

Where do you find them?

Omega-3 fatty acids -- Oily fish such as salmon and tuna, walnuts, flax seed, fortified foods such as fortified milk, eggs, and baby food.

Folic acid -- Dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, whole grains, avocado, and
fortified foods such as breakfast cereal.

Vitamin E -- Nuts, seeds, dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, brown rice, and whole grains

What should you look for on the label?

For omega-3s, look for label claims stating “good source of omega-3 fatty acids or DHA” or label claims stating “fortified with omega-3.” Look for ingredients including fish oils, walnut oil, flax seed, or flax seed oils.

For folic acid, look on the label to see if the percentage of the recommended daily allowance for folic acid is listed. Also, look at the ingredient list to see if folic acid has been added.

For vitamin E, look on your food’s label to see if the percentage of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin E is listed. Also, look at the ingredients to see if the food contains whole grains, nut or seed oils, or egg.

Do you read the nutrition labels?

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