My top picks for natural brain protection

When it comes to protecting your brain, modern medicine has all but hoisted the white flag. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. In fact, there are a number of natural supplements that have shown tremendous potential for supporting cognitive function and keeping you mentally sharp.

Let’s start with chocolate. I’ve sung the praises of cocoa flavanols before. They’ve been shown to support all sorts of critical functions in the body—from heart health to blood sugar balance to a healthy inflammatory response.

Now, a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows cocoa flavanols may also play an important role in helping people maintain optimal cognitive health.

Researchers had a group of 90 older adults drink a cocoa beverage each day for eight weeks. One group got a high-flavonol cocoa drink, another got an “intermediate” flavonol cocoa beverage, and the last group got a low-flavonol version. The researchers tested the subjects’ cognitive ability using memory, retention, recall and executive function, both at the outset of the study and again at the end.

They found those who consumed the high-flavonol cocoa drinks showed a significant improvement in overall cognitive function after only eight weeks.

If you want to get all the brain-supporting benefits chocolate has to offer, it’s important to find a quality source. In other words, grabbing a candy bar at the corner convenience store won’t cut it. Look for minimally processed dark chocolate with at least 70-85% cacao. Or, if you like the idea of drinking a cocoa beverage, check out my CocoaLogic drink mix.

Beyond cocoa flavonols, there are plenty of other supplements that can support cognitive function too. For instance, there’s a huge amount of research supporting vitamin E’s ability to help maintain brain health.

I usually recommend 800 IU of vitamin E per day, from a supplement that combines all eight of the tocopherols and tocotrienols. But some of the research on cognitive function has shown more benefits using a higher dose (2,000 IU). This protocol appeared to be completely safe in studies, but it’s always a good idea to work with a knowledgeable practitioner.

Vitamin D also appears to be a critical nutrient when it comes to staying mentally sharp as you age.  I recommend at least 5,000 IU of vitamin D per day.

Two other proven, natural brain boosters are vitamin B and fish oil. I wrote more about them in more detail in my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter this past December. Subscribers can access this issue—and the complete archive—by logging in to the Subscriber area of the website.

And last but not least, your brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and blood in order to function properly. So it’s essential to support the blood vessels that deliver these vital substances to every part of your body—including tiniest places in your brain. (That’s one of the reasons I developed my CircuLogic formula.)

The bottom line: when it comes to keeping your brain healthy and your memory sharp, Mother Nature knows best.


American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, epub ahead of print 12/17/14 (doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.092189)

Neurobiology of Aging 2012; 33(10): 2,282-2,290

JAMA. 2014; 11(1): 33-44.

Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2013; 110(23): 9,523-9,528.

Neurology 2014 Feb;82(5):435-442

Nutr Rev. 2010 Dec; 68(Suppl 2): S74–S87