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What's on the menu for your brain?

You know that your body needs vitamins and minerals to stay strong and healthy. So do your brain and nerves. Check out this list and see if your diet includes "brain food."

In addition to their other functions, many B vitamins are vital to normal brain and nerve function. Most of the B vitamins, and folic acid have specific advantages for your brain and nervous system:

--Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)?essential for healthy brain and nerve cells. It is found in whole grain and enriched grain products like bread, rice, pasta, and fortified cereals, pasta, as well as pork.
--Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)?forms a coenzyme witch helps in transmission of nerve impulses. It can be found in meat, poultry, fish, whole-grain cereals, legumes, milk, vegetables, and fruit.
--Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)?helps convert tryptophan into serotonin, a brain chemical. It can be found in chicken, fish, pork, liver, and kidney, as well as whole grain cereals, nuts, and legumes. Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)?helps maintain healthy nervous tissue. It is found in eggs, meat, fish, poultry, and milk and dairy products.
--Folic acid?essential for metabolism of long-chain fatty acids in the brain. It is found in bananas, orange juice, fortified cereals, lemons, strawberry, cantaloupe, leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas. It is especially important for pregnant women because low levels increase the risk of neural tube defects in newborns.

The following minerals play a role in nerve function:

--Magnesium?It is found in whole grains, legumes, nuts, and green vegetables.
--Potassium?It is found in apricots, avocados, bananas, cantaloupe, grapefruit, honeydew, kiwi, oranges, prunes, strawberries, potatoes, meat, and fish.
--Calcium-It is found in milk and milk products such as cheese, yogurt, calcium-fortified foods, and fish with edible bones.

"Notice the variety of foods listed above," says Mindy Fretz, UI Hospitals and Clinics dietitian, "All the food groups are represented. It's important to eat a variety of foods, using the Food Pyramid as a guide for the food groups and portions.

"Following the Food Pyramid helps you include in your diet the variety of nutrients your body needs, including the ones for your nerves and brain, for all daily functions," she says. "Food is the preferred source for nutrients. If you are concerned about your ability to meet your nutritional needs and are considering a multiple vitamin and mineral, talk with your doctor and dietitian to receive advice on the appropriate one for you."

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