Episode 42: Nutrients For Brain Health & Performance | Huberman Lab

Key Takeaways

  • Top three things that support nerve health in the short and long term: EPA, phosphatidylserine, choline
  • To condition healthy food preferences: take something good for you, pair it with something that will increase blood sugar (not spike, but elevate slightly) for 7-10 days to rewire the dopamine reward system
  • Food impacts our brain and health but there’s also a learned response to how our brain functions in response to foods
  • Some foods to enhance short and long term cognition: fish, blueberries, eggs, cottage cheese, cabbage
  • The goal is to get proper nutrients via food; use supplements as a backup as needed
  • Start feeding window at least one hour after waking and end the window about 2-3 hours before sleep
  • Keep feeding window consistent day to dayS without extreme shifts in either direction


Dr. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D. is a Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology at Stanford University School of Medicine. His lab focuses on neural regeneration, neuroplasticity, and brain states such as stress, focus, fear, and optimal performance.

In this episode of Huberman Lab, Dr. Huberman discusses nutrients for brain and cognitive performance. He reviews tools to improve health using nutrients, sources of omega-3 fatty acids, how to train your body to crave nutrient-dense foods, and much more!

Host: Andrew Huberman (@hubermanlab)

Mediators & Modulators Of Brain Health

  • Two categories of things that will help the brain function: (1) mediators and (2) modulators
  • Unless you are sleeping well on a regular basis, your brain will suffer – you won’t be able to focus well, learn quickly and there is data linking poor sleep to Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Cardiovascular health & exercise: get 150-180 minutes per week of cardiovascular exercise which supports heart health and brain health

Foods For Brain Health

  • Nerve cells and other cells in the brain are made up of structural fats which come in large part from the foods that we eat (i.e., essential fatty acids & phospholipids)
  • Fat is the most important element for brain function
  • Most people are getting enough omega-6s in the diet but not enough omega 3s
  • Foods high in omega 3s to consume daily: mackerel, salmon, herring, oysters, caviar
  • You can get EPA and omega-3s from plant-based sources like chia seeds, but literature is mixed on the ideal source (i.e., seafood vs plant-based)
  • Supplementing with EPA & omega-3 if you don’t consume enough fish (1.5-2g EPA) is a good idea
  • Phosphatidylserine (300mg per day) has also been shown to improve cognition and reduce cognitive decline
  • Food sources of phosphatidylserine: fish, cabbage
  • Choline (500mg-1g per day) also supports brain health and focus by ensuring substrate that creates acetylcholine
  • The best food source of choline is eggs
  • There is some new literature supporting the consumption of creatine (5g/day) for brain health & cognition for people not consuming meat
  • The goal is to get proper nutrients via food, then use supplements as a backup as needed
  • Blueberries: consuming 1-2 cups (or 400-600mg per day) of blueberries per day has been shown to cognition and potentially offsets cognitive decline, reduced oxidation of LDL
  • Glutamine offsets negative effects of cognition caused by altitude and other oxygen deprivation states (e.g., apnea) – and can reduce sugar cravings
  • Food sources of glutamine: cottage cheese, meat, chicken, fish, dairy, eggs, cabbage, spinach

Are We Hardwired To Like Or Dislike Certain Foods?

  • Our nervous system is trying to figure out whether we like, dislike, or feel neutral about foods we eat
  • The brain receives electrical signals in response to foods, but there’s no distinction between sweet or savory – but the perception of what you like is deeply rooted in the brain
  • Hidden sugars: sugars placed into processed foods that are designed to trigger activation, driving you to pursue more of these foods
  • Why we choose certain foods: taste, subconscious signaling from gut-based on the nutrient content of foods, learned association between taste and perceived food value
  • We are hardwired in the brain to pursue more of what brings a taste of sweetness and increase in blood glucose levels
  • Though subconscious, we are seeking foods that allow neurons to be metabolically active

Rewiring Taste System For Better Or Worse

  • You can rewire sense of taste and preference for particular foods
  • The best way to enhance the microbiome is to consume 2-4 servings of low sugar fermented foods per day
  • Artificial sweetener: consuming something with a non-caloric artificial sweetener (no initial effect on blood glucose) does make you crave sugary foods which will increase blood glucose
  • If you get into a pattern where you consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners then follow with sugary food, eventually, you will impact insulin regulation even when you consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners alone
  • The best way to consume non-caloric artificial sweeteners is by drinking beverages without food that can raise blood glucose levels
  • The insular cortex is responsible for interoception, relaying what’s going on inside our body: fatigue, fullness, acidity
  • Rewiring for foods that taste neutral to you: subjective signals about what you tell yourself about the food you’re eating can impact how food tastes and how the body utilizes food
  • Tip – condition healthy food preferences: if you want to eat more of something that’s good for you, pair it with something that will increase blood sugar (not spike, but elevate slightly) for 7-10 days to rewire the dopamine reward system
  • Food impacts our brain and health but there’s also a learned response to how our brain functions in response to foods
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Notes By Maryann

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