Neurons, or nerve cells, form your body's nerves and are responsible for passing signals from one part of your body to another. Think of a nerve as a cable that carries chemical or electrical current signals between different parts of your body, such as messages to and from your brain. While the B-vitamin family plays an especially crucial role in nerve growth and regeneration, several other nutrients are vital contributors. If you're taking any medications or have questions about your personal nutrient needs, consult your health care provider.
Vitamin B-6 helps your body make chemicals that carry messages between cells, known as neurotransmitters. It's one of the eight-member vitamin-B family, which is essential for the proper functioning of your nervous system. Vitamin B-6 is crucial for brain development, growth and function. Whole-grain breads and cereals, wheat germ, beans, lentils, lean meat, fish, nuts, seeds and dark greens, such as spinach, are excellent dietary sources of vitamin B-6. The recommended daily allowance for adults 19 to 50 years of age is 1.3 milligrams.
Your body's nerves -- including those in the spinal cord and brain -- are surrounded by an insulating layer, known as the myelin sheath. This layer, made up of protein and fatty substances, helps nerve signals travel quickly and efficiently. Vitamin B-12 helps maintain the myelin sheath's structure and is essential for regenerating nerve cells and the growth of new cells. Fortified cereals, trout, tuna, low-fat milk and yogurt are good sources of this essential vitamin. The recommended daily allowance for adults 14 years and older is 2.4 micrograms.
Thiamine, or vitamin B-1, is essential to the growth and development of the protective myelin sheath surrounding your body's nerves. It helps metabolize carbohydrates, providing glucose for your nervous system. According to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, thiamine is necessary for maintenance of nerve membranes and for conducting nerve impulses. Whole grains, fortified cereals, wheat germ, bran, legumes, organ meats, brewer's yeast and black-strap molasses are good dietary sources. The recommended daily allowance for male adults 19 years and older is 1.2 milligrams, and for female adults 19 years and older, it 1.1 milligrams per day.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
About two-thirds of your brain, which is part of your nervous system, is made up of specialized fats. Dietary fats are broken down into fatty acid molecules and then used for brain cell growth and development. The myelin sheath that covers and protects neurons is 70 percent fat and 30 percent protein. By including foods such as avocados, olive oil and oils from almonds, pecans, macadamia and peanuts, you help provide your body with sufficient omega-3 fatty acids as well as protein for proper nerve growth and regeneration.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
- New York University: Langone Medical Center: Vitamin B12
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center
- Oregon State University: Linus Pauling Institute: Micronutrient Information Center: Micronutrients and Cognitive Function
- The Franklin Institute: Resources for Science Learning: The Human Brain: Nourish -- Fats
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
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