Improve Mental Alertness Nutritionally

Improve Your Mental Alertness with Zinc and Iron

Trace Minerals that Boost Your Concentration and Mental Focus

Zinc Improves Learning and Memory

Iron and zinc are memory-boosting minerals. Mental alertness and concentration can be improved by eating foods that are rich in these minerals.  The memory-boosting  effects of iron and zinc are gentle and subtle compared to that of caffeine.  Zinc raises mental alertness by improving communication between the brain cells (neurons). This is significant because improvement in neuronal communication is necessary for improvement in memory and metal focus. Iron increases mental alertness by supporting the availability of energy and oxygen for brain function.


Zinc is an essential trace mineral with profound effects on numerous  processes in the body.   Zinc is highly regarded for its role of strengthening the immune system and helping the body to resist and fight infections.  Apart from these, the notable effects of  zinc  range  from support of wound healing to improvement in sexual function; and from  prevention of oxidative  cellular damage by free radicals to  improvement in the sense of smell.  It is not  surprising that zinc has numerous significant effects in the body because over 100 biochemical reactions in the body are supported by zinc. 

 The role of zinc in mental alertness is now beginning to unfold. Simpson et al. (1) are in the forefront of this unfolding effect of zinc. In one study they found that zinc improved the cognitive functions in  men and women of various ages.  Supporting data from other investigators  show strong correlation between high concentrations of zinc at the synaptic vesicles and improvements in learning and memory (2,3). The release of neurotransmitters from the presynaptic vesicles in the nerve terminals is important for communication between brain cells. More studies are needed to get a clearer profile of the mechanism(s) by which zinc improves memory and other cognitive functions.

 Nutritional Sources of Zinc

 Zinc is found in a variety of foods, albeit in small amounts in most foods. Significant amounts are found largely in meats, nuts and seeds.  A selected group of foods with significant amounts of zinc is shown below:

 n Oysters

n Crabs

n Lobsters

n Shrimp

n Scallops

n Lamb liver

n Venison

n Beef liver

n Baked beans

n Pumpkin seeds

n Sesame seeds

n Cashews

n Almonds

n Turkey

n Spinach

n Green beans

n Asparagus

n Crimini mushrooms

n Shitake mushrooms

n Oats

n Maple syrup


 Like zinc, iron is an essential trace mineral that plays critical roles in numerous biochemical and physiological processes in the body.  Like zinc, iron is an essential mineral because it is needed for maintaining the functional integrity of your body.  Your body can not function without iron.  Iron is  involved in energy production and in the  delivery  of oxygen to various organs of the body.  Its role in  energy production is well-known, but its role in boosting memory remains marginally appreciated.

 Boost Your Memory With Iron

 The memory- boosting effect of iron is essentially an extension of its basic attributes of energy production and oxygen transport.  The oxygen and energy needs of the brain must be readily met for the brain to function properly.

 Iron is a critical component of hemoglobin.  Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that binds to oxygen to improve the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood so that adequate amounts of oxygen is transported to the brain, and various other organs and tissues.  Functionally sound red blood cells can not be produced in the absence of iron.  With regard to energy production, iron is a component of key enzymes, such as the cytochrome enzymes, which catalyze the reactions for energy production.

 Nutritional Sources of Iron

 Many types of food are rich in iron.  Meats, beans and leafy vegetables  are particularly rich in iron.  A selected list of iron-rich foods is shown below.

n Kale

n Collard Greens

n Mustard green

n Romaine lettuce

n Asparagus

n Broccoli

n Leeks

n Green beans

n Sea vegetables

n Lentils

n Soy beans

n Sesame seeds

n Lima beans

n Tomatoes

n Olives

n Pumpkin seeds

n Scallops

n Shrimp

n Venison

n Beef

 Trace Minerals from Supplements

 Zinc and iron are also available as supplements.  To prevent or minimize the chances of toxicity from trace minerals, it is better to obtain these minerals from your food instead of taking supplements.  Supplements should be taken in accord with your doctor's recommendations.