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The Power Of Antioxidants

Pile of blueberries in mason jar top with spinach leaves

Antioxidants

Many essential vitamins (and minerals) function as powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances found in food sources that can prevent or delay damage to cells caused by free radicals. As your brain ages, it gets tougher for neurons to protect themselves against free radicals. The cells in your body spew out thousands of these devils every day. You are also exposed to them in the world around you through tobacco smoke, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and even UV rays from sunlight. Processed foods generate high levels of free radicals in the body, too.   

Free radicals in excess are toxic. The net result is termed “oxidative stress,” or “oxidative damage.” It means that the pace of free radical production is faster than the body can create “antioxidants” to fight them. The body’s antioxidant defenses are thus overwhelmed, and tissue damage occurs, including in the brain.

Antioxidant Power

Antioxidants help get free radicals and oxidative stress under control. In addition to well-known nutrients such as vitamin C, beta-carotene, and selenium. Polyphenols are powerful antioxidants too, especially a sub-class called flavonoids.

Almost all fruits, vegetables, and herbs contain flavonoids, which have been found to have many health benefits, including reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and fighting free radicals. Studies suggest that these miracle workers slow aging in the brain, increase the number of connections between neurons, and disrupt the development of brain-clogging amyloid plaques which are thought to play a central role in Alzheimer's disease. Flavonoids have been shown to improve blood flow and cognition in young people, plus improve cognitive decline in older adults They improve memory, attention, and executive function, too. In fact, a recent study suggests, eating flavonoid-rich food, such as berries, citrus fruits, and juices, can help maintain cognitive function. 

Foods Rich in Powerful Antioxidants 

Vegetables and fruits are high in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which protect your brain cells from free-radical destruction. They are also loaded with phytochemicals that prevent neuroinflammation. Veggies and fruits are rich in potassium, too, a mineral that helps prevent mental fatigue.

Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli are rich in brain-healthy nutrients like vitamin K, folate, and beta carotene. Research suggests that leafy greens are instrumental in slowing cognitive decline.

Fruits and vegetables are also rich in the super-nutrient flavonoids. Foods high in flavonoids include berries, leafy greens, colorful vegetables, red apples with skin, coffee, dark chocolate, onions and scallions, broccoli, and citrus fruits.

Because of their rich cacao and dark chocolate content, Memory Chocolates also have a wide variety of powerful antioxidants, primarily flavonoids, which improve blood flow to all organs, including the brain.

Whole grains also supply a wealth of nutrients: fiber, B vitamins, minerals, protein, and antioxidants. Eating whole grains is linked to a lower risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Preventing or controlling these diseases may indirectly promote healthy brain function. Whole grains may also help lower your risk of stroke. Some evidence suggests that whole grains can help reduce inflammation 

While whole grains are healthy for most people, they may not be appropriate for people with a sensitivity or allergy to gluten (a protein in wheat, barley, and rye) or with celiac disease.

The chart below outlines the top antioxidant-rich foods:

 Vegetables Fruits Flavonoids Whole Grains
Green leafy vegetables: kale, spinach, and collard greens Berries (all varieties) Dark chocolate

*Buckwheat

Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts Plums Tea

*Rice

Salad vegetables: lettuces, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers Pomegranates Artichokes

*Oats

Brightly colored vegetables such as red, yellow, or orange peppers, red cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams Pears Pecan nuts

*Quinoa

Root vegetables, including parsnips, turnips, and beets Citrus fruit Orange juice

*Corn

Squashes (all types) Apples Red wine (moderate amounts)

Rye

Peaches Coffee

Wheat berry

Whole-wheat products (breads, pasta, and so forth)

*These foods are gluten-free, but always double check to ensure any product is truly gluten free.

Incorporating as many brain-healthy, antioxidant-rich foods into your diet as possible on a regular basis can help rejuvenate your brain, which could translate into better mental function as you get older.