Antioxidants & Brain Health

By Nicole Gould, RDN, CLT

You’re probably familiar with the term “antioxidants” but just how important are they in terms of brain health?

There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk for dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases. One major contributor is oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance in the cells and free radicals are in higher quantities than factors that can neutralize them. This results in oxidative stress in which proteins, cell membranes, and DNA are damaged. Oxidative damage contributes to neuronal loss and is recognized as an underlying factor in many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Diet can greatly influence oxidative stress. Oxidized fats, cooked and processed meats, and alcohol can all increase free radicals in the body. But your diet can also provide one of the best defenses against free radicals, antioxidants!

Some of the best antioxidant containing foods are:

  1. Vegetables: Dark leafy greens, broccoli, red cabbage, artichokes, and colored carrots contain high amounts of antioxidants and other critical micronutrients. They should make up a large part of a healthy diet – especially for someone concerned with brain health.
  2. Fruits: Where there are natural deep colors, there are antioxidants. Wild blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, pomegranate, and goji berries rank high on the list and should be enjoyed daily
  3. Herbs and Spices: Herbs and spices aren’t just for flavor. They are a great source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. Some of the most powerful include rosemary, ginger, turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, and cloves. Make sure to use good quality, organic herbs, and spices, that haven’t been sitting in your cabinet for years.

By including these foods every day, you can fight against oxidative stress and lower your risk for neurodegenerative diseases.