Why antioxidants are essential for brain health

Antioxidants are big news in the wellness world, but did you know that they’re essential for brain health too?

Our brains burn glucose as their primary source of fuel — a process that forms free radicals. While these free radicals are a natural byproduct of this essential process, we don’t want too many of them in our system. They can damage our body and brain through a process called oxidation (a little like forming rust on our cells).

Eating plenty of antioxidants can help to neutralise free radicals, slowing our brain ageing process. This is particularly important for women during the perimenopause and beyond. During this time, we see a reduction in our brain energy as estrogen levels fall. Studies show that eating plenty of antioxidants (particularly beta carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E) can help to mitigate this energy loss.

Where can we get antioxidants in our diet?

The easiest way to get plenty of these protective vitamins is to include a full rainbow of colours on our plates. Berries (such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and gooseberries) are excellent sources of these nutrients. When compared to other fruits, berries also have a low glycemic index, which means we’re not loading up on too much sugar.

Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a molecule associated with brain cell protection and improved memory. Studies show that the equivalent of 200g of fresh blueberries increased blood levels of BDNF an hour later and immediately improved attention and short-term memory. In another study, the same quantity of berries improved word recall in children. Eating a small handful of berries (frozen or fresh) at breakfast is an easy way to ensure we’re getting them in our diet.

Try our blackberry frozen yoghurt recipe.

Leafy green and cruciferous vegetables are also packed with these protective vitamins. These veggies are also likely to contain:

  • Potassium (needed for healthy nerve signalling)
  • Vitamin K (linked to better memory)
  • Magnesium (which keeps our synapses healthy)
  • Folic acid (a powerful anti-inflammatory)

These benefits make serving a simple side salad of watercress, lettuce or rocket with every meal a no-brainer.

Try our brain-boosting walnut and watercress salad recipe.

Nuts and seeds are a great source of vitamin E. Large-scale studies have found that elderly people who ate a good amount of vitamin E had a nearly 70% lower risk of developing dementia when compared with those who consumed little to none. Dementia risk was further reduced by taking vitamin E in combination with vitamin C (found in berries, leafy greens and citrus fruits).

Try our delicious cheesy trail nut mix recipe.

What about supplements?

Supplements can also help to boost our antioxidant levels. Liz favours Altrient’s Liposomal vitamin C (use code LIZLOVES for 10% off your first order) as well as the Liposomal Glutathione from Youth & Earth (use code LIZLOVES for 25% off your first order, or 20% off recurring orders).

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