An essential group of foods and supplements that boost brain function as well as overall health are the diet and nutrition that have antioxidants properties. Over the years, the body generates chemicals known as free radicals that have the effect of oxidizing or “rusting” cells and damage functional biomolecules (protein, DNA, cell membrane). (see free radical theory of aging). Antioxidants are free radical scavengers that can counter the destructive effects of free radicals by effectively quenching hyper reactive electron. Not all antioxidants can neutralize all free radicals. Some antioxidant can only specifically counteract a certain groups of free radicals. Numerous foods contain antioxidants in different combination and amount. Therefore, the importance of a balanced diet combined with supplementation can never overstressed.
Fruits are an essential source of antioxidants and brain boosting foods. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries – known as “brainberries” – all have strong antioxidant effects. Other fruits containing significant amount of antioxidants are apples, peaches, pomegranates, plums, kiwis, grapefruit, and grapes. Grape contains chemical resveratrol and quercetin that are potent antioxidants. Dried fruits may also contain antioxidants. Check labels to be sure the dried fruits does not contain preservatives , added sugar or other unhealthy additives.
Vegetables are the other groups of brain boosting foods with varieties of antioxidants. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels, sprouts, kale, chard, carrots, chili peppers, bell peppers, parsley, asparagus, avocados, radishes, zucchini, beets, peas, seaweed, and artichokes contain a variety of effective antioxidant components. Different from other ingredients, cooking generally does not inactivate antioxidants, rather enhance their activity. Hundreds of nutritional studies concluded that those who regularly eat more vegetables and fruit than average are significantly less vulnerable to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Garlic is one of the most healthiest ingredients as an antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal agent. It reduces blood pressure, maintains healthy cholesterol level, increases blood circulation. Beans are a group of foods with antioxidants and fiber. Black, red, broad, kidney and pinto beans contain high amount of antioxidants. Nuts and seeds are another brain boosting foods with varieties of antioxidants. Examples are pistachios, almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts. Spices and many herbs contain powerful antioxidants: cumin, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, mustard, ginger, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, and tarragon.
Whole grains and cereals including barley, millet, oats, and corn are all loaded with vitamin E – an antioxidant vitamin widely used in preventing cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, boosting immune system, enhancing cognitive functions. Whole grains are healthy, but processed grains (or simple carbs) are not.
Tea extracts also are antioxidant abundant.
Moderate consumption of dark chocolate can raise alertness and improve cognitive function due to the ingredient flavonoids. Flavonoids has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well.
A balanced diet is crucial but may not be sufficient because of exposure to an environment that can not be perfect and free of pollution. The optimal combination and dosage of supplementation depend on age, gender, weight, and health condition. Supplementation with daily multivitamin and mineral is necessary. Vitamin D can be produced in the skin via sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and is important in bone health (see post “Vitamin D Deficiency And Healthy Aging”). Vitamin C has a diverse health benefits including better visual acuity, immune function, and reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Essential fatty acids can not be synthesized by body and has to be supplied from diet. Omega-3 is the essential fatty acid essential for the health and well-being of the brain. It boosts immune system, enhance blood circulation and counteract chronic inflammation. EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) are omega-3 fatty acids that is abundant in brain boosting foods-fish and fish oil supplementation. Recent studies have suggested that consumption of one type of omega-3 fatty acid in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is important for memory function.
Coenzyme Q10 (or ubiquinol) and resveratrol are available as antioxidant supplements that enhance health.
Probiotics can be complemented to ensure digestion and absorption. Under normal condition, guts are teemed with healthy microbes that promote digestion, nutrients absorption and immune system function. Stress, dietary changes, intestinal infection and medication-(e.g. antibiotics) can deplete the natural healthy microbes. Probiotics can restore the natural intestinal microbial defense system. Yogurts, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi can protect intestinal microbial system.
Ginkgo biloba can boost brain function , enhance memory, increase alertness, increase blood flow to the brain. Turmeric (ginger related) is known for many therapeutic benefits. Studies has suggested that turmeric consumption improves mental acuity in elders. Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC) is an amino acid that is important to cellular energy metabolism. A study examining subjects who were over one hundred years old discovered that ALC facilitates an increased capacity for physical and cognitive activity by reducing fatigue and improving cognitive functions.