There is solid science behind the power of certain foods to protect your brain from oxidative damage and improve cognition and memory while increasing your lifespan.
More and more studies are pointing to lifestyle changes to safeguard our brains and bodies from dreaded diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and many forms of cancer. Noted expert Dr. Gary Small, author of 2 Weeks to a Younger Brain and the Mind-Body Health Report, says that, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco, up to half the Alzheimer’s cases are potentially attributable to “modifiable risk factors.”
As we age, our metabolism becomes less efficient and is less able to get rid of compounds generated from what is termed “oxidative stress.” The toxic compounds generated by oxidative stress steadily build up, slowly damaging the brain and eventually leading to symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Oxidative damage can also destroy our organs, say experts.
“Antioxidant fruits and vegetables protect our bodies from oxidative stress, which causes wear and tear on the brain and other organs as we age,” notes Small. “Omega-3 fats from fish fight brain inflammation helping us reduce the risk for age-related cognitive decline. Minimizing consumption of processed foods and refined sugars reduces the risk for diabetes, which further protects brain health throughout life.”
Here are the top 10 foods to protect your brain and your body:
- Fish. According to Inverse, eating fish provides your body with a good source of protein. Oily fish in particular, are chock full of the omega-3 fats Dr. Small recommends consuming fatty fish that can protect memory, cognitive function, and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. There is also a healthy amount of vitamin D in fish. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many dreaded diseases, including Parkinson’s, vascular dementia, and others.
- Berries. Colorful berries are excellent antioxidants and it’s important to eat a variety of them to reap the full benefits. Blueberries, for example, contain anthocyanins, which have been shown to protect our brains against Alzheimer’s disease while strawberries are high in vitamin C which is a vital antioxidant molecule in the brain.
- Sweet potatoes. Folks in the Blue Zone area of Okinawa, Japan, where people live the longest, eat an abundance of purple sweet potatoes. However, the orange ones are also rich in antioxidants that protect your body and brain from free radical damage, according to Healthline.
- Green vegetables and herbs. Dr. Small says that eating veggies and herbs like those found in the Mediterranean diet, reduce your risk of chronic disease. Green vegetables are rich in vitamins A and C, folate and polyphenols that protect brain neurons against toxins and help reduce inflammation.
- Beetroot. This vegetable is an excellent source of folate and polyphenols, as well as copper, manganese, and other nutrients that reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Beets also contain nitrates which may help increase blood flow to the brain, improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia.
- Olive oil. According to the Mayo Clinic, olive oil is rich in unsaturated fat that can help reduce LDL levels that can cause plaque buildup in our arteries that can lead to strokes and heart attacks.
- Dark chocolate. A study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that when healthy adults consume flavanol-rich cacao either in powder form or in dark chocolate — 70% is best — their brain receives increased oxygenation, according to an article by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Michael Roizen.
- Whole grains. Brown rice, barley, bulgur wheat, and whole-grain pasta contain vitamin E which protects brain and body cells from oxidative stress, according to Medical News Today.
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