New research shows that the best way to stay mentally sharp is to keep our brain cells healthy by eating the nutrients necessary for optimal function, and ensuring a good blood supply through exercise.

We know that when fats and oils oxidise, they go rancid. It’s the same in our brain. Free radicals oxidise the fats in our brains, reducing brain function. However, the good news is that a diet of anti-oxidant rich foods will help prevent this damage.

Optimal function comes with an antioxidant rich diet

Foods high in anti-oxidants are predominately colourful plant foods and include:

  • herbs and spices such as basil, parsley, oregano, chillies, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, paprika, mustard and black pepper
  • nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, pistachios and flaxseed
  • fruits including all types of berries, kiwi fruit, sour cherries, plums, prunes, cranberries and pomegranates
  • veggies such as red cabbage, artichokes and spinach
  • important extras such as red wine, coffee, green and black tea and dark chocolate.

We can support our own antioxidant production too

We can support the production of glutathione and other antioxidants in our cells, by eating:

  • foods high in folates such as chick peas, beans, lentils and leafy greens
  • cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale and rocket which contain nutrients that instruct the DNA to increase the ability of the cells to make their own antioxidants
  • a wide variety of nutrient dense foods containing vitamins B6, B9, B12, Biotin, C, E and minerals.

We can also reduce oxidative damage

Lessening oxidative damage to our brains can be achieved through: 

  • reducing exposure to toxins such as pesticides, air pollutants and cigarette smoke
  • lowering alcohol intake
  • reducing stress.

Not all supplements are equal

Studies are showing that high quality supplements such as B12, B6 vitamins and folic acid, vitamin D, chromium picolinate and beta carotene can improve brain function, particularly in older adults.

However, you may like to reconsider vitamin E and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) as high levels could be harmful to the brain. Problems with supplement over-use for these are indicated in recent studies.

Ensure a good blood supply

Exercise and a heart-healthy diet^1  will promote blood flow to protect the brain. If motivation is a problem, then seek help to gradually build your stamina and strength, and establish a habit that’s easy to maintain. When we find something we enjoy, and do it with someone we like, we reap rewards for both body and brain.

A sharp mind enables us to enjoy more of life.

Dr. Helen Hudson, Retire & Flourish

  1. The Mediterranean diet is highly recommended for the heart and brain. It is abundant in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil, fish, herbs and spices.

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