There are many excellent reasons to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and one of the best is for their antioxidants. Antioxidants slow down the aging process in your brain and body by binding to damaging free radicals, rendering them harmless.
A CNN article reported that antioxidants are so good at saving you from damage by these “bad guys,” they should be called “your body’s very own James Bond!”
Free Radicals — the “Bad Guys”
Free radicals are unattached oxygen molecules that attack your cells much in the same way that rust attacks metal. They trigger inflammation which is a major cause of aging. They even attack your cells down to the level of their DNA.
Free radicals are caused by exposure to everyday occurrences such as stress, lack of sleep, grilled meat, fried food, air pollution, and radiation from your cell phone and computer.
They are even caused by oxygen in the very air you breathe or as a byproduct of exercise! Your brain uses a lot of oxygen – about 1/5 of all that you take in. This makes your brain particularly susceptible to free radical damage, also referred to as oxidative damage.
This 2 minute video with Dr. Jonny Bowden does an excellent job of explaining free radicals and how they cause oxidative damage inside our bodies. His colorful analogies should make it easy for you remember the process!
Free Radical Damage You Can See
We’ve all seen foods like apples or avocados turn brown shortly after being cut open. This is due to the oxygen in the air causing oxidative damage.
You probably know that rubbing them with a little lemon juice will keep them from turning brown. But you may not have realized that this works because the antioxidants in the lemon juice stop free radical damage caused by oxygen. This is basically the same process that is going on continually inside your body.
If you have wrinkles, age spots, or sun damage on your skin, you have visible free radical damage. The same process is going on inside your brain.
In this picture of an apple, lemon juice was used to keep one half of the apple from turning brown by supplying antioxidants. While lemon juice won’t keep an apple fresh forever, it definitely slows down the spoiling process. This is exactly why you need plenty of antioxidants.
Antioxidants slow down the cellular aging process by binding to free radicals, rendering them harmless.
So where do you get antioxidants to protect your cells from this damaging process?
Antioxidant Values of Foods
You get antioxidants from eating a diet high in plant-based foods. Below is a chart of the highest antioxidant foods by their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) score. This is a measurement of an antioxidant’s ability to neutralize free radicals.
You can see that many of these foods are either beans or berries. It’s no coincidence that they are among the top brain foods. It’s largely their antioxidant properties that make them so good for your brain.
An Antioxidant-Rich Diet
Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables. The Harvard School of Public Health says we need a minimum of 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. (1) If you don’t consume adequate antioxidants day in and day out, free radicals are winning the battle against aging going on in your body.
Below is a great visual of the different kinds of antioxidants we need and where they are found in our diet.
Some of these have gotten a lot of media attention so you may be familiar them — berries (for anthocyanins), oranges (for vitamin C), green tea (for flavonoids), carrots (for beta carotene), and tomatoes (for lycopene), but there may be others you aren’t familiar with such as cryptoxanthins or zoochemicals.
Can You Get Enough Antioxidants from Food?
Even if you eat a diet rich in the foods shown above, do you get enough antioxidants from these foods to slow down the aging process? You may be surprised.
The latest research shows that once plants are picked, they’re not really dead. They continue to respire, and burn up their nutrients and antioxidants by the hour. Many of the healthiest plants, like broccoli, kale and spinach, lose half of their antioxidants within 2-3 days after harvest. (2)
It takes on average seven weeks for broccoli to make it from harvest to the supermarket. So you can see that unless you are growing your own or getting it freshly picked from a farmer, the nutrient content of your food is a fraction of what it was before harvesting.
I don’t believe in leaving adequate nutrition to chance. Anyone who wants to fend off aging — no matter how healthy their diet is — should consider antioxidant supplementation, especially if:
- You are concerned about premature aging of your brain and your body.
- You aren’t eating the recommended 9 servings of fruits and vegetables.
- You buy your produce at the supermarket rather than from farmer’s markets or growing your own.
- You have signs of chronic inflammation — joint pain, arthritis, allergies, or other inflammatory conditions.
- You have other health conditions such as immune problems, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, or cancer which increase your need for additional antioxidants.
- You exercise vigorously or are under stress, both of which increase your need for antioxidants.
An Antioxidant Supplement for Your Brain
It’s not always possible to get enough antioxidants from your diet alone.
There are two major benefits a good antioxidant supplement can provide that your diet never will:
- It will contain antioxidants from the best antioxidant sources, which often are foods you probably don’t eat every day.
- It will contain highly concentrated extracts to give you more antioxidants than you could possibly get from your diet.
Wellness Resources Brain Protector is our top pick antioxidant supplement.
Unlike most antioxidant supplements, this one is specifically designed to counter free radical damage in your brain. It contains concentrated extracts from a wide variety of berries including blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and cranberries, along with grape and pomegranate extracts.
I plan to fight aging — of both my body and my brain — every way I can. How about you?