Our “brain & nervous system are made out of essential fats, protein and phospholipids, all of which can be damaged by oxidants” (1). Oxidation is a chemical reaction that produces free radicals (2). When we are in contact with free radicals they can cause damage to our cells, and our brain. The main sources of free radicals are smoking, pollution and fried food or trans fats.
Obviously you can avoid trans fats by choosing not to eat deep-fried food, donuts & chips, but it can be difficult to avoid oxidants from pollution. It’s better to take initiative, and protect yourself by eating more antioxidant-rich foods that are high in vitamin E, vitamin C and co-enzyme Q.
Here is a list of antioxidant-rich foods that you should be incorporating into your regular diet (1):
Beta-carotene: carrots, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, squash, watercress
Vitamin C: broccoli, peppers, kiwi, berries, tomatoes, citrus fruit, parsley
Vitamin E: seeds and their cold-pressed oils, wheatgerm, nuts, beans & fish (wild vs. farmed)
Selenium: oysters, Brazil nuts, seeds, molasses, tuna (once per week max.), mushrooms
Glutathione: tuna, nuts, seeds, legumes, garlic, onions
Anthocyanidins: berries, cherries, red grapes, beets, prunes
Lipoic acid: red meat (organic), potatoes, beets, spinach
Co-enzyme Q: sardines, mackerel, nuts, seeds, soy
Here’s a sample menu full of antioxidant-rich foods:
Breakfast: natural oatmeal topped with berries (raspberries, strawberries & blueberries) & wheatgerm
Lunch: spinach salad with carrots, peppers, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, and flax-oil dressing with a tuna whole wheat wrap
Snack: trail mix: brazil nuts, dried apricots (& any other nut/seed of your choice) OR raw carrots with hummus
Dinner: fish with fresh parsley & steamed broccoli
Dessert: red grapes
Try and incorporate at least 2 antioxidant-rich foods into your diet everyday!
1 Patrick Holford, “Optimum Nutrition for the Mind,” 2009, pg.78.