There is so much that we have learned in the previous twin year of 2020, isn’t it? And of all the lessons that we have piped in ourselves as we step on to this new year of 2021, the topmost learning that we all have come face-to-face, in reality, is that of the importance of health. It is very easy for us to say that let’s switch to living a healthier life, but not many know how exactly to step on to this journey and be consistent with it. Yes, there are a zillion companies out there that offer assistance or let’s say personalize assistance to lead a healthy life. But don’t you think it’s important for us to do our homework and know what baby steps that we take help us become healthier in this new year.
Staying active is no doubt a must if you want to step on to a healthy lifestyle however there is more than just those workouts that go into making your body healthy and fit inside out. It is the nutrition that we provide to a body that plays a much bigger role in making a body healthy. It’s just like a simple saying of you are what you eat! Our body is capable of making its nutrition from the food that we eat or it makes the required nutrition from the chemical reactions that happen inside our body. However, there are certain nutrients or vitamins that we need to feed our body with. And one such component of nutrition for our body is antioxidants. Antioxidants are known to play a major role in maintaining the good health of our body.
For those who don’t know antioxidants generally are the healthier components of foods that help in boosting the immune system of our body. For those who don’t know, about exactly what antioxidants do, how they work in our body, and what is the connection with brain health? Let’s read on to know more.
Antioxidants are nothing but certain compounds that are found in food sources. They play a very vital role in protecting the fats, vitamins, and enzymes present in our body. Antioxidants are natural substances that help in preventing or delaying any kind of damage that can occur to the human cell. Generally, it is brightly colored vegetables and fruits, especially the ones that form a part of the Mediterranean diet are known to be an excellent source of antioxidants. So, one can conclude that, in general, the brighter the color of the food you eat, the higher level of antioxidants are present in them. Certain examples of these are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
Breaking down of antioxidants
In general, antioxidants can be broken down into two different groups, they are:
- Flavonoids: These are the antioxidants that can be found easily in plants. Nearly 4000 flavonoids have been identified to date. Again, this group 2 can be broken down into seven different categories such as anthocyanidins (example: grapes, blueberries, and wine) and catechins (example: dark chocolate, tea, and cocoa), and many more such.
- Non-flavonoids: this group too can be further divided into three categories – plant pigments, vitamins, and minerals. Examples of plant pigments include carotenoids (example: vegetables and fruits that are orange in colors such as pumpkins and carrots) vitamin E and vitamin C form the main vitamin antioxidants. Selenium makes for a mineral antioxidant enzyme that is commonly found in eggs, fish, meat, grains, and Brazil nuts.
How are antioxidants work in our body?
Oxidation is nothing but a chemical process or a stress reaction that occurs everywhere in nature virtually and it involves the movement of one electron from one atom to another one. If you are talking about oxidative stress, then this is one condition that contributes to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. So this condition surfaces when a body is not able to detoxify the harmful end products of metabolism. We all know that metabolism is nothing but breaking down food into energy. For this process, oxygen is essential, however, during this process, there are dangerous buy products which you get produced and are known as free radicals. And as the human body ages, it becomes more efficient in getting rid of these free radicals, and this results in permanent damage to the cells of the body.
For example, memory loss is one of the outcomes of attacks by free radicals on our bodies. Now, to make this matter worse several factors are capable of speeding up the production of these free radicals, for example, excessive intake of alcohol, a diet that is high in trans fats or saturated fats, and smoking. There are several environmental sources including the pollution caused by us that helps free radicals in the body.
How antioxidants can boost brain health
Several studies show how antioxidants can help in counter reacting with the unstable molecules that constitute free radicals, in short, it counteracts the negative effects of oxidative stress. Some studies have discovered that antioxidants have the potential of reversing some of the symptoms of aging, including memory loss. The brain requires abundant oxygen to perform its activity which is very high metabolic. This ends up making the brain more vulnerable to an attack from free radicals when compared to any other part of the body. And we all know that when free radicals attack the brain, it results in severe memory loss.
Two particular types of flavonoids—luteolin and diosmin are known to reduce the damage caused by free radicals on our brain. Luteolin is found in tomatoes and green peppers whereas diosmin can be found in lemons. Studies have further shown how a flavonoid called anthocyanin which is found in red berries has the capability of decreasing any cardiovascular risk among humans. We all know that whatever is good for the heart, is excellent for the brain, therefore flavonoids are usually recommended by doctors when it comes to treating brain health related conditions.
Certain top-notch antioxidant foods are:
- Artichoke (boiled)
- Dark chocolate
- Citrus fruit
- Green tea
- Kidney beans
- Goji berries
- Turmeric and ginger
- Berries such as strawberries, raspberries, wild blackberries, blueberries, etc.
This is what studies have to say
There are quite several studies that have been carried out to understand the effects of cocoa powder flavonoids on reducing memory loss. Clinical research was carried out on the flavonoids from cocoa and was found that they inhibit the death of neurons that interfere with the brain’s function. So, they kill the neurons of free radicals. Also, some researchers state that the flavonoids present in chocolate and cocoa have the power to preserve cognitive abilities. We are trying to bring light to the antioxidant properties that flavonoids possess. But for them to reach the cells of a brain, they need to 1st be observed in our gut, and then it needs to be passed on through the BBB which is the blood-brain barrier. There is certain evidence that says some flavonoids such as “quercetin” found in onions pass through this barrier without any need for special transportation. Once these flavonoids are absorbed into the human blood and transported to the brain, the anti-oxidants begin their process of preventing any oxidative stress from occurring to the brain cells. This is especially very important among adults as the brain tends to virtually stop replacing any dying or dead neurons.
High levels of flavonoid consumption are known to be linked to lower blood pressure levels which directly translates to lower stress of contracting cardiovascular conditions I am – this is proven by some studies. If you are thinking about the long-term effects of eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants, it will improve your brain health by improving your cognitive abilities and also gives you more control over your mood. While there are a lot of studies in this regard, carrying out such studies requires a lot of effort and are simply very difficult to do, therefore, there is a lack of evidence in this. While increasing flavonoid-rich foods in your diet can improve your health, there is no definitive conclusion about its effects on our health and brain. But eating more colorful fruits and vegetables can never be harmful, can it?