Scientists once thought the brain had built-in protection against harmful toxins through its blood-brain barrier, as the name would suggest. Recently, however, study after study shows that the toxic industrial chemicals in the air we breathe, water we drink, or additives in our food, can cross the blood-brain barrier to gain access to the delicate brain.
The good news is that certain nutrients and phytochemicals found in foods can displace toxins’ access to the brain. Colourful fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, strawberries, and spinach, contain a category of flavonoids, called polyphenols. Polyphenols prevent oxidative damage in the brain. In one study, rats were fed extracts of blueberries, strawberries, and spinach for eight weeks, and the results found that these potent antioxidant foods reversed some effects of age-related brain decline.
Blueberries contain a group of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins. Proanthocyanidins have a unique capacity to protect both the watery and fatty parts of the brain against damage from some environmental toxins. Proanthocyanidins decrease free radical activity within and between brain cells. Blueberries appear to have some of the highest concentrations of these powerful antioxidants.
Dr. Egemen Savaskan at the University of Basel in Switzerland discovered that resveratrol found in grapes, grape juice, and red wine protects brain cells from beta-amyloid-induced oxidative damage by mopping up free radicals. Beta-amyloid plaque has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Tomatoes contain a powerful memory-boosting phytonutrient called lycopene. Researchers at the University of Kentucky studied a group of Catholic nuns. Those who consumed at least thirty milligrams of lycopene in their daily diets were 3.6 times more able to take care of themselves physically and had sharper memories than those who didn’t consume high amounts of lycopene.
Researchers found that a group of natural chemicals found in tea are called catechins have demonstrated promise as brain protectors. In another study, green tea extract was shown to protect animals from the effects of a serious neurotoxic (brain-damaging) agent.
When it comes to brain health, Mother Nature offers some of the greatest protection against pollutants in the environment and toxins in food. Boost your brain protection by eating more colourful fruits and vegetables, particularly: blueberries, strawberries, spinach, grapes, and tomatoes. And, don’t forget to enjoy a nice cup of green tea too.
Excerpted from The Brain Wash: A Powerful, All-Natural Program to Protect Your Brain Against Alzheimer’s, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Depression, Parkinson’s and Other Diseases by Michelle Schoffro Cook (John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2007) with permission of the author.
Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, ROHP, RNCP is a best-selling and six-time book author and doctor of natural medicine, whose works include: The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan. Learn more at: www.TheLifeForceDiet.com.