If you're feeling drained and having trouble concentrating, your brain may be desperate for air. Oxygen is 10 times more essential to your brain than the rest of your body, according to the Franklin Institute. Getting sufficient oxygen to your brain, however, isn't enough for wellness. Oxygen called free radicals can harm your brain. A healthy diet, rich in certain foods, can help ensure positive levels of helpful oxygen, while staving off free radicals. Other important factors include healthy sleep habits and routine exercise.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables provide rich amounts of antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C. Because antioxidants are your brain's primary defense against free radicals, eating more fruits and vegetables can improve oxygen balance in your brain. The U.S. Department of Agriculture uses ORAC, or oxygen radical absorbance capacity, scores to rate the antioxidant properties of foods. Fruits and vegetables with particularly high ORAC scores include blueberries, black plums, raspberries, cherries, avocados, oranges, artichokes and asparagus. Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, and dried fruits, such as raisins, supply iron -- a mineral that allows oxygen transport throughout your body and brain.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are top providers of the antioxidant vitamin E. Because the brain utilizes so much oxygen and contains so much healthy fat, researchers believe that vitamin E may play an important role in reducing cognitive decline, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Eating more vitamin E-rich foods early on may help stave off dementia and other age-related neurological problems later on -- many of which have no known cures. Women require 15 milligrams of vitamin E daily. Most nuts and seeds, including peanuts, hazelnuts and almonds, provide over 2 milligrams per ounce. One ounce of sunflower seeds provides 7.4 milligrams.
Meats and Seafood
Low iron levels limit oxygen delivery to your brain and body cells, causing fatigue and poor work performance, says the ODS. Skimping on protein-rich foods -- prime iron sources -- raises your risk for iron deficiency. Meats and seafood contain a form of iron that is easier for your body to absorb than iron from plants. Women ages 19 to 50 require 18 milligrams of iron daily. Three ounces of chicken liver provide 11 milligrams. A three-ounce serving of clams or beef provides 5 to 6 milligrams. Tuna, white-meat poultry and crab provide moderate amounts.
Legumes, such as split peas, beans and lentils, provide valuable amounts of antioxidants and iron. To help your body better absorb plant-derived iron, pair legumes with vitamin C-rich foods, such as citrus fruits, leafy greens or tomatoes. One cup of boiled soybeans provides about 9 milligrams of iron. Other beans and lentils provide 4 to 6 milligrams per serving. Nutritious legume-based dishes include low-fat vegetarian chili, hummus and three-bean salad.
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com