7 Best Antioxidants for Brain Health: Foods That Can Unlock the Blood-Brain Barrier

October 28, 2023 6 mins to read

I’ve always been interested in nutritional psychiatry and the profound impact nutrition has on brain function/cognition. Proper nutrition can improve memory and even raise IQ significantly. The brain has a protective layer called the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), while it is good that it protects our precious brain, it also makes it difficult for us to get in nutrients to support it’s function. In this article, I want to share 7 powerful antioxidants capable of crossing the mysterious Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB), where they can benefit our brain health by reducing oxidative stress and free-radical damage.

7 Best Antioxidants Video


7 powerful Brain 🧠 Health 💪 supplements that can Cross the blood-brain barrier 🚧 (BBB). Stay till the end for a bonus – my top #1 favorite brain and energy booster 😁. #brainhealth #bloodbrainbarrier #cognitive #holisticnutrition #nutritiontips #fyp #greenscreen

♬ original sound – JDNutrition

What is the Blood-Brain Barrier?

Imagine the BBB as your brains security system. Its primary job is to protect our brain from potentially harmful substances. But like with any security system, there are keys or codes to disable the security to gain entry. And these antioxidant-rich supplements have the security codes to your brains BBB security system.

1. Blueberries

Why are blueberries considered ‘superfoods’? Well they’re packed with flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that are great at reducing free-radical damage to brain cells, helping support our memory and boosting cognitive function. So next time you enjoy a blueberry smoothie, know you’re treating your brain too! Oh and add some healthy fats with some organic flax seed powder (pro tip!) because your brain loves those too.

2. Turmeric

From the treasure chest of Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric combined with black pepper packs a powerful punch. The key ingredient, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that effortlessly crosses the brains BBB security system – these two properties make it powerful to slow brain aging. While the black pepper works together with the curcumin to enhance it’s absorption by your body.

3. Green Tea

From the wisdom of Chinese medicine, green tea (especially matcha green tea) contains an anti-oxidant compounds called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), with a range of health benefits. In particular, this compound can cross the BBB and ensure brain cells get an extra layer of protection from damage. EGCG may also contain anti-cancer properties. It’s also a great alternative to coffee (add in the ingredient from my Bonus #8 brain booster below).

4. Dark Chocolate

Probably my personal favorite, dark chocolate! Look for 70%-80% cacao content, as it contains more of the antioxidant flavanols, which are powerful at enhancing brain circulation. Avoid chocolate bars with aluminum foil wrappers and opt for plastic instead. Aluminum is well studied for how toxic it is to brain cells, and for it’s role in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Also try to contact your favorite brand by finding their phone number on the brand website or product packaging to find one that tests for heavy metals, as dark chocolate and cacao can be contaminated with heavy metals, which are also quite toxic for the body.

5. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba has been used in traditional medicine for ages, and is well studied for it’s brain boosting properties including it’s ability to combat free-radicals, which can damage brain tissue. If you are on medications make sure you check this one with your pharmacist or doctor, as it can potentially react with a number of medications.

6. Ashwagandha

Another herb from Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha, is a powerful adaptogen, and has been studied for its potential to reduce brain cell damage and boost memory. So if you want to improve your memory, consider adding this herb to your diet.

7. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

This is probably one of the most well known/popular supplements for brain health, Lion’s Mane – commonly used in Chinese medicine, research has shown promise for it’s ability to promote nerve growth and support over all brain health. The two brands I trust are Host Defense by Paul Staments and Real Mushroom (both on amazon). Personally I like to add a bit to my (decaf) coffee in the morning., but capsules are also available.

Bonus #8

Lastly, my personal favorite, MCT Oil, Is quickly processed in our liver to produce ketones, these compounds act as alternative brain fuel. They easily cross the BBB, providing essential energy to those precious brain cells, which can help reduce brain cell death, especially if there is any insulin resistance present…which can be a big part of of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia and can potentially help reduce risk of them. Brain cells need to be protected, because largely they can’t regenerate as other cells in your body.


Our brain is a magnificent organ, and is as delicate as it is precious. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it offers a few good foods you can add to your fridge to help keep your brain in tip top shape. Knowledge is power, and I’m here to ensure you’re empowered every step of your health journey! Stay curious and as always, stay healthy!

Brain Surgery or Physical Trauma?

If you are getting a brain operation or have any sort of brain trauma, the sooner you get on a nutritional plan to support your recovery the more that it can do and the better your results in recovering. Book an appointment as my patient, because I can help provide a nutritional foundation for your recovery.


  1. Blueberries: Krikorian et al. (2010) in the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” showed that blueberries can improve memory in older adults, likely due to their flavonoid content.
  2. Turmeric: Small et al. (2018) in the “American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” found that curcumin improves memory and mood in people with mild, age-related memory loss.
  3. Green Tea: Weinreb et al. (2004) in the “Journal of Neurochemistry” demonstrated that green tea antioxidants provide neuroprotection.
  4. Dark Chocolate: Sorond et al. (2008) in the “Hypertension” journal found that cocoa flavanols improve cognition and cerebral blood flow.
  5. Ginkgo Biloba: DeKosky et al. (2008) in “JAMA” explored Ginkgo Biloba’s effects on dementia, highlighting its brain-protective properties.
  6. Ashwagandha: Choudhary et al. (2017) in the “Journal of Dietary Supplements” showed that ashwagandha improves cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy adults.
  7. Lion’s Mane Mushroom: Mori et al. (2009) in “Phytotherapy Research” demonstrated its potential in stimulating nerve growth and enhancing cognitive function.
  8. MCT Oil: Courchesne-Loyer et al. (2016) in “The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease” suggested that ketones from MCT oil could be an alternative fuel source for the brain, particularly beneficial in Alzheimer’s.


Remember, it’s always wise to have a chat with a healthcare professional first, especially is you have health conditions, or are on medications, are pregnant or breastfeeding. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. You can however book an appointment as my patient, and I can design a plan tailored just for you, to ensure you achieve all your health goals, including a better functioning brain!

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