Central nervous system diseases are major health issues and are often associated with disability
or death. Most central nervous system disorders are characterized by high levels of oxidative stress.
Nuclear factor erythroid 2 related factor (Nrf2) is known for its ability to regulate the expression of a
series of enzymes with antioxidative, prosurvival, and detoxification effects. Under basal conditions,
Nrf2 forms a complex with Kelch-like ECH associated protein 1, leading to Nrf2 inactivation via ubiquitination
and degradation. However, following exposure of Keap1 to oxidative stress, Nrf2 is released
from Keap1, activated, and translocated into the nucleus. Upon nuclear entry, Nrf2 binds to antioxidant
response elements (ARE), thereby inducing the expression of genes such as glutathione s-transferase,
heme oxygenase 1, and NADPH quinine oxidoreductase 1. Many dietary phytochemicals have been reported
to activate the protective Nrf2/ARE pathway. Here, we review the preventive and protective effects
of dietary Nrf2 activators against CNS diseases, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s
disease, and Parkinson’s disease.