A Simple tip to Age Gracefully
Scientists have found that the body forms unstable oxygen molecules, called free radicals; every cell produces tens of thousands of them each day. A free radical is basically an atom with an odd number of electrons in its outer ring. Since electrons have a very strong tendency to exist in a paired rather than an unpaired state, free radicals indiscriminately pick up electrons from other atoms, which in turn convert those other atoms into secondary free radicals, thus setting up a chain reaction, which can cause substantial biological damage. This, in short, is bad. There are also many kinds of free radicals, which we are exposed to everyday, for example, pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides.
Antioxidants are thought to neutralise and stabilise these free radicals.
What is an antioxidant?
An antioxidant is a chemical that reduces the rate of particular oxidation reactions in a specific context, where oxidation reactions are chemical reactions that involve the transfer of electrons from a substance to an oxidising agent.
Antioxidants are particularly important in the context of organic chemistry and biology: all living cells contain complex systems of antioxidant chemicals and/or enzymes to prevent chemical damage to the cells’ components by oxidation. The importance and complexity of antioxidants in biology is reflected in a medical literature of more than 142,000 scholarly articles.
A diet containing antioxidants from plants are required for good health since plants are an important source of organic antioxidant chemicals. Antioxidants are widely used as ingredients in dietary supplements that are used for health purposes such as preventing cancer and heart disease. However, while many studies have suggested benefits for antioxidant supplements, several large clinical trials have failed to clearly demonstrate a benefit for the formulations tested, and excess supplementation may be harmful.
Antioxidants are chemicals that reduce oxidative damage to cells and biochemicals. Researchers have found high correlation between oxidative damage and the occurrence of disease. For example, LDL oxidation is associated with cardiovascular disease. The process leading to atherogenesis, artherosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease is complex, involving multiple chemical pathways and networks, but the precursor is LDL oxidation by free radicals, resulting in inflammation and formation of plaques.
Research suggests that consumption of antioxidant-rich foods reduces damage to cells and biochemicals from free radicals. This may slow down, prevent, or even reverse certain diseases that result from cellular damage, and perhaps even slow down the natural aging process.
Since the discovery of vitamins, it has been recognized that antioxidants in the diet are essential for healthful lives. More recently, a large body of evidence has accumulated that suggests supplementation of the diet with various kinds of antioxidants can improve health and extend life.
Many nutraceutical and health food companies now sell forms of antioxidants as dietary supplement. These supplements may include specific antioxidant chemicals, like resveratrol (from grape seeds), combinations of antioxidants, like the “ACES” products that contain beta carotene (provitamin A), vitamin C, vitamin E and Selenium, or specialty herbs that are known to contain antioxidants such as green tea and jiaogulan.
So, which antioxidants are naturally found in which foods?
Vitamin E: a fat-soluble vitamin found in vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals. Some of the foods containing the highest amounts of vitamin E are wheat germ oil, almonds, sunflower seeds, sunflower oil, hazelnuts, peanuts, spinach, broccoli, kiwi and mango.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin involved in the metabolism of all cells. It protects vitamin A and essential fatty acids from oxidation in the body cells and prevents breakdown of body tissues.
Vitamin C: Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin present in citrus fruits and juices, cabbage, green peppers, broccoli, spinach, tomato, kale, guava, cantaloupe, kiwi, papaya, and strawberries.
It is important in forming collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, and helps maintain capillaries, bones, and teeth.
Beta-carotene: Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A. It is present in liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, and grains.
Studies have been done on beta-carotene’s effectiveness for heart disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, male infertility, and psoriasis.
Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10 boosts energy, enhances the immune system, and acts as an antioxidant. A growing body of research suggests that coenzyme Q10 may help prevent or treat some of the following conditions: heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and others. Primary dietary sources of CoQ10 include oily fish, organ meats such as liver, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, wheat germ and whole grains.
Selenium: Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but required only in small amounts. It helps synthesize antibodies; helps synthesize co-enzyme Q10and helps transport ions across cell membranes. The best sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, wheat germ, molasses, sunflower seeds, whole wheat bread and dairy foods.
You should note that there are many other antioxidants naturally found in foods. You should also note that the best way to take antioxidants is naturally, through fresh, vibrant food.
By now everyone knows the blueberry contains very high levels of antioxidants. But, don’t ignore all the other colorful foods out there loaded with antioxidants; some of them are probably sitting ignored in your cupboards.
What? What could possibly be higher in antioxidants than the beloved wild blueberry? Well, how about the small red bean? That’s right, bean!
The small red bean actually has more antioxidants per serving size than the wild blueberry. And the red kidney bean and pinto bean have more antioxidants per serving size than a serving of cultivated blueberries.
What other foods are high in antioxidants?
For starters, there are artichoke hearts, blackberries, prunes, pecans, spinach, kale, russet potatoes and plums. Russet potatoes are on the list of foods high in antioxidants.
The truth is, there are many common foods high in antioxidants and you should not just restrict yourself to one particular food source.
So, give your blueberries some company at the dinner table. Invite some beans, spinach, potatoes and artichoke hearts and enjoy your antioxidants!
The information presented here should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you need more information about Antioxidants, please consult your physician or a qualified specialist.