If you are nursing the desire of looking ‘forever young’ and disease free, then antioxidants may be of help!
Antioxidants are substances that protect body cells by preventing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the effect of damages caused to body cells by extremely reactive form of oxygen and other molecules called ‘free radicals’. Although some antioxidants are produced in the body, they are not sufficient to protect the body cells from these free radicals, so the body requires a wide range of antioxidant defenses which can only be gotten from foods. When the levels of antioxidants in the body are lower than that of free radicals, oxidative stress sets in, resulting in accelerated aging, damaged or mutated cells, broken-down tissue, the activation of harmful genes within DNA, and an overloaded immune system.
Antioxidants in food occur as both nutrients (Vitamin A, C, E, Carotenoids and Selenium, copper, manganese, zinc) and non nutrients substances (Carotenes, Lycopene and xanthophylls which are oxygen-containing derivatives such as zeazanthin and lutein). By preventing oxidative stress, anti-oxidants gives a lot of benefits that you won’t want to ignore!
1. Slows down the aging process
It has been discovered that free radicals in the body are responsible for general aging, and a lot of studies have found that people who consistently consume foods rich in antioxidants live longer and healthier. Antioxidants slow down this process of aging by removing free radicals before they can destroy important structure in the cell.
2. Good for your skin
Antioxidants such as vitamin A help to prevent damage to skin cells. Studies show that intake of foods rich in vitamin A and C decreases the appearance of wrinkles during aging and also prevents skin dryness.
3. Improves vision
Oxidative stress contributes greatly to the development of cataracts and age related disorders of the retina. Studies show food rich in beta-carotene, xanthophlls, vitamin C and Vitamin E may decrease the risk of eye related degeneration and improve vision.
4. Prevents neurodegenerative diseases
Oxidative stress caused by free radicals has been linked to death of nerve cells which results in neurodegenerative diseases, these diseases can cause significant cognitive and physical impairment and shortened lifespan, thereby causing a burden to society. Antioxidants like vitamin C and E play crucial role in optimal cell function and optimal intake of these nutrients has been associated with decreased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. A study featured in the Journal of Alzeihmer’s Diseases and other studies found that increased consumption of antioxidant-rich foods such berries is associated with better cognitive performance in elderly people.
5. Supports healthy immune system
Antioxidants such as selenium, vitamin A and C stimulate antibody production and defensive cells thereby boosting the body’s immune system. Also, the body’s immune system becomes less effective with age, and the unrepaired damage accumulates, antioxidants support the immune system during this aging period by defending the body against oxidative stress.
6. Reduces the risk of heart diseases and stroke
Fruits and vegetables are major dietary sources of natural antioxidants and have been discovered to lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those with high levels of vitamin C in their blood had almost a 50 percent decreased risk of stroke. Also many population studies have found that increased intake of vitamin E reduces the risk of heart diseases
7. Reduces the risk of cancers
Antioxidants such as carotenoids, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium prevent oxidative damage in the DNA which can lead to cancer and can also help in the treatments of several forms of cancer. Many studies indicate that inadequate intake carotenoid and other supporting antioxidants increases the risk of cancers of the lung, bladder, esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, prostate, and skin.
8. Slows down the rate of disease progression
Antioxidants help to prevent inflammation in people with gastrointestinal, chronic and autoimmune diseases, thereby playing a major role treating, preventing complications or slowing down the progression of the diseases.
Now to the next question in your mind, ‘What foods contain antioxidants?’
Foods rich in antioxidants include tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cabbage , leafy vegetables, berries, oranges, millets, brown rice, wheat, oats, beans, salmon, organ meats, such as liver and kidney, shellfish, garlic, ginger, onions, turmeric, cocoa, basil, clove, walnut, and peanut.
What about Supplements?
The best way of taking antioxidants is through diet; this is because certain supplements of antioxidants may be very harmful especially when taken in high doses. Antioxidants may be prescribed for patients having deficiencies but healthy individuals are advised to consume food rich in antioxidants.