You’ve probably heard about free radicals (which sound pretty dangerous, right?) and antioxidants, but have you ever stopped to consider the battle they’re fighting inside your body? And have you thought about what the relationship really is between antioxidants and aging?
What’s the Deal with Free Radicals and Antioxidants?
In short, your body goes through a very precise process of energy metabolism involving molecules and electrons. When stray high-energy electrons leak out and are scooped up by oxygen in your cells, the oxygen becomes unstable and highly reactive and is known as a free radical. When free radicals come into contact with DNA, they can cause cellular damage, which contributes to aging – and can lead to a wide range of diseases.
As explained in a nutshell by Earl Stadtman, former chief of the Laboratory of Biochemistry at the National Heart Institute, “Aging is a disease. The human lifespan simply reflects the level of free radical damage that accumulates in cells. When enough damage accumulates, cells can’t survive properly anymore and they just give up.”
Now, not all free radicals are bad, and your body relies on some free radicals for cell regeneration. As with most things in life, it’s about balance. And this is where antioxidants come in. You can balance out the number of these reactive free radicals roaming around in your body by consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants. This slows down oxidative stress, keeping you healthier and younger from the inside out.
What are the Best Sources of Antioxidants?
No surprise here – your best source of antioxidants comes from the plant kingdom. So eat your fruits and vegetables (skin and all). Whole foods provide a balance of different types of antioxidants. The more varied your diet of fruits and vegetables, the better.
Here’s a simple (but not all-inclusive) list of some of the fruits and vegetables that pack a high antioxidant punch:
blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, spinach, oranges, beans, blackberries, kale, cranberries, pecans, walnuts, artichokes, red cabbage, beets, grapes, prunes, acai berries, Goji berries, plums, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, and cherries
Another great source of antioxidants is spices and herbs. By adding a dash of cinnamon or oregano to your favorite meal, you are upping your antioxidant intake.
And yes, dark chocolate belongs on the list too. Dark chocolate is loaded with polyphenols and flavanols, which are high in antioxidant activity. Just be aware of the sugar and fat content, and limit your intake to a maximum of an ounce per day.
As a society, we spend so much money on products and services to reverse the signs of aging, from creams to serums to powders and even plastic surgery. Maybe the answer is a little simpler than we realize. Fruits and vegetables can help prevent damage from happening in the first place. The relationship between antioxidants and aging is pretty strong. In this battle, I’m going with antioxidants for the win!
Alison Jones is one of Merritt Clubs’ Health and Life Coaches. If you would like to schedule a session with Alison, or are interested in additional information about our Nutrition & Wellness services, please reach out to Sherri Lively at email@example.com.