Antioxidants: Aging and the C Word

fresh blueberries

We all know that antioxidants are good for us but we may not  understand how they work, all their benefits or where to get them. Oxidation (think rust or deterioration) is a chemical reaction that produces free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable and can lead to damaged cells (like a rusted out car). An antioxidant is a molecule that prevents or delays cell damage (like a rust proofing sealant) AND doubles as an anti-inflammatory. Still with me?

The bad news is that free radicals can lead to premature aging, damaged cells, broken down tissue, activation of harmful and cancer causing genes and an overloaded immune system.

So what can we do to prevent our bodies from "rusting" out? We can limit or avoid free radicals. This means processed food, medication, high exposure to chemicals, stress, sun exposure and smoking.

We can also remove the free radicals from our bodies by consuming antioxidants in superfoods. This means purple, red or blue grapes, or red wine (hooray!), wild blueberries, goji berries, dark chocolate, pecans, artichokes, kidney beans, cranberries, blackberries, cilantro, tomatoes, carrots, pumpkin, kale, broccoli, squash, wild salmon and green tea. If you're doing your own seasoning, use clove, cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, cumin, parsley, basil, ginger, thyme, garlic and cayenne. Basic guidelines recommend 3-4 or more servings a day.

The benefits of consuming these foods include slower signs of aging in the skin, eyes, tissue, joints, heart and brain, glowing skin, reduced cancer risk, longer life span, protection against heart disease and stroke, reduced risk for dementia, vision loss and cataracts. 

Antioxidant supplements do not provide all these benefits and none of them help you live longer. Your diet and lifestyle are the most important - don't rely on supplements. To supplement is to add extra to something.

And if that's not enough, researchers are currently finding that many health problems are linked to inflammation (heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis, etc). Which leads me right back to antioxidants. 

So enjoy your red wine and dark chocolate (in moderation) and eat a variety of whole foods to delay the signs of aging and to reduce your cancer risk.

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