What exactly are antioxidants?
Before discussing antioxidants, first you have to understand oxidants. We are constantly bombarded by negative elements, from pollution to chemicals to UV rays from the sun. These negative elements damage our cells. Even our own bodies produce stress hormones and toxic chemical reactions that weaken the molecules in our cells by causing them to lose an electron. These weakened cells are called free radicals, or oxidants.
Free radicals, or oxidants, in our blood vessels are often caused by eating deep-fried foods, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. They change the structure of the bad LDL cholesterol and make it easier for it to thicken our arteries and cause heart problems. Essentially, free radicals can damage any cells that get in their way. And damaged cells accelerate the aging process.
Antioxidants stop this damage. They replace the missing electron and do no damage to other molecules. This stops the free radicals and turns them back into fully functioning cells.
So, how do we get antioxidants into our body?
Antioxidants are found in many of the foods that we can readily find and generally already love to eat. Not just fruits and vegetables, but also wine, chocolate, and even beef contain antioxidants. By increasing certain foods in our diets, we also increase the antioxidant levels in our blood vessels and help work to repair the damage done by free radicals.
Instead of trying to out-eat the free radicals, scientists and researchers agree that there are seven nutrients that will give you the biggest impact of antioxidants.
Those seven are:
- Selenium: A trace mineral found in Brazil nuts, snapper, and shrimp.
- Vitamin E: Fights heart disease, boost immunity, and helps stop cell damage. It also helps reduce wrinkles on the face. The best food sources are sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanut butter.
- Vitamin C: Helps your body use vitamin E more efficiently. The best food sources are papaya and broccoli.
- Carotenoids: A pigment that protects your eyes and skin from sun damage. Best foods to get more carotenoids are carrots, butternut squash, and spinach.
- Isothiocyanates: Fight cancer-causing enzymes and can be found in broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower.
- Polyphenols: Reduces memory loss and can be found in dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content the better), red wine, tea, and coffee.
- Coenzyme Q10: Also known as CoQ10. It has been linked with preventing migraines, lowering blood pressure, and guarding brain cells. It can be found in lean beef, chicken breast, and all types of fish.
Antioxidants will not only reduce the signs of aging, but they help ensure a longer life, which is a happier life.