Aging Well: 5 Antioxidants You Should Know About
Aging Well: do you ever look in the mirror and wonder, “What happened?” What happened is that you grew up and matured! Although you may want to look old enough to know what you’re doing, you most likely also want to look young enough to still be able to do it!
But how can you slow down the clock?
One of the critical keys to aging well is getting plenty of antioxidants. Surely you’ve heard that antioxidants are good for your health. But why, exactly, are they so important? And how do they help slow the aging process?
Antioxidants have the ability to neutralize free radicals. Studies indicate that the damage caused by free radicals can cause major diseases, including cancer, as well as contribute significantly to the aging process. So antioxidants help protect you from disease and slow down the effects of aging.
Here are some essential antioxidants and where you can find them:
1. Vitamin C. This is a very important antioxidant, and perhaps the best known for its deficiency disease, scurvy.
- Vitamin C is also essential for collagen production in the building of skin, blood vessels, and cartilage. It has been shown to protect against heart disease, stress, and cancers. Some studies suggest vitamin C deficiency contributes to atherosclerosis.
- While most animals can synthesize their own vitamin C, humans cannot.
- Foods that are very high in vitamin C include red and green hot chili peppers, guavas, bell peppers, oranges, tangerines, kiwi, papaya, and strawberries.
2. Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol). Alpha-tocopherolis the most active form of vitamin E in humans. It primarily protects cell membranes by neutralizing the process where free radicals oxidize the cell membrane.
- Vitamin E is also associated with a decreased risk for prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
- This vitamin is found in high amounts in wheat germ oil, sunflower, and safflower oils. Other sources include almonds, olives, boiled spinach, and papaya.
3. Zinc. Zinc is important to over 200 enzymes, in the healing of wounds and sores, the formation of bone tissue, the production of proteins, the regulation of insulin, and carbohydrate metabolism.
- The antioxidant effects of zinc are believed to protect the skin and muscles against accelerated aging processes.
Approximately 2 billion people are deficient in zinc; studies indicate that this may contribute to the death of 800,000 children each year.
- Some foods high in zinc include oysters, wheat germ, liver, beans, sesame seeds, beef, and dark chocolate.
4. Carnosine. Found primarily in brain and muscle tissue, carnosine inhibits glycation, which is an uncontrolled reaction between a sugar and a protein or fat molecule. Glycation is believed to be a contributor to the aging process.
- Carnosine also has an action similar to vitamin E and prevents free radical processes in cell membranes.
- The sources with the highest levels of carnosine include beef, pork, chicken, fish, and dairy.
5. Flavonoids. These have a general antioxidant activity and are believed to be one of the reasons fruits, vegetables, wine, and tea have a positive effect on the body.
- Several studies suggest flavonoids can have a preventative action for cancers and cardiovascular disease. It’s believed they also are anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.
- Over 3,000 flavonoids have been identified so far.
- These chemicals are another excellent reason to eat your fruits and vegetables.
- Flavonoids are even found in coffee and beer.
Antioxidants have a crucial role in the human body, minimizing oxidative stress and damage, which is implicated in many diseases and the aging process. Ensuring you have a sufficient (but not excessive) intake is beneficial to your health.
A good rule to follow is to include one or more foods at each meal that include antioxidants. Just like your mom always told you, eat your fruits and vegetables!