Antioxidants are nutrients, non-nutrients and enzymes we ingest through vitamins, minerals and proteins to protect us against harmful effects caused by oxidation. When our bodies metabolize oxygen, the process creates free radicals. Our bodies are prepared to handle free radicals because they are part of our normal body functions. When free radicals become unstable, they cause oxidation and damage our cells. Antioxidants come to the rescue to prevent cell and DNA damage caused by oxidation.
Our cells need enzymes and oxygen to work properly. Any imbalance of antioxidants or oxidants cause what the medical industry refers to as oxidative stress. When our immune systems have difficulty fighting against bacteria, infection or inflammation, free radicals could be the cause for the disorder. The culprits can be pollutants in the air, the environment, food or lifestyle habits like smoking and lounging in the sun’s ultra-violet rays unprotected.
As we age, antioxidants become an important component in our diet—they can help to slow down degeneration and sometimes, reverse the damage caused by health conditions. Chronic diseases related to the harmful effects of oxidation are cancer, heart, stroke, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and arthritis.
Types of Antioxidants Found in Food
Antioxidants are available in manufactured supplements or natural food sources. Natural foods contain the highest level of antioxidants because these foods have a protective defense built into their structure. The National Institutes of Health has researched the advantage of natural forms of antioxidant making this statement.
“Vegetables and fruits are healthy foods and rich sources of antioxidants.
The three types of antioxidants found in natural foods are phytochemicals, vitamins and enzymes. The plant’s molecular development generates free radicals within its composition, creating a natural antioxidant. As we ingest the plant, our body adopts the antioxidant properties taking advantage of the plant’s value against oxidative stress. Not all antioxidants are nutrients; some are involved in metabolic processes that support good health.
As plants grow, they use phytochemicals to protect itself against oxidation. The reactions of phytochemicals help to repair and prevent damage to the plant. It can also protect us against diseases. Natural whole food such as grains, fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals- process or refined foods have much less. Your body relies on the presence of antioxidants, so including natural foods in your diet is a good idea. The easiest method of identifying antioxidant foods and vegetables is by color, but the scientific terms help to explain where the fit in the food chain.
- Blue and Purple – Anthocyanins Phenolic
- Green – Lutein Indoles Sulforaphane Isoflavones
- White – Allicin Lignans Isothiocyanate Isoflavones
- Yellow and Orange – Carotenoids Bioflavonoids
- Red – Anthocyanins Lycopene
Our bodies are limited to the production of vitamins. Therefore, we must consume them in our diet. Including these vitamins throughout our lives, promotes good health and prevents illnesses. Getting the right amount of antioxidants protect against the bad type of free radicals. A good diet keeps the good ones in place as our bodies convert food into energy.
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant, known for being a primary defender against oxidation. Translation – vitamin E reduces the oxygen in unstable molecules preventing cell damage. It is our protector for healthy blood vessels, skin conditions and membranes.
- Vitamin C is water-soluble antioxidant and acts as a cellular fluid. The most common defense is against pollution and cigarette smoke. It also protects against skin damage and helps with the absorption of iron.
- Vitamin A contributes to improving our immune system, eyes and tissue repair. It comes from carotene; converting about 60 percent into vitamin A as an antioxidant – when your body needs it.
Enzymes are in the proteins and minerals that we ingest daily. To do the best job as an antioxidant, enzymes need help from other minerals like iron, zinc and magnesium. The quality of protein affects the level and quality of an antioxidant’s ability. Enzymes speed up the chemical reactions without loss of the nutrients in our bodies. One example is how they break down the food we eat faster, so our bodies can function. One of these functions acts as an antioxidant.
What most people do not realize is the importance of enzymes. As we age, we naturally lose energy. One noted change is the inability to eat spicy foods and longer periods to recover from aches and pains. The main cause may be low enzymes. The condition starts a chain effect of other disorders.
11 Top List of Antioxidants Good for Anti-Aging Skin
Aging is a natural course of nature and overtime our skin loses its youthful attribute of elasticity. The truth of the matter is poor eating and lifestyle habits do speed up the aging process. Good diets balanced with antioxidants help to delay the process and sometimes; they can reverse the effects. What happens on the inside of our bodies does have an effect on the outside – our skin changes are biological.
Medical research and scientific studies have shown free radicals are responsible for cellular damage in the form of skin folds, wrinkles and creases. Antioxidants are the body’s protectors in fighting these deteriorating effects. As free radicals increase their numbers, they destruct cells and our DNA, triggering the unhealthy effects to our cells. For skin, excessive free radicals are the beginning of skin cell loss. It starts with our skin losing its ability to hold moisture and our body unable to restructure or repair the damage.
Today, skin care products contain antioxidants in over-the-counter creams and prescriptions for medicinal purposes. Like the antioxidants in foods, these products help your body to protect the skin cells and prevent further damage to your skin. The top antioxidants that continue to protect skin against free radical damage include:
- Eugenol is chemical extract found in cloves and shown to block DNA oxidation. As a fat-soluble antioxidant, it controls cholesterol levels prompting healthier blood circulation. Your skin is the benefactor when our blood systems are flowing – the function gives our skin a natural glow.
- Vitamin C works as an antioxidant, boosting collagen to reduce winkles and dryness from aging. It gives your skin the look of being supple and younger. When used in skin aging products, Vitamin C is effective when applied directly to the skin. Vitamin C is a major contributor when it comes to battling oxidation.
- Vitamin B3 is another powerful vitamin capable of slowing down the aging process and preventing pigmenting disorders. The niacin in B3 helps to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and improve the skin’s texture and tone. Deficiencies of B3 cause cracked or scaly skin.
- Vitamin E is an antioxidant that exists in vegetables, seeds and meats. Eating foods high in vitamin E works to prevent oxidation and stop the damages to our skin layers. The beauty market has products containing vitamin E- citing it is beneficial to improving the skin’s condition and the production of collagen.
- Anthocyanin is a type of flavonoid and responsible for the pigments in plants and fruits. They are involved with our body process that helps to defend viral and inflammatory conditions. The level of anthocyanin antioxidants is higher in cacao compared to wine and the combination of both offers some delicious health benefits. The grounded or chopped cacao beans become edible nibs. Further grinding produces the unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Catechins are a type of phenol and the antioxidant in teas. Green tea has the highest amount of antioxidants. Its healing and cleansing properties are well known. The antioxidants help to slow down the process of aging and when applied directly to the skin it can help to improve the texture. Green tea can also reduce the inflammation or infection caused by free radicals.
- Flavonoids are not nutrients like Vitamin C and E. They are more of a chemical involvement. The antioxidant values are higher when compared to Vitamin C or E alone. This capacity makes them an important component in our diet, because they help to remove unstable free radicals. The arrangement can improve the skin’s texture slowing down the aging process.
- Resveratrol is a polyphenol and found in fruits, nuts and red wine. The antioxidant protects the plant from disease. When you consume it, our bodies reap the benefits of these properties. It slows down the aging process of skin by inhibiting oxidative stress. Wine has a higher level of resveratrol than grape juice. It may be due to the method of process; wine uses the entire grape during fermenting. Grape juice processes only the meat of the grape. Some call it the fountain of youth due to it antioxidant properties.
- Polyphenols are potent antioxidants, found in the coffee cherry. They have a chemical effect protecting against common health conditions and aging. Coffee berry is a strong defense against free radicals. The ingredient protects against skin and collagen damage. Handlers of the berry, tend to have smoother and younger looking skin.
- Lycopene has carotenoids, a powerful antioxidant plentiful in red fruits. Take notice of the fruit skins, this antioxidant improves texture and promotes collagen. Another gain to our skin is the prevention of DNA damage, leading to wrinkles. You can find topical creams with lycopene because the skin easily absorbs it.
- Genistein can prevent injury to the skin from UV damage. It stimulates cell growth and restoration to the skin. As a reactive ingredient, it has the ability to enhance antioxidant enzymes in the skin. Another capacity of this antioxidant compared to other isoflavones, it has the highest capacity of an antioxidant value. Classified as a phytoestrogen, you can find it in soy. Studies have shown it can reverse molecular structures as an effective management treatment for age-related skin changes in women. Research went on to show that men consuming soy milk had better defenses against oxidative stress compared to the consumption of rice or cow milk.
10 Foods that are Rich in Antioxidants
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has its own method of comparing health values for antioxidants in food. Studies showed oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) measured the antioxidant capacity of foods. The results showed more than a fifteen percent increase in antioxidants in the blood after doubling daily the servings of fruits and vegetables listed.
The top fruits and vegetables per 100 grams or 3.5 ounces according to ORAC have the greatest capacity as an antioxidant. Eating frequent amounts of these foods daily makes a difference to your health.
1. Prunes are in the number one spot for a good reason. They are high in vitamin A and the beta-carotene content helps in preventing oxidation damage. A quarter cup daily equals over 20 percent of the daily need.
2. Raisins are dried grapes. They are a concentrated source of vitamins, electrolytes and minerals. Per 100 grams and 249 calories, you will find more fiber, minerals, and polyphenol antioxidants than a fresh grape.
3. Blueberries join the ranks of high antioxidant foods. The smaller size of wild blueberries does not affect the high level of antioxidant value compared to farmed blueberries. Dried blueberries like raisins have a higher concentration of antioxidants. Extracts make excellent supplements and are available in liquid and capsules.
4. Blackberries get the dark purple color from polyphenol antioxidants. One cup of blackberries delivers antioxidant micronutrients, Vitamin A, C, E, K, niacin and selenium. This berry has more carotenoid than other berries or currants with antioxidant properties.
5. Kale is a staple in some parts of the world supporting the body’s detoxification system. The nutrient values include vitamin A, C and K. As an antioxidant, it has beta-carotene and lutein.
6. Spinach is high in polyphenol and found effective in reducing the risk of oxidative stress. The beta-carotene and lutein add to the effectiveness of spinach as an antioxidant. According to the studies, spinach has more antioxidant value than other fruits and vegetables.
7. Strawberries may be the most consumed fruit among some cultures. Vitamin C and manganese encourage the production of antioxidants. Its power as an antioxidant is unlike other foods—you can eat as much as you like and not lose any of the health benefits.
8. Raspberries contain Vitamin C and anthocyanins that have proven to be a good defense against disease. Over 50 percent of the antioxidant in this berry is due to ellagitannins. It converts into ellagic acid much like beta-carotene converts into vitamin A.
9. Brussels sprouts have plenty of antioxidants and nutrients with a high volume of protein for a vegetable. Vitamin C and K help to fight oxidative stress and keep your immunity system functioning against bacteria, toxins and viruses.
10. Alfalfa sprouts are raw vegetables offering protein, fiber and the Vitamin C antioxidant. Sprouts grown under hygienic conditions are healthier. When grown in uncontrolled environments they can taste bad. The taste comes from the sprouts potential of having salmonella or E.coli bacteria.
The ideal diet provides enough antioxidants from whole foods. Sometimes, individual allergies or medication reactions to foods require eating different nutrients or increasing dietary supplements.
It is always a good idea to talk with your doctor before adding supplements or changes to your diet.
You can see these antioxidants exist in a variety of foods. The amounts vary depending on the food categories. The effects of each antioxidant will change depending on the chemical conversions taking place in the body.
Something to keep in mind, medical surveys, holistic studies and scientific research has shown evidence of health improvements and anti-aging benefits of antioxidants. Although the human body has similarities in functions, as individuals our choice of lifestyles play a major role in the level of damage that occurs to our body and the capacity of restoration to our health.
It is impossible to avoid the damage caused by free radicals. As we go about our normal activities like breathing, eating and exercising, free radicals generate in our body. When we catch a cold or exposed to illnesses, our bodies go into defense mode to eliminate any unstable molecules looking to take advantage of a weak immune system. Consuming antioxidants can help in the cellular repair. You should consider a combination of the listed antioxidant sources to support the processes in our bodies that prevent disease and metabolic malfunctions.
Along with the daily recommended dietary nutrition, using the ORAC method to measure the capacity of food to destroy free radicals may help to slow and prevent the process of oxidation. Just keep everything in moderation for the best results.
Studies used a sampling test to determine the doses of antioxidants consumed by the U.S. population. Findings reported on average Americans consumed 12.5 milligrams per day of anthocyanins from fruits and vegetables. This converts into less than an ounce. We should be eating at least one and a half to two cups of fruits a day and two to three cups of vegetables a day.
- Tip of the day – eat more fruits and vegetables daily.
Always talk with your doctor when making changes to your diet or medications. If you are working out be sure to talk with your trainer or dietician to select the best antioxidant foods for your body. You need to understand the effects of what goes into your body to stay healthy.
When it comes to antioxidants, we know these foods are good for us – the hard part is eating them regularly to take advantage of the health benefits they offer.
What are Free Radicals
Bad environmental elements smoke tobacco and radiation UV rays from the sun or tanning beds produce free radicals. When your body breaks down food using the oxygen we breathe, it generates free radicals. As the oxygen enters our bloodstream, our bodies use most of it to produce energy. The remaining portion of oxygen enters into a free radical reaction causing problems. This second process is called reactive oxygen species. It is the most dangerous form of free radicals. When our bodies have an excess of free radicals they begin to kill healthy cells leading to serious health conditions and physical changes.
From the science side, the attention of free radicals is focused on chemistry. The studies monitor the balance between free radicals and antioxidants as necessities for proper body functions. Over the years, the research involved finding an effective combination of natural resources to help the body regulate the prevention of unstable free radicals. The advent of supplements and dietary antioxidants as daily foods has become the choice for managing diseases caused by oxidative stress.
How Free Radicals are Formed In Your Body
Metabolic process is about keeping balance because we need free radicals to help neutralize harmful viruses and bacteria. The problems occur when there is an excess of free radicals and our bodies lack the antioxidants to counterbalance them. As we age our body functions get slower, immune systems weaken and diet deficiencies allow free radicals to multiple.
Without getting into the structure of atoms and molecules, free radicals are chemically charged molecules. They are unstable and looking to destroy stable molecules by stealing electrons. When the stable molecule loses its electron it becomes a free radical and the chain of events begin to take place. Stopping the process in mid-stream is difficult without the right amount of antioxidants—the living cell soon becomes a casualty.
Think about fruit that sits on your countertop for days. Eventually, the cellular composition of the fruit breaks down and it begins to decay. This is an example of what happens in our body without antioxidants. They are critical to our health and have the ability to stop the pre-oxidation by preventing cell and tissue damage that potentially turns into disease or premature aging.
Bottom-line, our immune systems benefit from a diet consisting of fruits, herbs, vegetables and supplements containing antioxidants. Although some have higher amounts, combined they all provide the necessary nutrients and compounds to stay healthy.
What Are the Diseases Caused By Free Radicals
The study of free radicals has been ongoing for the past 50 years. In the last 20 years, continued study and research reveal major findings linking free radicals to disease and the effects of antioxidants in prevention against these diseases.
Knowing more about free radicals give us a better understanding of our cell injuries and destruction related to our bodies. Further research concludes free radicals are highly reactive and directly linked to the aging process. The health concerns focus on the increasing number of illnesses accelerating due to free radical formations. The clinical disorders range from minor to severe and life-threatening.
Medical practitioners see the patterns in chronic diseases and the presence of free radicals as secondary sources of cellular injury in chronic inflammation along with unhealthy conditions to the central nervous system. The circumstances have prompted more studies expanding the areas of health and nutritional education about the prevention and treatment of these disorders using antioxidant therapy.
Simply living our lives presents a potential threat of free radical generations that are highly toxic and dangerous to our health. They can permanently damage cells causing serious health conditions. Diseases connected to the lack of antioxidants and the existence of free radicals includes:
- Heart disease, stroke
- Brain disorders
- Eye disorders
- Macular degeneration
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Skin disorders
- Lung disorders
- Inflammatory disorders
- Oxygen toxicity
- Nutritional deficiencies
The best way to get our daily doses of antioxidant foods is to include them in our diet. Follow your favorite colors – deeper and darker colors are richer in antioxidant values. The easiest ones to eat are the berries loaded with vitamins, nutrients and fiber. We have heard it during most of our lives – eat your vegetables and fruits. Now you know why these foods are necessary to maintain a healthier lifecycle. These foods help to keep our body strong through activities of childhood, the discovery of being a young adult or aging gracefully.