Updated: Jul 23, 2021
Most people don’t like the idea of getting old. Sure, it comes with its perks (think senior discounts at the coffee shop), but if given a choice most might find themselves singing to the tune of, “Forever young, I want to be forever young…
Antioxidants are essential in helping us live healthy and vibrant. They also help us age well. Without their help, constant wear and tear would cause our bodies to essentially “rust” from the inside out.
Certain lifestyles, habits, and choices can increase this “rusting” effect. Exposure to UV rays, pollution, smoking, drinking, and using drugs can all damage your cells and release more free radicals. This causes oxidative stress.
The more your body is exposed to these triggers, the more it takes a beating. Over time, you are more likely to develop diseases. And studies show that oxidative stress has been linked to arthritis, cancers, respiratory, heart disease, and more.
So what can you do?
Exercise is one way to help your body operate at the best level. Choosing healthy, antioxidant-rich foods is another great way to stay young as long as possible. Let’s look into what antioxidants are and where you can find them.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are chemical components that fight off free radical damage in your body. Your body goes through constant change - it turns old cells into new cells every day. This process often creates free radicals.
Think back to high school chemistry. You learned that your cells have two electrons per one atom. When your body goes through normal metabolic changes, one of the electrons breaks off. This “rogue” is now a free radical. It can bounce around against other cells and cause what is called oxidative stress. This imbalance between the forces of good and evil (or in this case, the balance between antioxidant activity and free radical damage) is why we age.
Different Types of Antioxidants
There are thousands of different antioxidants in the world. Scientists have broken them down into classes to better understand their functions. Some of the more commonly known antioxidants are:
Flavonoids: Over 4,000 known flavonoid antioxidants have been discovered to date. They help regulate cellular activity.
Beta-Carotene: Famous for its reddish-orange pigment, this antioxidant is found in plants and vegetables. Once consumed, it turns into vitamin A.
Lycopene: Another antioxidant sporting a red color, this chemical compound improves heart health. It can also lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Vitamin C: Also known as L-ascorbic acid. This is a water-soluble antioxidant that helps your body at the cellular level.
Vitamin E: This fat-soluble vitamin helps with brain, skin, vision, and reproduction health.
Zeaxanthin: This carotenoid helps protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
Alpha Lipoic Acid: This antioxidant helps to reduce inflammation in the body. It supports nerve health and slows the progression of some memory loss conditions.
Resveratrol: Part of the group Polyphenol, this plant compound acts as an antioxidant by protecting the body from foreign substance harm.
Glutathione: This is one of the only antioxidants produced in your body. It’s made in your liver and is part of many cellular processes.
These are just a few examples of the many antioxidants out there. So where can you find them?
Where Can I Find Antioxidants?
“Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food.” Hippocrates.
This old but famous quote clues us in on the fact that the food we eat is very important. And because most of the damage from oxidative stress happens inside of you, it’s no wonder that you need to combat that with healthy food. Fight fire with fire, as the saying goes.
Certain foods contain antioxidants that help you fight off disease and stay healthy. Some of the most popular varieties include:
Fruits: Blueberries, avocados, oranges, lemons, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, and cherries.
Vegetables: broccoli, radishes, spinach, carrots, collard greens, kale, lettuce, cabbage, asparagus, and artichokes.
Starches: potatoes, beetroot, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin
Meats: salmon and red meats have lots of nutrients that promote overall wellbeing.
Beverages: Green tea, coffee, red wine, and even lager style beers contain lots of antioxidants.
These are just a few of the many examples of antioxidants found in foods. Most of the foods that come from nature will have these powerful components in them, so eat up!
Supplements are also on the rise when it comes to meeting your daily antioxidant needs. Powdered, liquids, and capsules are the main forms of these types of supplements.
Facial creams and serums are also packed with antioxidants. Many of these products claim to help decrease the looks of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots. Not all live up to their claims, so do your research before you buy the latest beauty product.
Antioxidants are just a part of the puzzle to maintaining a long, healthy life. Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, starches and meats can help.
Exercise can also help because movement stimulates your lymphatic system. This helps to clean up waste and cellular debris.
Radiation and toxic lifestyles are big contributors to oxidative stress. Staying out of the sun, not smoking, not drinking heavily, and avoiding drugs minimizes oxidative stress.