Molecules that inhibit the oxidation of other molecules are called antioxidants. Nutrients naturally circulate in your body because of their antioxidant properties. Your body also creates antioxidant enzymes to fight free radicals, dangerous molecules that harm healthy cells. The body only produces certain antioxidants, and this production decreases as you get older. Antioxidants benefits include anti-aging protection, as they destroy the free radicals that damage cells and result in premature aging, inflammation and various diseases, including cancer. Here’s what you need to know about antioxidants benefits and how they impact your health.
Antioxidants Fight Free Radicals to Keep You Healthy
All antioxidants protect against free radicals with varying degrees of potency. Free radicals may harm you when you’re exposed to pollution, cigarette smoke or radiation, when the body breaks down certain medications and as a result of daily processes in your body, such as the breakdown of sugars to provide energy.
Antioxidants in food (and in certain supplements) help battle free radicals. Most of the foods we eat each day contain antioxidants, though some foods have more than others. You can take advantage of antioxidants benefits by consuming foods high in Vitamins A and C or the minerals selenium and zinc, among others. By eating a healthy diet, you can keep the effects of free radicals to a minimum and look and feel younger.
Anti-Inflammatory Properties Rank High on the List of Antioxidants Benefits
You’re exposed to thousands of germs and bacteria every day, and they can cause colds, the flu or more serious illnesses if your immune system is weak. A diet rich in antioxidants can strengthen your immune system, prevent infection, and even guard against cancer. As we age, your immune system naturally loses power, and it becomes even more important to eat foods with antioxidants benefits.
Foods with antioxidant Vitamin C boost production of antibodies and white blood cells. Its antibacterial properties helps heal wounds and fight infection, and it’s easy to get the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C (60 mg) through fruits and vegetables. Higher dosages of Vitamin C are available in supplement form and provide extra antioxidant power against colds and chronic illnesses.
Vitamin E helps produce cancer-fighting cells and B-cells, which destroy bacteria. This antioxidant vitamin may also reverse the decline in immunity common as we age. Research by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that nurses who took Vitamin E supplements reduced their chance of heart attack by 50%.
Some carotenoids, colorful plant pigments found in fruits and vegetables, are turned into Vitamin A in the body. They are powerful antioxidants that prevent some types of heart disease and cancer. Beta-carotene and lycopene are two of the most valuable carotenoids, although all of them have anti-inflammatory properties. Alpha- and gamma-carotene, cryptoxanthin, lycopene and lutein aren’t converted into Vitamin A, but they have strong anti-cancer properties.
Antioxidants May Help Control Blood Sugar for Some Diabetes
Research indicates that pomegranate juice antioxidants benefit diabetics by controlling blood sugar and improving beta cell function in the pancreas. This probably occurs because the high amount of antioxidants in the juice relieve oxidative stress from free radicals. Antioxidants known as ellagitannin compounds are responsible for pomegranate juice’s health benefits, according to scientists. 1
Antioxidants Give You Younger-Looking Skin
The antioxidants benefits for skin include less inflammation and protection from skin cancer and sun damage. A diet rich in Vitamin A, zinc, selenium, flavonoids and B-complex vitamins will keep skin moist and prevent wrinkles, creating a more youthful appearance.
Green tea and cocoa contain flavonoids that may keep skin healthy. Green tea has anti-inflammatory agents to protect skin from cancer, in addition to its other health benefits, including reduced appetite and more energy. Women who applied green tea extract to their skin in a study experienced fewer ill effects from sunlight exposure than participants who didn’t use the extract.
A study cited in the Journal of Nutrition showed that women who drank hot cocoa with a high flavonoid content had softer, smoother skin after 3 months than women who drank cocoa with a lower flavonoid content.
Eating foods rich in selenium and Vitamin can protect your skin against UV ray damage and may even reverse some of the effects of aging. The antioxidants in Vitamin C and selenium speed up your skin’s natural repair mechanism.
Antioxidant Benefits of Some High-Value Foods
When mentioning foods high in antioxidants, most people think of fruits and vegetables. While fruits and veggies do have high levels of antioxidant benefits, beans are at the top of the list, with pecans close behind. Pinto, kidney, black and red beans do a lot more than aid digestion – they have a higher antioxidant value than most fruits or vegetables.
Red beans rank near the top of the list of antioxidant-rich foods with an ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) of 13,727 for a half-cup of dried beans. They have the highest capacity to fight disease-causing free radicals (next to certain spices, like cinnamon).
You don’t need to buy dried beans for top antioxidants benefits. Research published in Crop Science in 2009 indicated that all canned commercial beans are high in antioxidants, but that darker beans tend to be three times higher in phytochemicals than white or Great Northern beans.
Black beans contain the anthocyanin flavonoids malvidin, delphinidin and petunidin, which make up the black color of the bean’s surface. They also have two other free-radical fighting antioxidants, quercetin and Kaempferol, as well as hydroxycinnamic acids (phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory qualities). The next time you eat a bean burrito, you’re getting more than a quick meal, you’re getting several antioxidant benefits to keep you healthy. A half cup of dry black beans has an antioxidant capacity of 4181.
Kidney beans are full of cholesterol-lowering fiber, like other beans, and a superior ORAC rating of 13,259 per half-cup. They offer Vitamin B1 (thiamine) to improve memory and are a fat-free source of iron. A cup of cooked kidney beans has 38% of the daily recommended value of manganese. The enzyme superoxide dismutase needs manganese to deactivate free radicals in our cells’ mitochondria (the energy production center). If you’re a vegan or vegetarian you can use kidney beans as a substitute for red meat. A cup of kidney beans provides 15 grams of protein and helps to stabilize blood sugar.
An ounce of pecans provides 10% of the daily recommended value of fiber. They’re sodium-free, and contain magnesium, potassium, Vitamin A, folic acid, calcium, Vitamin E, some B-complex vitamins and zinc. A study by Loma Linda University in 2011 showed that eating pecans boosted antioxidants in the body, lowering bad cholesterol and helping prevent heart disease. Although sweet pecan pies and pastries are tempting, fresh pecans in the shell provide the best antioxidant benefits and are lower in calories. One ounce of pecans clocks in at 104 calories.
Juicy, sweet plums are low in calories (only 30 in a small plum), refreshing and full of antioxidants. Plums and prunes (dried plums) contain phenols, antioxidants that are effective in dissolving superoxide anion radical, a destructive free radical. Phenols have been shown to stop oxygen damage to fat cells. This is important because brain cells, cholesterol molecules and cell membranes are mostly made of fats. The Vitamin C in plums help the body absorb more iron, and offers anti-inflammatory properties to prevent (or lessen the severity of) colds and flu. And, of course, prunes have fiber to keep your digestive system working properly.
Great-Tasting Spices Offer High Antioxidant Capacity
Many spices offer antioxidant benefits, and turmeric and cinnamon provide both anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting capabilities. Here’s some information about their healthful properties.
Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has powerful antioxidants benefits. A study conducted by Annamalai University in India concluded that turmeric and curcumin have antioxidants with great anti-inflammatory and disease-blocking effects. 4 It has also been shown to boost the body’s power to produce antioxidant enzymes.
Turmeric helps improve many health problems. A study conducted at the University Of Arizona College Of Medicine found that turmeric has curcuminoid, an extract that blocks the protein NF-KB from activating in the joints and causing inflammation. The antioxidant benefits of curcumin may even extend to cancer prevention. Research at the University of Texas showed that curcumin slows and may even stop cancer cells from reproducing in a dangerous form of cancer called myeloma. Turmeric may also help stop breast cancer cells from spreading to the lungs.
The sweet, warm taste of cinnamon is welcome on French toast, in tea and cider, and in soups and salads. A teaspoon of cinnamon has 46% of the daily recommended value of manganese, a nutrient containing antioxidants to protect against free radical damage. Without sufficient manganese in the diet, some individuals may develop skin problems or asthma. The antioxidants benefits in cinnamon outweigh those in ginger, licorice, mint and anise, preventing oxidation and guarding against free radicals more effectively than other spices. The polyphenol antioxidants and flavonoids in cinnamon offer strong anti-inflammatory properties that lower the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
More Proof of Antioxidants Benefits
Vitamins with lots of antioxidant benefits may increase your resistance to sunburn. A study conducted by the University of Munich in Germany indicated that participants who took 2,000 mgs of Vitamin C and 1000 internal units (IUs) of Vitamin E for a period of 8 days showed a 20% increase in resistance to sunburn.
Antioxidants can grab arsenic, mercury and other toxic metals and stop them from harming healthy cells. Antioxidants have a chelating effect and can make toxic metals leave your body through urine.
The antioxidant resveratrol, found in grapes, cocoa and red wine, is capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier, sparking better brain blood flow and protecting against memory loss and Alzheimer’s. It has excellent anti-aging properties, and guards against cancer (especially prostate cancer) , lowers blood pressure and keeps your blood vessels heart healthy.
Wheatgrass - The Best Source of Antioxidants Benefits
Wheatgrass has healing properties, largely due to its antioxidant content. A clinical study on the antioxidant benefits of wheatgrass concluded that the most powerful wheatgrass extracts were grown in soil with nutrients, alcohol-based and had grown for 15 days before being picked. The ORAC rating (or capacity to absorb free radicals) of alcohol or water-based wheatgrass is much higher than other foods, including leafy green vegetables and beans. 3
You can’t cook and eat wheatgrass the same way you eat broccoli or spinach. (Well, you could try, but the taste is off-putting for most people - though cats don’t seem to mind it.)
Humans looking for the greatest amount of antioxidant benefits from a single food
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Get antioxidants benefits and other nutrients from Zeal O2, Happy Girl and REVV! Always talk to your doctor before taking any dietary supplement.