Antioxidant Foods: How They Help You Stay Young

Products containing antioxidants are being loudly touted as super foods. They are the foods we are encouraged to purchase and consume in this new health conscious millennium.

Promoted as the key to naturally staying young they help keep us healthy and provide us with a long life if we consume them on a regular basis. These nutrient rich foods can slow down our aging processes and help to prevent age related illness and disability. Sounds like a wonder drug doesn't it? 

Yet even with all the promotion given to these foods many people still don't put them into their shopping bag while at the grocery store. I can only assume that it is because the role antioxidants play in keeping the body healthy is misunderstood so to clear up a little of this confusion let's take a little peek at one of our most highly promoted foods for good health. Broccoli is loved, hated, and always the brunt of jokes when it comes to foods that are good for us. For years we have been advised to consume broccoli but the reasoning as to why we should eat it has been a little smudgy at best. For most people the simple message has been that broccoli is a green vegetable and green foods are good for you so don't question why, just eat it.

Well it turns out that most naturally colourful foods are indeed good for us. They often have high polyphenol counts; Polyphenols are generally divided into two distinct types nonflavonoids and flavonoids of which flavonoids produce antioxidant activity. This means that foods containing polyphenols are generally antioxidant rich foods.

Now let's dive inside the body and see what happens when we consume these. The human body requires oxygen to function but when our body uses oxygen free radicals are created as a byproduct of this transaction. Free radicals are molecules that are incomplete and therefor highly unstable within the body. Once a free radical is formed it sets off in an effort to become stable again and it can only accomplish this by stealing electrons from another molecule within the body.

Unfortunately when they manage to do this they then cause the donating molecule to become unstable and it then goes off trying to make itself stable again. This new molecule will then attempt to steal an electron from a complete molecule which will then become unstable and so on in a never ending chain reaction of cell damage. This chain reaction of cell damage is what results in the eventual death of healthy cells and it is this cell death which is the reason our aging processes occur. The more cell death that occurs within the body than the higher the likelihood of that person suffering from an age related illness such as cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease or stroke. Antioxidants help reduce the damage caused by these oxidation processes. Antioxidants are stable or complete molecules that are safely able to donate one of their electrons to another molecule without becoming unstable. They combine with the free radicals in the body rendering them harmless. 

When they donate or give an oxygen molecule to a free radical and make it complete they stop the chain reaction of cell damage. The now complete molecule has no reason to continue disrupting other molecules. By preventing or slowing down this destructive chain of damage antioxidants in effect actually help to slow down the aging processes.

This is the reason why green vegetables may be able to reduce the incidence of age related illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, neuro-degenerative diseases, and cardiovascular disease which occur as cell damage increases within the body. This is why antioxidant activity and polyphenol content of green vegetables makes them healthy. It is also why broccoli is good for us. So mom was right. If it is green eat it because it is probably good for you.

A false assumption by many is that antioxidants are just found in green vegetables but don't you believe it. Cranberries, strawberries, and pomegranates are bright red and they are a powerhouse when it comes to their rich antioxidant content. Chocolate, pecans, plums, kidney beans, blueberries, and black plums are also super rich in antioxidants. As you can see there truly are a wide array of foods which provide us with this wonderful ingredient for good health. When you are shopping be sure to pop antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables into your shopping bag. A well balanced diet is a healthy one so eat a variety of foods and colours every day.

  Related Articles by Lorelei Cohen