Being healthy delays the aging decline. But, eventually, the decline happens. Exercise is truly the number one factor to keep you young and full of vitality. A body that stays in motion dramatically decreases the process of aging and disease, and the same is true for nutrition.
Getting older does not have to be difficult or unhealthy; it just requires you to be more responsible for eating the proper foods. As you get older, aging makes cells breakdown faster and become weaker. They begin to lose functionality. However, if you provide constant, faithful protection each day, you can slow down cellular breakdown and malfunction that leads to disease and the speed of aging. Like mom said when you were a kid, "Eat your fruits and veggies" is more important now than when you were younger.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants prevent and minimize damage to cells, proteins, and DNA caused by something called free radicals. Free radicals are substances formed by a process called oxidation. Oxidation is the process of breaking down food into energy in your body. As a result, from the breakdown of food, free radicals form as a byproduct. Free radicals are produced naturally from metabolism but are also formed from stress, smoking, alcohol, air pollution, etc.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that wreak havoc in your body; therefore, a process of minimization is essential. However, your body is not completely unprotected or vulnerable. It has a natural intrinsic system to fight free radicals. Still, for this system to be effective, especially as you get older, a balance needs to remain between the level of oxidation, the harmful exposure to the environment, and other detrimental foods and substances versus antioxidants present.
As you get older, the body breaks down and malfunctions more easily, all the more reason to protect it. As you get older, your body and cells need more help. Over time, the body decreases the ability to repair and regenerate properly, exposing cells, DNA, and proteins to free radical accumulation and damage faster.
Having lower defense mechanisms allows free radicals to quietly infiltrate and permeate cells leading to diseases like:
- Cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and atherosclerosis)
- Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's)
Truly, eating the wrong foods is the number one problem and reason why free radicles accumulate, for example:
- Adding margarine, oil, shortening, and lard to foods.
- Drinking high sugar-sweetened drinks (soda, energy/sports, and flavored juices)
- Eating deep-fried foods (French fries)
- Consuming refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, and pastries)
- Chowing-down processed meats (hot dogs, lunch meat, canned meat)
- Snacking on junk foods (candy, chips)
Everyone has a biological disposition when it comes to aging. Aging is an accumulation of unrepaired cellular damage in your life. And, when cells and proteins are not repaired properly, DNA replicates poorly, replacing it with weak, faulty, and defective DNA, setting the stage for the aforementioned diseases.
Antioxidants in Food
High level and high-quality antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables. However, before you run out and buy bottles and bottles of pills and supplements, analyze what you eat each day and see what is in those foods first. Medical research is learning that the bottles of pills and supplements being sold are not the best ways to improve your health and, are detrimental. The fruits and veggies in the produce aisle are the answers. Are you eating foods that contribute to oxidation, inflammation, and aging or preventing it?
Many fruits and vegetables contain many different antioxidants. So, understand what you are eating and try to measure out a balance of vitamin and mineral combinations rather than trying to eat everything.
Carotenoids are fat-soluble antioxidant compounds, meaning they are best absorbed with fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble. Cooking carotenoid types of foods increases their strength.
- Bell peppers
- Collard Greens
- Sweet potatoes
Phenolic and Flavonoids
Phenolics are another form of antioxidants that stop free radical reactions, the same as carotenoids. They break the cycle and creation of free radicals. Phenols and flavonoids are strongest when foods are raw.
- Red wine
Tomatoes are great to be eaten raw. However, when cooked/heated, it increases their antioxidant lycopene power. Heat them, don't overcook them. Vitamin C will burn off a bit when cooked, but the lycopene is more important. Although green tea is high in phenols, brewing it increases its antioxidant power. Beans are also high in antioxidants and rated one of the best. Red, Kidney, Pinto, and Black beans have some of the highest antioxidants.
Vitamin A intake is at least 700 mcg for women and 900 mcg for men up to and not exceeding 3000mcg.
- Foods high in Vitamin A are liver, sweet potato, squash, kale, carrots, and mango
Vitamin C intake is between 75 and up to not exceed 1500mg.
- Foods high in Vitamin C are oranges, kiwi, grapefruit, papaya, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, beets, cauliflower, white and sweet potatoes, and bell peppers.
- In water-soluble Vitamins like C and B, heat/cooking tends to burn them off. But, the antioxidants in these vegetables, when cooked, becomes stronger. The solutions to the problem are: you can steam your vegetables to retain a larger percentage of Vitamin C and B, or, cook them and burn them off and eat raw fruits for Vitamin C and B.
Vitamin E intake is between 15mg to 1000mg or 400 IU a day. Do not exceed the amount of vitamin E because it is dangerous.
- Foods high in Vitamin E are almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and peanut butter, avocado, and spinach.
Selenium intake is about 55mcg per day.
- Foods high in selenium are Brazil nuts, tuna, sardines, halibut, salmon, crab, clams, oysters, turkey, chicken, beef, and brown rice.
Zinc intake is 11 mg for men and 8mg for women.
- Foods high in zinc are: beef, chicken, oysters, shrimp, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and fortified cereals
Why Don't Antioxidant Supplements Work?
Pills and powders are concentrated with a single substance that lacks power. The vitamins and minerals in antioxidants all work together. Antioxidants need other minerals to protect their quality and act synergistically. Natural foods have key nutrients and minerals present that fuse their power to fight free radicals. Also, their combination allows for better absorption and assimilation (uptake) in the small intestines. Understand, for nutrients and minerals to enter a cell and be functional, it needs other minerals to carry them in or open the door to enter. Supplements forgo this process and are highly excreted because they lack the amalgamation and support of other elements. Like chemistry, if you cut off certain compounds, it loses effectiveness and potency, as well as changes and transforms into a different substance.
Many studies on antioxidant supplements have shown to be more detrimental than healthy.
- Supplements lack elements and minerals, as well as important trace minerals that natural foods need to allow the assimilation and absorption of nutrients.
- Supplements lack certain compounds and chains needed to complete an antioxidant to have optimal and maximal effect. Many times, chemicals are added to supplements that reduce antioxidants efficacy and have an adverse toxic effect.
- Antioxidant supplements have weakly-bounded electrons that can produce inflammation.
Fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants have a lower oxidation process as well as the ability to terminate and destroy free radicals.
From the Harvard Review
"For example, a cup of fresh strawberries contains about 80 mg of vitamin C, a nutrient classified as having high antioxidant activity. But a supplement containing 500 mg of vitamin C (667% of the RDA) does not contain the plant chemicals (polyphenols) naturally found in strawberries like proanthocyanins and flavonoids, which also possess antioxidant activity and may team up with vitamin C to fight disease. Polyphenols also have many other chemical properties besides their ability to serve as antioxidants. There is a question if a nutrient with antioxidant activity can cause the opposite effect with a pro-oxidant activity if too much is taken. This is why using an antioxidant supplement with a single isolated substance may not be an effective strategy for everyone".
You are not going to change your health by taking a pill or some powder. Eating balanced and well consistently is the real magic to improve and evolve your health while aging. You don't need to over "anti-oxidize" yourself. That can have adverse reactions. If you are eating a lot of natural food in your diet, you can take a supplement or two in minimal dosages because you will be able to use the compounds of the natural foods to support an isolated supplement. So, understand the combination and the fusion from the smallest trace to the biggest element affects the synthesis, function, and performance of the antioxidant.