The Almighty Antioxidant

by Cami Jo Satterthwaite

What causes cars to rust? It happens when metal is exposed to water and oxygen. Rust basically dissolves metal. Even though a little may not seem like a big deal, it can grow into a big problem, eventually causing irreversible damage.

Free radicals can have the same effect on our bodies. They attack healthy cells and steal energy, making healthy cells weak and vulnerable. The destruction that excess free radicals cause can and will lead to heart disease, cancer, cataracts, diabetes, and basically any negative symptom of aging (wrinkles, weakness, etc.). They gradually speed up the breakdown of our bodies.

Having some free radicals is normal. In fact they are generated as part of our body’s immune response to help to destroy bacteria and viruses. The problem is that they damage ANY cell (bad or good) in their path until they’re stopped.

What causes free radicals?

Smog, pollution, the sun, basic metabolic processes (yes, our bodies naturally creates them), chemicals, drugs, smoking, high levels of oxygen, and stress to your body (including physical exercise). So they seem pretty unavoidable, right? The environment surrounding us constantly bombards our bodies with things that might cause free radicals to develop. That is why we need to be diligent and ensure that we are doing everything that we can to protect our bodies.

How to stop the damage

The human body is pretty efficient at taking care of free radicals. It has its own process of antioxidants. It really is a miracle how much it takes care of itself without a single thought. However, it’s up to us to make sure that we’re giving our body the nutrients it needs to keep up with the free radicals. Zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium are minerals that have to be available for the body to maintain its defenses.

A lot of nutrients can act as antioxidants: vitamin C, E, carotenoids, beta-carotene, and lycopene just to name a few. Having an abundance of antioxidants in your diet really can act as a shield to help protect your body. It can literally slow down the process of aging. You can guarantee yourself a better quality of life as you age.

Where to find these all-mighty nutrients? Mainly fruits and vegetables. Surprised? Yeah, I keep finding they’re the answer to everything too…

Here’s a short list I liked: red wine, whole grain pasta, brightly colored vegetables, sweet potatoes, kale, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, cantaloupe, peaches, strawberries, grape juice, eggs, seafood, canned beans, carrots, squash, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, blueberries