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Submitted by: Emily Morris

When you think anti-aging, do you think of expensive creams, spa treatments or surgery?

If so, you might want to look at another less-expensive, and healthier alternative: Food. Certain foods can do much more than fight the outward signs of aging, they can also help ward off inner symptoms as well. Many problems of the body are caused by inflammation & oxidative damage done by free radicals. If you can fight these two causes, you can look and feel better. The foods you eat provide your body with the power to fight damage and inflammation, especially when you mix different foods together.

What are free radicals?

These bad molecules can be a byproduct of normal metabolism. Free radical damage can also be caused by exposure to pollutants in your environment, food or drink. Everyone is exposed to free radicals as a part of daily life, so its important to know what they do and how you can minimize their effects on you.

Free radicals are formed when a molecule has an unpaired electron and becomes unstable. When a molecule is unstable, it will steal an electron from the nearest item it encounters. (usually a cell in your body) Then, the molecule that was robbed becomes a free radical itself, scavenging for a spare electron to use so that it will be stable again. They can damage almost anything they come into contact with, which is why the immune system sometimes creates them, and uses them as a weapon against invaders it deems harmful.


Because free radicals can create chain reactions by stealing electrons from the molecules that make up your cells, they can cause inflammation, cell damage, and signs of early aging. Its in your best interest to fight free radicals with anti oxidants. The best way to get your anti-oxidants, is to eat them. Since you really are what you eat, the right foods supply lots of free radical fighters.

You can fight free radicals with lots of different foods.

Food is your most potent weapon against free radical damage. Certain foods & compounds in them have the building blocks your body is looking for as it stops free radicals in their tracks. There are many different compounds in natural foods that fight free radicals. They do this by having a spare electron available to lend. When one of these unstable free radicals approaches an anti-oxidant, the anti-oxidant gives up its extra electron, and neutralizes the danger. An anti-oxidant doesnt become unstable, because that extra electron was always just a spare. When you have plenty of free radical fighting supplies in stock your body is able to deal with these bad guys right away. They dont get a chance to damage cells. Of course, healthy foods also provide the building blocks your body needs to stay fit. Omega 3 oils for skin & cell membrane health, protein and calcium for stronger muscles & bones…a healthy menu focuses on nutrients that keep your body in good repair.

What are the most common anti-oxidants you can look for in foods?

Anthocyanins- These powerful helpers are the dark pigments in plants. Plants will add anthocyanins to certain items, in order to give them a rich, dark color. Things like blueberries, blackberries, purple cabbage, cherries, and pomegranates all have plenty of anthocyanins. Pale foods like cauliflower, white potatoes, and lima beans dont have any. There are even some exotic foods, such as purple potatoes, heirloom tomatoes (these may have streaks of dark red, purple, & orange) and black chia seeds with dark, rich colors for you to choose.

Betanene- This is what gives beets a dark red color. Its more potent than polyphenols, which are found in green tea, black tea, dark chocolate and olive oil. Dont discount polyphenols though, green tea has earned its reputation as a health drink for many reasons. NOTE: drinking raw beet root juice may lower blood pressure in people who have hypertension. If youre going to drink it, and are on medication for blood pressure, you may want to have your doctor watch over your progress.

Vitamins A and C are also antioxidants.

Most people know the benefits of these fat & water soluble vitamins, but overlook their property as a free radical fighter as well. Fruits and vegetables are rich in A and C. Paprika, dried parsley, cayenne, chili powder, and basil are all seasonings loaded with A. Citrus fruits, kiwis, peppers, leafy greens, guavas, papayas and even strawberries have lots of vitamin C.

Antioxidants work best when theyre mixed together.

Taking a supplement of an isolated antioxidant generally isnt as effective as mixing together multiples in one meal. They all work with each other and build on each others benefits. Notice how tomatoes have both vitamin C and anthocyanins. Adding seasonings to your food, like a tasty basil pesto, diced peppers in chili, or parsley in tabbouleh not only makes the food taste better, but it makes it healthier as well.

Whats a great and easy way to add antioxidants to pretty much any food?

Chia seeds. Chia seeds are tiny, they dont taste like anything, and theyre as easy to add as sprinkling or stirring into whatever you like. All of the anti oxidant foods mentioned above have one thing in common: they all have a flavor. Seasonings like paprika mentioned above are goodbut you wouldnt want them in your cake, pudding or yogurt. With chia, you can add antioxidants, b vitamins, calcium and protein to almost anything and it wont change the taste. Make healthy dishes healthier, and power up your favorite foods by combining antioxidantslike fresh strawberries in yogurt with chia mixed in. Youve got vitamin c from strawberries, calcium in yogurt and omega 3 healthy oils in chia. Does chia have any other antioxidants? Yes! The less commonly known, but still important anti oxidants of chia are myrecetin, quercetin, kaemferol, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid.

The possibilities are endless, and your menu is so much more interesting when you add healthy spices, and combine anti oxidant rich foods like fruits, veggies and chia seeds together. Now that you know what to look for, enrich your menu with the tons of great recipes available all over the internet, and in natural cook books. Youll be surprised at how many options are at your fingertips!

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