Can antioxidants defeat age?
Everyone wants to stay young and so does my mom. So, she tried many products labelled with antioxidants from antioxidant supplements to body lotion. It seems like antioxidants have some magic power to defeat age.
Is it really true? To figure it out, I did some studies on antioxidants and found it’s not entirely advertising hype.
Why we are growing older?
Before we look at antioxidants, it’s important to understand why we (or our skin) are growing older. One term stands out–free radicals.
Free radicals are molecules with oxygen and unpaired electrons. They are unstable, highly reactive and thus can easily react with other molecules.
Certain amount of free radicals can benefit us by neutralizing viruses and bacteria. But too many of them will damage cellular structures like DNA, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids and may ultimately trigger diseases. These unexpected reactions are part of the causes of wrinkles and loose skin, because they prevent our skins from repairing themselves.
So can we control the production of free radicals? It seems impossible. Normal metabolic processes in our bodies will stimulate the production of free radicals. In other words, our bodies are producing more free radicals when we’re getting older, fighting against a cold, doing excessive exercises, or suffering from mental stress.
Exposure to X-rays, cigarette smoking, air pollutants and industrial chemicals can make things worse.
How antioxidants can help?
Since we can hardly control the production of free radicals, we need to rely on other substances to keep the amount of free radicals at a safe level. An antioxidant is the one that can donate an electron to neutralize a free radical and reduce its adverse effects.
‘Antioxidant’ is not a name of a substance but rather it refers to a range of substances that can inhibit oxygen-caused reactions. Antioxidants can prevent free radicals from damaging our cells or slow the process and thus do good to our health.
Some antioxidants can be formed in our body while others can only be sourced from our diet. For example, vitamin E, vitamin C, and Beta-carotene are principle micronutrient antioxidants we have to acquire from external sources.
Where we should get antioxidants
Now we can conclude antioxidants can benefit our bodies. But is it true that the more antioxidants we have the more health benefits we will get? Or as some articles said taking too many antioxidants can cause diseases? So far there’s no reliable research proving both.
It’s commonly agreed that plant-based foods, especially fruits and vegetables, are the best sources of antioxidants.
You can obtain the specific antioxidants by eating the following foods:
Vitamin E: nuts, seeds, sunflower and other vegetable oils and green leafy vegetables;
Vitamin C: most fruits and vegetables, especially berries, oranges and bell peppers;
Beta-carotene: brightly colored fruits and vegetables, like carrots, peas, spinach and mangoes;
Green tea, eggplants, dark chocolate and red grapes are also good sources of necessary antioxidants. Remember it’s important to eat a variety of foods.
Cooking food in a right way can help preserve antioxidants.
Lycopene—a kind of antioxidant that gives tomatoes rich red color—is more bioavailable when tomatoes are heated.
Studies show beta-carotene is much better absorbed from cooked carrots than from raw carrots.
Cauliflower, peas lose their antioxidant activity in the cooking process.