Studies have shown antioxidants are essential for general health and well being. For seniors, this is especially important in order to maintain a healthy body and a sharp mind. Do you know what antioxidants are and how they help?
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that counteract some of the normal (but destructive) oxidation of body tissue. This natural occurrence is caused by harmful free radicals, molecules that trigger damage to DNA (genetic material), cells, and proteins. Sometimes, if they’re too tough to be neutralized by antioxidants, the result is what the CDC in Atlanta calls "oxidant stress."
Avoidance of all natural damages from free radicals is impossible. They come from within the body as well as outside. Examples of how they come from inside are results of inflammation, aerobic respiration, and normal metabolism. They can come from outside by things like pollution, X-rays, strenuous exercise, sunlight, smoking, and alcohol. Fortunately, our bodies biologically produce antioxidants.
Because antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body) that help chemical reactions, they play a role in preventing the development of such chronic diseases as Alzheimer’s, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and eye disorders. They also have a counter-effect on high-fat foods.
There are many foods, herbs, and spices with high antioxidant levels. They include brightly colored fresh vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, and green, red, and yellow peppers. A few fruits that are rich in these enzymes are berries of all kinds, bananas, grapes, oranges, apples, and fruit juice. You may be surprised to learn dark chocolate, nuts, and soy are also on the list.
Seasonings that are rich in antioxidants include cinnamon, curry, ginger, rosemary, and red pepper. When added to foods, they provide a multitude of benefits, all leading to better health. Additional rewards are more interesting and enjoyable meals.
As we age, our antioxidant systems weaken. Therefore, damaged cell parts from oxidation accumulate. That’s why access to antioxidants is so important, especially for older people. They increase energy while destroying other harmful elements which produce many highly unstable free radicals in the body.
Since antioxidants strengthen the body’s immune system, their importance can’t be stressed enough. Luckily, Southerners live in a climate whereby fresh produce is widely available and can be easily cultivated in a longer growing season. Find your favorite sources and utilize them.