In one of my previous articles I talked about a special breed of molecules commonly found in fruits and vegetables called antioxidants. If you want to slow down the aging process, then you want a diet rich in antioxidants. Why? Because our bodies are constantly being affected by free radicals which cause cell and tissue damage.
In very simple terms a free radical is an atom that is missing an electron in its outer orbit. This makes the atom extremely unstable and so it will try to steal an electron from a different atom or molecule to stabilize itself. This process causes the affected molecule to become unstable and develop into a new free radical. It repeats this pattern to begin a chain reaction that can cascade until the final free radical steals an electron from the cell wall of some tissue resulting in the disruption of a living cell. This constant process of free radicals stealing electrons from living tissue results in the aging process we all experience.
Again, in very simple terms, an antioxidant is a molecule that freely gives away its outer electrons. Thus, it will give the free radical its needed electron to return it back to a stable compound. Now, you might be thinking that the antioxidant will become a free radical. Here is the really impressive aspect of this process. An antioxidant doesn’t become a free radical because they are stable in either form (with or without an even number of electrons in their outer orbit). The stability of antioxidants allows them to act as free radical scavengers to help prevent cell and tissue damage.
If it weren’t for the remarkable stability of antioxidants, as they freely give their electrons to stabilize the free radicals and render them harmless, we would age quite rapidly. The three most commonly known antioxidants are:
o Vitamin E (d-alpha tocopherol) which is the most abundant fat-soluble antioxidant in the body and may protect against cardiovascular disease is commonly found in nuts, seeds, vegetable and fish oils, whole grains and certain fruits.
o Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which is the most abundant water-soluble antioxidant in the body also has the unique ability to return Vitamin E to its active form. It is commonly found in citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, cantaloupe, kiwi and strawberries.
o Beta-carotene (precursor to Vitamin A) is the most misunderstood of all the antioxidants. It is commonly found in liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches and grains. Beta-carotene is water-soluble and has no set RDA requirements. However, it is the precursor to Vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, has no antioxidant properties and can be quite toxic when taken in excess. Because of this, most physicians warn against Beta-carotene but they forget that the body controls the conversion of Beta-carotene to Vitamin A on a “needs only” basis. Thus, your body will only make as much Vitamin A from Beta-carotene as it needs which prevents any toxicity.
It is extremely important to note that these antioxidants are all critical for proper health but the body cannot manufacture them. They must be supplied in the diet. That’s why all the nutritionists tell us to eat a balanced diet consisting of 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. So, what are some of the Super Foods that can provide these much needed antioxidants? The number one super food is: Brazilian Acai!
In his best-selling book The Perricone Promise, well-known natural health expert Dr. Nicholas Perricone lists 10 super foods that can help you look younger, feel better, and promote long life. Because Dr. Perricone was so impressed with the Brazilian Acai berry, he put it at the top of his list! Why? Because no other fruit can claim its extraordinary combination of antioxidants, amino acids, anthocyanins, and essential fatty acids.
In addition, the Oprah Winfrey Show declared the Brazilian Acai berry the No. 1 super food. Articles extolling the virtues of acai have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Men’s Journal, Health Sciences Institute, New York Times and Time Magazine. That’s a pretty impressive list! Here is just a brief list of some of the benefits of Brazilian Acai:
o Contains antioxidants to help counter cell damage due to free radicals.
o Contains anthocyanins to support the cardiovascular system.
o Contains essential fatty acids to aid in digestive tract function.
o Contains phytosterols to help maintain normal cholesterol levels.
o Contains amino acids for enhanced muscle activity.
o Provides support for maintaining a healthy prostate.
o Aids in maintaining a healthy immune system.
o Promotes greater energy and stamina.
Add to your diet some of these additional super foods and you can see how amazing plant life is in protecting us from free radical damage:
o Pomegranate. The total antioxidant activity of pomegranate juice polyphenols was measured three times higher than red wine and green tea. Pomegranates help the body regulate high cholesterol and heart health to support the cardiovascular system as well as neutralize free radicals.
o Elderberry. Elderberry may stimulate the production of cytokines, compounds that play a role in the immune response system. Plus, it contains a considerable amount of Vitamins A, B and C, as well as flavonoids, cartenoids and amino acids.
o Blueberry. The USDA Human Nutrition Center ranked blueberries as the No. 1 antioxidant over 40 fruits and vegetables tested. It can slow age-related mental loss and promotes cardiovascular health and improves eyesight and memory.
o Red Raspberry. Research has linked the anthocyanins in red raspberries to enhanced vision, circulation, and to slowing the effects of aging.
o Cranberry. Cranberry contains a wide variety of compounds, but proanthocyanidins may be responsible for their beneficial effects on the urinary tract.
o Bilberry. British pilots during World War II ate bilberries before night flights to support their vision. Plus, it promotes healthy cholesterol levels and can be an anti-inflammatory agent.
o Lycium. Also called wolfberry, the Chinese have used lycium for centuries to help strengthen muscles and bone, enhance liver function and help the eyes. It contains a high content of Beta-carotene, Vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B6 and E.
o Red Grape & Concord Grape. Together these two fruits bring a spectrum of antioxidant power with high flavonoid content, fiber, vitamin C, anthocyanins, polyphenols, and potassium to promote cardiovascular and eye health, healthy cholesterol levels, displays anti-viral properties, supports proper brain function and shows promise in reducing the growth of cancer cells.
These super foods are packed with powerful antioxidants and other ingredients all designed to help improve your health by limiting the damaging effects of free radicals. Since free radical damage is the leading cause of aging it makes perfect sense to consume products that can reduce free radical damage to help slow down the aging process.