Everyone wants to look young, live healthily and disease-free long life. Antioxidants are a great weapon to fight with aging signs and many diseases. Before discussing antioxidants, we will see what free radicals are. As we age, our body loses its ability to fight against infections, viruses, diseases, trauma, and injuries. Even the capability to cope with the stress related to day to day life functions is reduced. Do you know why this happens? One of the main reasons for this to happen is due to free radicals produced in the body.
So let’s learn together and know about the foods that are rich in antioxidants and how they fight free radicals.
What Are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are unstable atoms that react quickly with the oxygen molecules and increase the oxidative stress of the body. Thus, they damage body cells causing illness and aging. Free radicals are produced naturally in the body. Some of the reasons that accelerate production are as follows –
- Exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides, strong acids, toxic paints, and paints
- Smoking and alcohol consumption
- Consumption of junk foods, refined foods, artificial sweeteners, artificial food colors, preservatives, and food additives
- A long period of exposure to U.V. rays, radiations, etc.
- Some therapies like chemotherapy
- Mental, physical, and physiological stress. eg. Diabetes
- Excessive exercise
Free radicals can damage cells and genetic materials. They may cause diseases like cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis. They also accelerate the aging process.
What Are Antioxidants?
National Institute Of Health describes antioxidants as a group of organic or inorganic substances. These combat the genotoxic and carcinogenic effects of free radical compounds. These are the substances found in fruits and vegetables or created artificially. They prevent free radical-induced tissue damage by ceasing the formation of free radicals or by scavenging them. Even our body produces some of the antioxidants, in response to the production of oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is produced when free radicals produced in the body are more than antioxidants.
When the body itself produces antioxidants, they are called endogenous antioxidants. While those produced out of the body are called exogenous antioxidants.
11 Foods That Are Rich In Antioxidants
1. Makhana, Lotus Seeds, Or Fox Seeds
Makhana is called the powerhouse of antioxidants. They are loaded with antioxidants such as dismutase, superoxide, vitamin A, selenium, and magnesium. These antioxidants are useful to build immunity. It keeps blood pressure under control.
Lotus seeds reduce wrinkles on the skin and prevent premature graying of hair. It inhibits or slows the process of aging. It is very simple to include makhana in your diet. Just take little oil in a vessel. Add makhana of the desired quantity. Add your favorite spices. And it’s ready to eat.
2. Curry Leaves
Vitamin C and carotenoids in the curry leaves act as antioxidants. It is found to be useful for diabetic peoples. Hyperglycemia increases free radicals and decreases the efficacy of the antioxidant system in the diabetic person. Curry leaves can delay the complications associated with DM.
The high amount of chlorophyll present in curry leaves scavenges free radicals. We can add curry leaves powder or fresh curry leaves foods we eat. It increases the antioxidant content of that food. Most of the Indian foodstuffs are incomplete without curry leaves.
3. Coriander Or Cilantro
Coriander has the highest levels of carotenoids, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The essential oils present in coriander leaves and seeds act as antioxidants. It prevents photoaging of the cells caused due to U.V. rays or due to chemotherapy in cancer treatment.
They possess anticarcinogenic as well as anti-inflammatory capacities. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is also used for detoxification of the liver due to its antimicrobial and heavy metal chelation factors. Adding coriander leaves or coriander seed powder increases antioxidants in food. It gives a pleasant aroma to food preparation.
Polyphenols and proanthocyanidins are antioxidants present in cinnamon. They show anti-inflammatory properties; so, they can be used in arthritis. It relieves joint pain as well as stiffness of muscles.
Compounds present in cinnamon increase insulin sensitivity of cells, thus help in sugar control. Cinnamaldehyde, a compound present in cinnamon, helps prevent heart disease. It is a potential blood purifier. Antioxidants present in cinnamon help to decrease menstrual cramps.
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon powder increases the level of HDL and decrease the level of LDL. Just add a half teaspoon of cinnamon powder to a cup of your green tea, and your antioxidant drink is ready.
5. Green Tea
The higher amount of polyphenols, catechins prevent cellular damage, the risk of cancer. They also kill bacteria and inhibit viruses. Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and caffeine, C-thiamine synergistically improves brain functioning.
Green tea increases antioxidants in the blood, prohibiting the oxidation of LDL, and lowers the risk of CVD. Also, it helps in losing fat by boosting the basal metabolic rate. Green tea may help in cancer prevention. It can be consumed hot or cold by adding lemon and organic honey (and cinnamon powder for weight loss and DM).
Allicin is the antioxidant that is present in garlic. Allicin inhibits the peroxidation of lipids. Thus, garlic is known for the cholesterol-lowering effect. It also acts as an anti-thrombotic, anticoagulant, antihypertensive. So, it is useful in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis. It is used as an analgesic and antibacterial properties.
Allicin is an unstable compound. It can be easily destroyed by high temperatures; it is necessary to be used in combination with water containing foods.
7. Red Onions
Quercetin and vitamin C, present in onions, prevent oxidation of low-density lipoproteins. It also helps to prevent gastric ulcers formed due to free radicals and prevent the growth of ulcer-causing microorganisms. Quercetin may help us fight against cataracts, CVD as well as some forms of cancers. Red onions can be consumed daily with salads. Onions increase the palatability of food.
8. Beetroot Or Beets
Betalains from the beet protect liver cells, helps to regenerate them to function correctly. Beetroot juice helps in lowering blood pressure, increases the capacity and endurance of exercise.
The presence of nitrates in the beet expands blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Betalain from beet also helps in thinning bile. Beet can be consumed as a salad, in parathas, or smoothies.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin in spinach defend the eyes from free radicals. It also contains vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E and K, carotenoids, and flavonoids as antioxidants. Beta-carotene promotes the health of hair and skin, and vitamin C helps in the firming of the skin by the formation of collagen. Spinach has strong anti-aging properties due to the higher amount of antioxidants. It also reduces the risk of skin cancer.
10. Vitamin E (Capsule Form)
Vitamin E is vital for healthy skin and hair. It prevents oxidative stress caused to hair follicles and preserves the lipid layer in the scalp. It can be applied topically as a hair follicle stimulant. It prevents the dryness of skin and restores its moisture, and smoothens skin.
Nuts, green leafy vegetables, olive oil, sunflower oil are some of the sources of vitamin E. We can pierce the capsule of vitamin E and apply it under the eye to remove dark circles. It gives a nice glow to dull and lifeless skin instantly.
Vitamin C, phenolics, and carotenoids are antioxidants found in kiwi. It is a very good source of vitamin E. Vitamin C helps in preventing damage caused by harmful sun rays, pollution, smoke. It decreases fine lines and wrinkles. It is helpful in the formation of collagen that prevents sagging of skin. It is good for detoxification. Vitamin E reduces the oxidation of cholesterol, lowering the formation of atherosclerotic lesions.
Remember, antioxidants can be damaged by overcooking, or cutting the fruit and vegetables into pieces and keeping them open for a longer time. Exposure of fruits and vegetables to sun rays also damages the content of antioxidants.