If you want to stay younger longer–or at least look like you have–a good place to start is your local grocery store. What type of foods can help? tell me — Why should I eat antioxidant rich foods? Most people don’t realize that eating foods that combat the molecular mechanism behind aging is probably more effective than even the most expensive lotions and supplements.
Americans spent $44.6 billion on anti-aging products and services last year. Expenditures included $37.6 billion spent on drugs and supplements targeted at specific diseases of aging, $7.7 billion spent on appearance products and services and nearly $280 million spent on anti-aging products that use advanced technologies such as hair regrowth.
Growing at an average annual rate of 9.2%, the total market is estimated to reach nearly $72 billion by 2009. Maybe if people ate more of the right foods they wouldn’t need to spend so much money on Botox, caviar crème and facelifts.
So what makes certain foods such powerful age-fighting weapons? Antioxidants, special substances that are found in foods ranging from cinnamon and cloves to blueberries and artichokes, have the ability to scavenge free radicals, compounds whose unstable chemical nature accelerates the effect of aging on our cells.
Not all free radicals are bad. They’re byproducts of normal cell activity, and without them, oxygen couldn’t react with other molecules to maintain basic biological functions. An integral part of turning calories into energy, for example, is free radical production (that explains why overeating and the overproduction of free radicals go hand-in-hand). Our immune system even relies on free radicals to kill invading organisms. Getting rid of free radicals all together would clearly be a bad thing.
It’s when free radicals don’t do what they are supposed to do (and the more calories you consume, the more likely that is to happen) that problems arise. Wandering free radicals snatch electrons from neighboring cholesterol particles, proteins or DNA, beginning a chain reaction that results in wounds to nearby tissue and genetic mutations.
Until these excess free radicals are quenched by antioxidant molecules, cellular damage accumulates, contributing to a whole slew of degenerative diseases like atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s and cancer. As we age, our internal antioxidant enzymes become less active, making diet-derived antioxidants even more essential.
Research shows that certain types of beans are among the best sources of antioxidants, while blueberries and other berries follow closely behind.
There are plenty of ways to incorporate these foods into your diet–add a handful of dried cranberries or red beans to your salad, or some berries to a bowl of yogurt or cereal. The important thing is to adopt a healthy balance. The best anti-aging program incorporates the foods on our list with fiber-filled whole grains such as wild rice, protein like salmon, and plenty of leafy greens.
If you are already in your fifties or sixties, eating the foods on our list is not going to magically bring back your hair or make your wrinkles disappear. But they will certainly help counter the effects of aging.
For those people who can get an earlier start, the protective impacts will be even greater. There is abundant evidence that high intake of antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables helps protect against degeneration in later life.
With the help of nutrition scientists and research chemists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we present 10 foods with the highest per-serving capacity to wipe out the free radicals that contribute to aging.
While there’s no magic food to melt the years away, a poor diet can take its toll on your body. Protect yourself inside and out with antioxidants, fiber and other health-protecting goodies found in these ten foods.
1. Fish Rich in Omega-3
Your skin, eyes, brain and heart will all benefit from this essential fatty acid Found in salmon, sardines and tuna, try to eat at least one serving a week.
Vitamin C is vital for the formation of collagen, which gives skin elasticity. Citrus is the common source but a fresh pepper has over 250 percent of the daily recommendation.
Providing both, fluid and cell-protecting antioxidants, brewed cups of green and black varieties have more antioxidants than many fruits and veggies.
Berries contain some of the most potent sources of antioxidants around. Anthocyanins in particular help fight inflammation and protect the nervous and cardiovascular systems.
A powerful antioxidant, the vitamin E found in nuts like almonds defend respiratory tissue from damage.
The healthy bacteria (a.k.a. probiotics) found in yogurt will keep your digestive system in tip-top shape. Each calcium-filled serving will also benefit your bones.
You can’t go wrong with H2O. Good hydration will protect against skin damage, reduce bloating and water retention and naturally remove toxins from the body.
Eat a rainbow of different colored beans to reap the benefits. Red beans like pinto and kidney rank highest in the antioxidant department.
Keep the doctor away with two kinds of fiber plus the inflammation-fighting and heart-protecting antioxidant called quercetin.
10. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Healthy fats for your heart, plus plant compounds that protect the cells from damage and some types of cancer. Full-flavored Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains the most antioxidants