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From Jordan's Desk: Ageless Antioxidants

Ageless Antioxidants

Most of us have heard of antioxidants. They’re nutrients in plant foods known as phytochemicals and are found in deeply colored fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other plants and foods. Antioxidants have the uncanny power to take destructive free radicals and convert them to harmless waste products that the body can eliminate before any damage is done to the body. In short, antioxidants act as scavengers to keep the body’s cells, tissues and overall health intact.

You may be wondering why free radicals pose a threat. Long story short, a free radical is a molecule with one electron missing, which leaves free radicals highly unstable. In their instability, they attack stable molecules to rob them of their electrons—causing a cascade of new free radicals to form and wreak havoc on the body.

Science has come a long way in determining just how powerful antioxidants are, but a long time ago, science wasn’t part of the equation. It was more cause-and-effect through experience. Take, for instance, our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers. Hunting and gathering was how people obtained their food for hundreds of thousands of years prior to the onset of agriculture. Theirs was a diet consisting mostly of lean wild meats, fish, eggs, nuts, vegetables and fruits. It was a time of “survival of the fittest,” and savvy hunter-gatherers learned to choose food sources high in beneficial antioxidants. They didn’t know why these foods helped them. They just knew that they did.

Hunting-gathering gave way to early forms of agriculture about 10,000 years ago. During that time, however, knowledge of beneficial plants and their antioxidants was kept alive. For example, the Roman Emperor Hadrian (AD 122) arranged to have his foods of plentiful fresh vegetables and fruits including grapes, good wines, fish and olive oil—what’s now known as the basis for the Mediterranean diet—transported with him wherever he went during his widespread military exploits. Perhaps his antioxidant-rich diet contributed to his living to the ripe old age of 62—elderly by Roman standards of that time—despite his grueling lifestyle and schedule.

Since that time, scientists have discovered just why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy. One major reason is that it’s chock-full of antioxidants. Take grapes, for instance. They rate well on the ORAC scale, a rating scale that scientists put together to measure foods’ antioxidant content. Additionally, red grapes—and particularly red wine from those grapes—provide resveratrol, an antioxidant with powerful health benefits. No wonder Emperor Hadrian fared so well!

Grapes aren’t alone in providing delicious foods for adequate antioxidant intake. Likewise, spices which pack some of the highest antioxidant punches known to humanity, date back in time, too. In fact, during biblical times, spices held such value that they were traded as a monetary commodity—along the lines of silver and gold. Cinnamon, rosemary, ginger, turmeric, cloves, cilantro, oregano, coriander, garlic, curry and red pepper are excellent antioxidant sources. Not only can they spice up your life and foods, but they can also boost your antioxidant intake in a scrumptious way.

While we’re on the subject of savory antioxidants, here’s one of the newer—and more decadent—members to join the ranks of high-powered antioxidants: dark chocolate. Did you know that unprocessed cocoa has a whopping 10 percent concentration of antioxidants? It’s true. Likewise, the antioxidant procyanidin found in dark chocolate can help support normal blood clotting and blood vessel function, thereby supporting cardiovascular health. That’s one more reason to “heart” chocolate!

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of the many health benefits offered by antioxidants. In fact, here are some things we now know about antioxidants:

  • They support cardiovascular health.  
  • They support healthy cells.   
  • They can boost immunity. 
  • They can slow down the effects of Father Time. 
  • They may assist in weight management. 

In short, antioxidants have withstood the test of time and are still delivering benefits today.

 

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.


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