Free radicals are everywhere and they accelerate the process of aging. However, with appropriate defense we can prevent against many chronic diseases of aging. (Check out our new video “Aging Well Physically” on youtube channel ‘Healthy Flamingo’!)
Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive molecules that can invade our cells and tissues resulting in the occurrence of chronic diseases of aging – such as cancer, diabetes, heart diseases and chronic inflammations, such as, arthritis. Free radicals cause oxidative stress and damage on our bodies– they are naturally produced as a result of metabolic processes or maybe contained in unhealthy and oily foods. These free radicals can be oxidized by some catalytic agents resulting in oxidative stress and cell damage. Some of these catalysts are:
- Metals, such as copper, mercury, zinc
- Toxic chemical agents, such as pesticides, cigarettes, air pollutants
- Physical stressors, such as sleep deprivation and inactivity.
- Greasy foods containing fatty acids, and cholesterol that undergo oxidation into secondary toxic substances.
Free radical oxidation damage our cell’s protein enzymes, thus hindering normal functioning of cells and accelerate the process of aging and disease pathogenesis. Such cell damages provoked by free radicals are much more common in aging. Increased oxidative protein damages were found in the livers and kidneys of aged animals. What are those functional superfoods we can eat to fight against free radicals and age well physically? There are functional foods with antioxidant, antiviral and medicinal properties containing lots of phyto-chemicals that we can eat to fight against free radicals.
We have grouped the superfoods into those that are beneficial for cardiovascular health, those that prevent against diabetes, cancer, arthritis, increase our body’s metabolism and prevent skin’s aging.
- Cardiovascular Health – Foods that are rich in Flavonols such as green tea, apple, onion, nuts, broccoli, strawberries and whole grains promote better cholesterol and blood pressure regulation – thus preventing against coronary heart diseases. Foods that are rich in vitamin E also fall into this category. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric is also very good for blood cholesterol regulation.
- Prevention against Cancer – Foods rich in anti-oxidants can decrease the risks of many forms of cancer – prostrate, colon, breast and lung cancer. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts reduce the risks of breast cancer, for example. Additionally, consuming plentiful green tea, garlic, soy products, and foods rich in vitamin A promote the apoptosis and death of tumor cells. Vegetables, such as beets and carrots that are rich in calcium and fibers are particularly good for prevention against intestinal cancers. These vegetables also protect the body against chronic inflammations, such as arthritis.
- Diabetes – Unprocessed whole foods, such as, whole grains, fatty fish rich in omega-3 acids, such as salmon/sardines, mixed nuts and non-sugary drinks, such as green tea and water are great foods for prevention of type 2 diabetes that typically occur with aging.
- Foods that boost metabolism –Not all calories that we consume are created equal – some foods exhaust more of our body’s energy than others. Thermogenic foods are those that have a higher chance of burning up more calories during the process of digestion itself. Therefore, we should consume lots of complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and fruits such as mixed berries, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and celery all of which boost the body’s metabolism. Lean meat, such as turkey and chicken are also highly thermogenic foods. Additionally, some spices such as turmeric powder and cinnamon also increase the rate of metabolism.
- Foods that prevent skin’s aging – Foods that are rich in phytochemical, Quercetin, such as apples, mixed berries, leafy green and cruciferous vegetables, citrusy fruits, such as oranges, lemons and tomatoes, provide rich sources of anti-oxidants and also have anti-inflammatory properties. Also, foods that contain the phytochemical, Resveratrol, such as grapes and peanuts have been found to protect the skin against premature aging.
Another important factor in aging well physically is to maintain a moderately active lifestyle in order to preserve our muscle function. Incorporating daily activities into our routine such as light weight lifting couple of times a week and taking frequent breaks to walk whenever possible goes a long way to prevent muscle loss with aging. Incidental workouts, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or carrying the grocery bag, help us to maintain and preserve muscle mass with age. Last but not the least, our body’s normal functioning and metabolism benefit tremendously from regular sleep to recharge our batteries.