What stress-busting powerhouse is found in every color of the rainbow? Antioxidants!
And we’re talking about oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when your body has too many free-radicals. Free-radicals are byproducts of certain chemical processes, and they can damage your cells and DNA. Free-radicals get a lot of bad press, but they are actually necessary and beneficial as they help our immune system attack invading bacteria. It’s only when we have an excess of them that we suffer negative effects.
Excess free-radicals have been linked to diseases of the cardiovascular and central nervous systems, diabetes, genetic degenerative diseases, age-related changes in vision and in appearance, autoimmune disorders, and inflammatory disorders.
And while they are normally beneficial, certain lifestyle factors can speed up your body’s production of free-radicals, disturbing your free-radical to antioxidant ratio. Smoking, alcohol, fried foods, and exposure to toxins like those found in air pollution and pesticides have been linked to an increased production of free-radicals. And in the case of free-radicals, less is definitely more. Like many natural functions, our ability to neutralize the threat of excess free-radicals slows down as we age. But we can take steps to arm our body with the best natural weapons against free-radicals: antioxidants.
Antioxidants pack a punch at the cellular level, neutralizing free-radicals to protect your cells. These little powerhouses are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and even in wine and dark chocolate (yessss!). Antioxidants are also added to products like breakfast cereals, breads, margarine and cooked cured meats as preservatives to prevent oxidation (think about apples turning brown when cut and exposed to air – that’s oxidation).
They are also added to skin care and cosmetic products. You might recognize vitamins C, A, and E. They are all antioxidants used in food and in skin-care products. In skin care products, antioxidants protect your skin from the stress of environmental factors like pollution. Some, like vitamins A and C, as well as coenzymeQ10, help stimulate the production of collagen, improving your skin’s texture and elasticity. Others, like green tea and chamomile, calm and soothe redness. And finally, they help diminish the appearance of wrinkles. The limitation is that skin is designed as a barrier to keep things out of your body so anything applied topically will always have a limited effect.
Antioxidants have similar cell-protective qualities when we ingest them in our foods. They help protect your cells from the damage caused by environmental stressors like tobacco smoke and radiation. When we eat foods high in anti-oxidants they these can be used throughout the body.
In so many areas of our lives, balance is important. This is also true with free-radicals and antioxidants. Excess free-radicals damage our cells, but excess antioxidants can also be damaging.
While there are many antioxidant supplements on the market, the very best way to support your body is through a healthy diet based on whole foods – nuts, grains, fruits and vegetable. And the best way to get a natural variety of the antioxidants your body needs is to eat a rainbow of foods. The different colors of fruits and vegetables at your local market are caused by the different nutrients contained in each. You can give your body a variety of antioxidants – as well as other vital nutrients – by eating a variety of different colors.
Bio-active peptides are also excellent antioxidants. Simply put, bioactive peptides are proteins that have chopped up into tiny component parts. Scientists indicate that antioxidant peptides, taken from food proteins, have potential to be explored as a natural new drug in the battle against oxidative stress. High-quality marine collagen is one of those great bioactive peptides that work to scavenge free radical in your body.
So add a little adventure to your shopping trip! Try a new fruit or vegetable every trip or make a game out of shopping (and eating) the entire rainbow in a week. You may discover new favorites and make shopping a little more fun, all while arming your body for the tiny battles your cells fight for you every day.