Antioxidants are substances that slow down free radical damage in the organism. They help maintain cells young for longer and better.
In our body there is a constant fight between “bad” free radicals and healthy cells. When free radicals are abundant, early ageing and diseases are likely to show up.
Antioxidants neutralize harmful molecules before they get to attack healthy cells or even before such harmful processes begin..
Stay healthy and “get young”
Anti-ageing means finding a way to delay the ageing processes while keeping life quality for as long as possible. Life expectancy is increasing, as the maximum age registered has been 122 years. Unfortunately this is not possible for everybody, but we can follow and anti-ageing routine to improve our quality of life.
Lifestyle, unhealthy diets and pollution have an impact on people’s health and their life expectancy. Smoking, drinking, overweight and sleeping problems are the main causes. Stress, traffic and noisy environments also contribute to the ageing process.
Blame it on free radicals
Free radicals have a significant effect on the biochemical ageing, as they damage body cells.
We’re all made of atoms. Atoms that have an external shell of electrons, are peaceful and inactive and do not suffer any chemical reaction, enjoying a happy life in the organism. However, atoms with no electron shell, are unhappy and unstable. They’re anxious to get electrons and stay happy and calm. These unstable atoms are called free radicals.
Free radicals tend to move fast, constantly trying to steal an electron from another molecule near them. This way, the molecule loses an electron and turns into a free radical. This process does not ever stop.
Having certain amount of free radicals is not bad, as they are constantly generated by metabolic processes in the body, This is normal. The problem comes when the number of free radicals in the body is too high.
Oxygen free radicals are the most common. They are oxygen atoms with one electron missing. When oxygen free radicals start damaging the body, oxidative stress is produced.
What provokes free radicals?
Free radicals are produced through breathing, eating or any normal daily life habit. The body produces free radicals facing any stressful situation.
There are many healthy activities that produce free radicals, such as intensive physical exercise.
External signs of ageing show on skin. Wrinkles show up because cellular renovation decreases from 25 years old on. Furhermore, skin is less flexible over the years, which explains collagen breakdowns. UV rays, for example, damage skin and accelerates ageing processes as free radicals harm cells.
Currently, there are many diseases and health issues associated with a high number of free radicals in the organism.
Antioxidants to the rescue
So, how to convert a free radical into an inoffensive molecule? The only way is by giving the free radical the electron missing.
What substances contain electrons? Yes! Antioxidants. They are the ones in charge to stop and slow down oxidative processes provoked by free radicals.
Remember: Free radicals provoke oxidation and antioxidants prevent oxidation. Antioxidants provide the free radical with the electron they need, converting it in an oxygen molecule.
The most powerful antioxidants:
Plant extract: curcumin, green tea, carotenoids, astaxanthin, lycopene, spirulina, chlorella
Super fruit: spanish maquis, acai berries, blueberries, camu camu, acerola, aronia berries, pomegranate, goji, cocoa, grape seed extract (OPC)
Vitamins: B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin C
Oligoelements like selenium
Fatty acids: Omega-3, capsules with high EPA and DHA content, olive oil, hempseed oil, fish oil
ORAC means Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. It measures the capacity of the substance to neutralise oxygen free radicals.
ORAC is a laboratory test to measure antioxidant activity with any substance, classifying it in a determined scale. The higher the ORAC value, the stronger the antioxidant properties.
While ORAC science is very wide, if you’re looking for antioxidant food, you should choose the ones with the highest ORAC.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends taking from 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units a day. Actually, 80% of population consumes less than 1,000 a day. Taking 5 pieces of fruit a day provides 1,750 ORAC units.
Fruit and vegetables contain the highest ORAC levels. Every 100 g: apples 218, bananas 221, blueberries 2,400, fresh acai berries, 5,500.
Acai berries freeze-dried provide 70,000 every 100 g.
Anthocyanins: powerful antioxidants to fight free radical
Have you ever seen these beautiful violet flowers? And a dark red grape or a bright Fuji apple? These contain anthocyanins.
Anthocyanins are water-soluble vacuolar pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue depending on the pH. They belong to a parent class of molecules called flavonoids synthesized via the phenylpropanoid pathway; they are odorless and nearly flavorless, contributing to taste as a moderately astringent sensation. They occur in all tissues of higher plants, including leaves, stems, roots, flowers, and fruits. Anthoxanthins are clear, white to yellow counterparts of anthocyanins occurring in plants. They are derived from anthocyanidins by adding sugars.
Fruit like acai berries which are exposed to intense sunlight, suffer stress due to the ultraviolet light because it causes free radical formation. For this reason acai berries produce a great amount of anthocyanins.
Anthocyanin properties are maintained even once eaten. This is the reason why fruit with higher pigmentation levels provide higher ORAC value.
Anthocyanins and the french paradox
French gastronomy contains high amounts of cheese, coffee, nicotine and white flour, which makes people think that diets containing such foods are likely to provoke a higher percentage of population suffering from cardiovascular diseases. But it’s not precisely the case. French population have a really low rate of cardiovascular diseases despite the kind of food. This is known as the french paradox.
The key lies on anthocyanins. In France, red wine is very popular, which has a high amount of anthocyanins, and is probably the responsible for the good health of the french people. Even though red wine is rich in anthocyanins, acai berries contain 30 times more anthocyanins than red wine.
Tips for a longer life expectancy:
Include antioxidant fruit and vegetables in your diet
Take foods and dietary supplements containing antioxidants and / or a high ORAC value, such as curcumin, Acai, Maqui, and multivitamins
Drink green tea instead of coffee
If you do a lot physical exercise, increase your antioxidant intake
Do not overeat and prevent overweight
Avoid taking sugar and animal fat
If you drink alcohol, drink only small amounts
Do not smoke
Do relaxation exercises to relieve stress