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Damaging Free Radicals and Super Hero Antioxidants

In cells, oxygen is constantly involved in chemical reactions in which electrons are shifted around. This is called oxidation. In an oxidation reaction, one atom or compound will steal electrons from another atom or compound. This process creates highly reactive, unstable, harmful particles known as free radicals.  Free radicals cause damage and many experts believe damage from free radicals is a factor in the development of  blood vessel disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and many chronic diseases. Free radicals can cause LDL cholesterol to oxidize, increasing cardiovascular risk. They can also damage genes in ways that contribute to the aging process. The damage to cells caused by free radicals, especially the damage to DNA, may play a role in the development of cancer and other health conditions.

We are exposed to free radicals through normal cellular processes, the effects of ultraviolet light and sun exposure, air pollution, trauma, excess heat, and smoking or when the body breaks down certain medicines. Our bodies also produce free radicals during exercise because we inhale more oxygen and use more energy and through by-products of normal processes that take place in your body (such as the burning of sugars for energy and the release of digestive enzymes to break down food). To generate energy, our cells remove electrons from sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids and add them to other molecules, especially oxygen. All this creates free radicals.

Antioxidants to the rescue. Antioxidants are the superheroes of the complex world of biochemistry because they provide an electron that the free radical is missing and neutralize it, ending the chain of destruction. Antioxidants thus protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants play a role in the management or prevention of some medical conditions and aging. 

It takes a variety of antioxidants and lots of them to help successfully deactivate the different kinds of free radicals. The body’s natural antioxidant defense system is partly fueled by the antioxidants we consume. Antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, lignan, lycopene, and other carotenoids, and selenium. In general, the best dietary sources of antioxidants are vegetables, fruits, grains, beans, seeds and other plant-derived foods.

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Cherry, Cinnamon and Seeds Oatmeal

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This recipe spotlights delicious Morello sour cherries that are packed with nutrition.

Beta carotene, linked with cancer prevention particularly lung cancer and reduction in the risk of heart disease. Beta carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A, a vitamin that prevents night blindness, needed for growth and cell development, maintains healthy skin, hair, and nails as well as gums, glands, bones, and teeth. May prevent lung cancer.

Pectin, a soluble fiber makes you feel full which may lessen appetite. Also, it lowers LDL cholesterol which helps reduce the risk of heart disease, regulates blood sugar which may reduce the onset risk or symptoms of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, and may cut the risk of colorectal cancer.

Quercetin, a flavonoid and antioxidant that may help avoid heart disease, lessen risk of cancer and coronary artery disease.

Potassium, which gives a helpful effect in lowering blood pressure. Also helps maintain fluid balance, and helps proper metabolism.

Vitamin C, vitamin that fortifies blood vessel walls, encourages wound curing, promotes iron absorption, helps avoid atherosclerosis, defends against cell damage by free radicals, may diminish risk of certain cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and other diseases. The anthocyanidins found in the cherries have anti-inflammatory properties.

Cinnamon is also featured in this recipe.  I recommend eating a teaspoon a day of the true cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon, since it so health promoting, and has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antitumor, cardiovascular-friendly, cholesterol-lowering, blood sugar regulating effects. If cinnamon isn’t labeled Ceylon you’re most likely eating a cheaper, less liver-safe cinnamon variety called cassia. It can be hard to find so I buy this one from Amazon.  

WARNING to those who are taking blood thinners. Cassia cinnamon contains high levels (0.45%) of natural chemicals called coumarin. When taking anti-coagulants, its important to avoid any products with coumarin. This interacts with blood thinners – especially warfarin (Coumadin) and increases the risk of bleeding. 

 ½ cup raw oats

1 cup milk or water

½ tbsp. Ceylon Cinnamon

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp hemp seeds

1 Tbs. pumpkin seeds

1/3 cup Morella Cherries (from Trader Joe’s)

cherriPrepare oatmeal as per package instructions. I like to do mine in a large glass microwave-safe bowl in the microwave. I use a too-large because cooking oats in the microwave in a too-small bowl can create the dreaded “volcano effect”.

Top with cinnamon, brown sugar, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds and cherries and enjoy!

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Mediterranean Diet May Slow Aging Process and Decrease Bone Loss

After conducting a 5 year study about how a Mediterranean style diet can promote health in the elderly and help to prevent the development of age-related diseases, researchers found that foods falling within the Mediterranean diet’s guidelines can cut bone loss and help lower levels of C-reactive, which is tied to aging.

I’m already a fan of the Mediterranean diet due to its numerous health benefits, and this new study only confirms this evidence. According to the researchers, sticking to a Mediterranean diet can slow down aging. This is because the foods associated with this diet pattern decrease the levels of a protein called C-reactive, which is linked to the aging process. For people who suffer from osteoporosis, the study also found that eating more Mediterranean-style foods will reduce bone loss. Though researchers focused on how the diet affects the elderly population, we can easily take this lesson and apply it to our own diets. There’s no better time to start than at any age, right?

Want to read the details of the study?

References

  1. OECD (2010). Health at a Glance: Europe 2010. OECD Publishing.
  2. Berendsen A, et al. (2014). A parallel randomized trial on the effect of a healthful diet on inflammageing and its consequences in European elderly people: design of the NU-AGE dietary intervention study. Mechanisms of ageing and development 134(11-12):523-530.

For more information:

NU-AGE official website: www.nu-age.eu

 

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