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Damaging Free Radicals and Super Hero Antioxidants

untitledIn 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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Mediterranean Diet May Slow Aging Process and Decrease Bone Loss

Mediterranean-Diet - CopyAfter 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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Roasted Butternut Squash

  • Butternut squash (about 2.5 pounds), peeled and seeded and cut in 1-inch chunks or 2 pounds of precut butternut squash (see photo below)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Pepper as desired

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the squash in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss well. Arrange the squash in one layer on a sheet pan and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until the squash is tender, turning once with a metal spatula.

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