Study after study has shown that a diet high in antioxidants slows down the signs of aging and improves longevity. Antioxidants disarm free radicals, rogue oxygen molecules that are created naturally by the bodyas well as ingested and inhaledand that damage cells. One family of antioxidants, the polyphenols, have been shown to inhibit the inflammation and tissue damage associated with aging, notes James L. Hargrove, Ph.D., of the University of Georgia in Athens. Vitamin C, another potent antioxidant, supplies the body with the active ingredient it needs to remodel and reconstruct skin's collagen. A diet high in antioxidants is also linked with lowering the risks of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
Anti-wrinkle agents are easy to slip into your diet: Just think plant foods.
Fruits and vegetables are among the foods richest in antioxidants. As part of your lunch, make a big spinach salad with two cups of greens. Throw in a half-cup each of tomatoes, sliced red pepper, and mushrooms, and you've already heightened your antioxidant intake for the day (and that's not even including a fruit dessert). Here's how to make sure you get a good variety of antioxidant-rich foods:
1. Choose color-coded plants Typically, fruits and vegetables that are deeply colored have the most antioxidants. Two in particular to set your sights on are berries, which are full of vitamin C, and dark, leafy greensparticularly kale, spinach, and collard greenswhich are prime sources of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These plant pigments (that's where the color connection comes in, as many pigments have antioxidant properties) help protect your eyes from the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. Dark, leafy greens are also rich in vitamin K, a nutrient that plays a role in reducing bone loss and preventing fractures. And these vibrant leaves are a source of zinc, which helps break down damaged collagen, clearing the way for new collagen to form and smoothing surface lines in skin.
2. Reach for whole grains Whole grains are not only super sources of fiber; they're also rich in polyphenols. Breakfast cerealsespecially whole-grain cold cerealsand popcorn are top sources of polyphenols, with antioxidant contents comparable to those of fruits and vegetables. Whole-grain flours, like those used to make whole-wheat bread, are good, too. Overall, whole-grain foods have significantly more antioxidants than processed grains.
3. Herbs and spices don't just make food taste better; they can help you look younger for longer periods of time. Spices are also loaded with polyphenols. Sprinkle the following spices on your food liberally and often: thyme, rosemary, parsley, sage, oregano, spearmint, and peppermint all contain anti-tumor properties that may reduce the risk of cancer.
Both fresh and dried have benefits, although ounce for ounce, dried have a higher antioxidant count. Cinnamon is associated with preventing blood clots, improving circulation, and lowering the risk of heart attack and stroke. It may also help stabilize blood sugar, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Turmeric shows promise in helping to curb diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, and arthritis. Red chili peppers are being studied for their potential to lower cholesterol and boost fat-burning. Cumin, thyme, and rosemary may cut the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), the cancer-causing compounds found in meats cooked at high temperatures.
Please your senses, satisfy cravings, and get younger-looking skin to boot!
There are many easy ways to add antioxidant-rich foods into your diet. Sprinkle cinnamon on your latte or a bowl of oatmeal (aim to get one-half to one teaspoon a day), or try a low-sugar cinnamon-flavored, whole-grain cold cereal. Dust food with a quarter-teaspoon of turmeric or cumin, or use Indian-style recipes, which often call for these spices. Add cumin, dried thyme, rosemary, or sage to a marinade and then rub on more before cooking.