What Causes Oxidative Stress?
Every day we are exposed to the potentially damaging effects of free radicals. These compounds are produced naturally in the body as by-products of normal metabolic processes. We are also exposed to external free radicals from pollution, stress, processed foods, preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, radiation, smoking, alcohol consumption, trans-fat and a variety of medications.
Antioxidants are used by the body to help neutralise and safely remove free radicals. When we lack adequate antioxidants and the balance between free radicals and available antioxidants favours the former, our cells become at risk of oxidative damage. Increased oxidative damage is considered a factor in inflammation, acceleration of the ageing process and a contributor to many chronic diseases. Cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, cancer and poor immunity are all age-related chronic diseases that are all too common in our society, and have the hallmark of increased levels of oxidative stress.
A live blood screening (hemaview) can assess oxidative stress in the body. Just from a pin prick of blood you can see if you have oxidative damage.
Eating an Antioxidant Rich Diet
Antioxidants are used by the body to help neutralise and safely remove free radicals. If you want to minimise your chances of developing disease and age healthily to enjoy your later years, then a comprehensive antioxidant strategy is for you!
An antioxidant rich diet should include lots of filtered water, colourful vegetables, a little fruit, good quality proteins such as fish, organic meat or poultry and healthy fats such as those from coconuts, olives, nuts and small oily fish. These foods are a rich source of antioxidant phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals to nourish your body. Avoiding refined sugar, soft drinks and processed foods is essential.
- Berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and boysenberries all contain antioxidant compounds responsible for their vibrant colour, known as proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants protect cells against the oxidative damage that occurs throughout our lives.
- Green tea: is a rich source of antioxidant phytochemicals including various flavonoids and epigallocatechin gallate. Green tea consumption is associated with a reduced risk of developing certain cancers, and has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and aid weight loss. Add a few cups of organic green tea to your daily antioxidant strategy.
- Garlic: contains sulphur rich compounds which enhance immune function. Garlic also has benefits for the cardiovascular system and can be added easily to your daily diet.
- Turmeric and Ginger: the roots of these two plants possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties. As inflammation is a driver of cellular ageing, the addition of turmeric and ginger has a myriad of health benefits.
- Fish: small, oily fish are a perfect anti-ageing food. A great source of quality protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids, small oily fish such as herring, mackerel and sardines can help to reduce inflammation in the body as well as protect cardiovascular and brain health.
Living a Lifestyle to Minimise Oxidative Stress
- Quit Smoking: Smoking is one of the fastest ways to cause oxidative damage to your body. Smoking is highly toxic to cells, however the health benefits of quitting smoking begin immediately.
- Reduce alcohol intake: a little is good, a lot is bad! Excessive drinking will accelerate your cellular ageing and put your liver function and general health at risk. A glass a day of red wine can actually provide antioxidant benefits as red wine contains the antioxidant reservatrol. It is generally recommended to have at least three alcohol free days per week.
- Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help to maintain your aerobic fitness, bone density, cardiovascular health and help to prevent frailty. Weight or resistance training will help to maintain muscle mass and strength.
- Be happy and build good relationships: depression and loneliness can have serious impacts on your physical health. In fact, they are linked to increased inflammation which will rapidly cause damage to your body. Take part in activities that make you happy.
- Keep your mind active: Sudoku, chess, crosswords and bridge all keep the mind working. You might even want to learn a new language. These activities help to prevent age related cognitive decline and stave off dementia.
Nutritional Antioxidant Protection
- Reservatrol: found in many plant foods including grapes, cranberries, mulberries, cocoa and peanuts. Reservatrol protects mitochondrial function.
- Alpha-lipoic acid: helps to protect against elevated blood glucose-induced damage to cells and tissues, and assists by regenerating other antioxidants, namely vitamin E and C.
- Vitamins C and E: Well-known antioxidant nutrients that work in synergy, helping to recycle the other to further extended their antioxidant benefits.
- Carotenoids, betacarotene, lutein and lycopene: are of particular benefit to eye health.
- Zinc: required for the activity of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase and supplementation helps to promote its activity.
Benefits of Antioxidant Herbs
Turmeric has active compounds known collectively as curcuminoids, which have powerful anti-inflammatory activity and also act as antioxidants; protecting cell membranes and DNA from oxidative damage
Green tea contains catechin compounds, these catechins are known for their antioxidant ability to protect cells and tissues from damage and to prevent the production of pro-inflammatory agents. Green tea has been shown to protect the brain and cardiovascular system, protect against damage caused by elevated blood sugars and promote weight loss.
Grapeseed is rich in oligomeric proanthocyanides (OPC’s). OPC’s protect cells and DNA against free radical induced damage. OPC’s also have significant cardiovascular benefits as they protect LDL cholesterol against oxidation, which can prevent further damage to our cardiovascular system and in particular arteries.