You may have heard that free radicals are external insults that can affect our bodies internally. Some of these external factors are cigarette smoke, air pollutants, and various toxins we ingest, such as some cholesterol-lowering medications, oral contraceptives, and anti-inflammatory medications. But most free radicals are actually produced within our own cells as normal by-products of the conversion of food to energy.
While not able to cure Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, eating blueberries certainly has its benefits. Studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rutgers Blueberry and Cranberry Research Center suggests the fruit ranks very high in antioxidant capacity, can help ward off urinary tract infections, lowers the risk of blood clots, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Though positive research does exist regarding its success at lowering dementia-type illnesses, most of the research has only been conducted on rodents.
As the days become colder and there’s a tendency to want to bundle up next to a warm fire with a cup of hot cocoa, isn’t it nice to know that this liquid concoction can help stave off disease? According to researchers from Cornell University, cocoa contains antioxidants that can help protect against heart disease and cancer. In fact, the amount of phenols and flavonoids in one cup of hot cocoa contains more antioxidant power than red wine, green tea, or black tea.
It is commonly known that antioxidants reduce the activity of cell-damaging free radicals, which can result in oxidative damage and cause many of the maladies of aging. Therefore, there is much to be celebrated about a recent analysis conducted by the Agricultural Research Service, a division of the United States Department of Agriculture. The service found that many fresh culinary herbs contain powerful antioxidants, some with more punch than medicinal herbs, fruits or vegetables.
Breathing in aromas rich in antioxidants — the agents in fruits and vegetables, as well as vitamins C and E — may be an option for good health, according to Kwang-Guen Lee, a researcher at the University of California at Davis. Lee distilled and extracted 30 chemicals to produce aromas from 10 plants, including soybeans, kidney beans, eucalyptus leaves and several types of spices, including basil, thyme, rosemary and cinnamon. Lee then tested the extracts for antioxidant levels and found them to be similar to those in vitamin E.