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Anti-Oxidants

What are anti-oxidants? We often hear this term. You have heard of the metal Iron? When Iron comes in contact with oxygen in the air, it reacts with it and forms rusts. This rusting is a chemical process called oxidation which  finally destroys the iron. To prevent Iron from rusting, it can be coated with chemicals called anti-oxidants because they prevent oxidation.

Video on Anti-oxidation

Similarly in our bodies, since we breathe in air, the oxygen in it will cause a  biochemical oxidation like rusting. Like the rusting of iron, our bodies age. So we can call ageing a biochemical 'rusting' process.

The rusting is speeded up by inflammatory reactions in our body. In a  new report  in Perspectives on Psychological Science, research investigating how stress can wreak havoc on our bodies and provides some suggestions to further our understanding of this connection.

Inflammation is the body's way of removing harmful stimuli and also starts the process of healing, via release of a variety of chemicals known as pro-inflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6). However, too much inflammation can be damaging and has been implicated in the development of many age-related diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, and Type II diabetes. Negative emotions and psychological stressors increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.

"These stress-related changes in inflammation provide evidence of one mechanism through which stressors may accelerate risk of a host of age-related diseases."

Scientists argues that our environment should be taken into account when studying the link between stress and our health. For instance, diet may modify interactions between psychological and immunological responses: Omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts) can reduce production of some pro-inflammatory chemicals and increasing levels of omega-3 fatty acids may result in positive effects on mood and the immune system. Environmental toxins (such as pesticides and air pollutants) can have extremely negative effects on the immune system and these effects may be intensified in stressed individuals, increasing their risk for developing allergies, asthma, and viral infections.

Our explanation continues:

How can we prevent ageing ('rusting' of the body)? 

Just as we coat iron with chemicals to prevent it from rusting, nature provides us with abundant chemicals called anti-oxidants to prevent the rusting of our bodies. There are many anti-oxidants that are unknown to scientists. The most popular ones are Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Phyto-nutrients, etc. These anti-oxidants are naturally present in abundance in fruits, vegetables, grains and all foods. Anti-oxidants are rich in nuts and seeds, even though they contain oils which are, in actual fact,  the fastest to get oxidized. This is why nature packs anti-oxidants with oils in nuts and seeds, so that they can prevent rancidity.

Refining oils

But look at what we are doing, we are refining oils! Cholesterol, heart diseases and a lot of other health problems have increased in technologically advanced societies because of the use of refined oils and refined products.

Why is oil refined?

When oil is refined, it is stripped of its natural anti-oxidants. The benefit to the food industry is an  increase in the shelf life of products, at the cost of the consumer's health. The more refined oils you consume, the worse would be your overall health. Try to use unrefined oils and, if possible, cold pressed oils, avoiding the use of solvents. Solvents are used by the oil industry so that the production of oil can be maximized; but these harmful chemicals are left in the oil.

So, if you care for health, use unrefined cold pressed oils. We use unrefined cold pressed sesame oil and coconut oil in most Indian cooking and unrefined cold pressed olive oil in western salads.

Anti-oxidants in other foods

Anti-oxidants are not only confined to nuts and seeds but are also present in other grains, fruits and vegetables. Polishing  or refining the grains also strip anti-oxidants and other nutrients from the food.

So to be healthy eat unprocessed, unrefined foods. White wheat flour, white rice, corn starch, corn syrup are highly processed foods that should be avoided. Consuming these refined processed foods is the main cause of diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol, cancer, overweight, obesity  and other ageing and oxidation-related diseases.

Read the next interesting fact about the danger of eating refined foods.

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