Everywhere you go its all about antioxidants- but why many ask? What does this really mean?
What is an antioxidant exactly?
Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as “free radical scavengers” and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals. Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer are all contributed by oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense and therefore lower the risk of cancer and infection.
These are Mother Nature’s little helpers!
So- what is a free radical?
Free radicals, also known simply as radicals, are organic molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases. These molecules are very unstable, therefore they look to bond with other molecules, destroying their health and further continuing the damaging process. Antioxidants, present in many foods, prevent free radicals from harming healthy tissue.
Most Commonly Known Antioxidants
- Vitamin A and Carotenoids
Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-colored fruits and vegetables!)
- Vitamin C
Citrus fruits like oranges and lime etc, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes
- Vitamin E
Nuts & seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and liver oil
Fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic
For antioxidant foods, eating a wide variety of whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables including leafy greens, will provide a wide range of beneficial antioxidants. Regular consumption of green tea is also beneficial as it provides antioxidants known as catechins. However, it may not always be possible even for those who are conscientious about healthy eating to consume the optimum amounts of antioxidants on a daily basis. You may need to supplement but this would be something to discuss with your physician.
The Bottom Line
Antioxidants are found abundant in beans, grain products, fruits and vegetables. Look for fruits with bright color – lutein in some of the yellow pigments found in corn; orange in cantaloupe, butternut squash and mango; red from lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon, and purple and blue in berries. So enjoy eating a variety of these products. It is best to obtain these antioxidants from foods instead of supplements. In addition, minimize the exposure of oxidative stress such as smoking and sunburn.
Happy Healthy Eating! Dana