What Are Antioxidants? Why Do I Care?
These days, it seems that everything is boasting high levels of antioxidants — juices, exotic fruits, your morning cereal — but what is an antioxidant really, and why do we care if our diets are rich in them?
Well, to understand the benefits of antioxidants, it’s important to understand the possible danger of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are produced as a normal part of the body’s digestion and metabolism, but with added factors such as ageing, pollution, radiation, or cigarette smoke, the amount of free radicals can rise, resulting in dangerous effects such as blood vessel or heart disease, and cancer.
This is where the anti-oxidation process comes in. When nutrients with anti-oxidizing properties are added to the system, they can help to neutralize the production rate of free radicals, lowering your risk for disease.
Antioxidants can be found in a number of vitamins and minerals, such as zinc, selenium, and Vitamins A, C, and D. There are also a number of antioxidant supplements on the market, however, because there is not ample research on the effects of these supplements, it’s always best to get your antioxidants directly from the source — mainly fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. And it’s also good to note that eating these foods either raw or lightly steamed is the best way to lock in all the nutrients and goodness!
Here are some foods to look out for that are especially rich in antioxidants:
- Berries — blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and acai berries, as well as red and purple grapes.
- Nuts — like brazil nuts, almonds, peanuts, which are also high in good cholesterol.
- Dark green veggies — spinach, broccoli, kale
- Tea — green tea, black tea and oolong teas are especially high in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, which protests against cell damage, along with many other helpful nutrients.
- Whole grains — breads, rice, pasta, even tortillas made with whole grains are packed with zinc and selenium, which help fight against heart disease.
- Beans — soy, black, kidney beans and lentils all are packed with different types of nutrients that help with anti-oxidation
- Fish — especially sardines, salmon, oysters, mackerel, tuna steak, wild rainbow trout, shark steak, albacore tuna, and herring (but as with fruit and veggies, keep it fresh! Lightly grilled or baked will lock in more nutrients than fried.)
Blog post written by Olivia Murphy