Today antioxidants are super popular. Justifiably so because… free radicals cause cell damage, which eventually leads to disease. To prevent these conditions from occurring, antioxidants protect cells against free radical damage.
But wait, what are antioxidants and what are free radicals and why should I care about them?
An antioxidant is any substance that protects other substances (like your body) from being damaged by free radicals. Studies have shown that antioxidants may reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and cataracts.
Free radicals are unstable particles that have an unpaired electron. They are created when oxygen interacts with certain chemicals or radiation. These free radicals are highly reactive and will attack other molecules within the body causing damage.
The most common sources of free radicals are:
– Radicals released during normal metabolism (e.g., breathing)
– Radiation from sunlight
– Chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides
– Certain foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, alcohol and tobacco
In short antioxidants are compounds found in fruits and vegetables that fight free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that cause damage to cells and DNA. Antioxidants neutralize these harmful molecules.
What are the best ways to consume antioxidants?
Eating a healthy diet is the best way to get antioxidants. Antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables are the best source of antioxidants. You knew I was going to say that right? But some other sources that may surprise you include green tea, red wine, dark chocolate, and olive oil.
Despite the marketing hype surrounding “super foods” such as (clears throat) blueberries, there isn’t any evidence that they’re actually better for us than other fruits and vegetables. Now, don’t get me wrong. Blueberries are delicious! In our rush to embrace the newest antioxidant food fad, we’re overlooking some extremely healthy antioxidants that may be hiding in plain sight in our kitchen cabinets.
“What? What could possibly be higher in antioxidant power than my beloved wild blueberries?” Well, maybe the tiny red beans! Yes, I did say “bean.” And yes, azuki beans contain more antioxidant power than wild berries! and cultivated blueberries contain less antioxidant power per serving size than either the red kidney beans or the pinto beans.
What other foods are high in antioxidants?
The best sources of antioxidants include broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, spinach, leeks, onions and garlic, eggplant, pumpkin, red capsicum, carrots and parsley, grapes, berries mangoes, apricots apples and citrus fruits. Other antioxidant-rich foods include seafood, lean meat, milk and nuts.
In fact, there are many different types of fruits and vegetables that contain lots of antioxidants. You shouldn’t limit yourself to eating just one type of fruit or vegetable. Why? You may be familiar with the phrase, “Eat the Rainbow!” It means eating fruits and vegetables from various colour families (i.e., red, orange, yellow, green) because they contain different types of antioxidants that provide specific health benefits.
For instance, the yellow-orange colour family of peaches and nectarines helps our immune system. Foods from the purple-red colour family help reduce inflammation. Eating foods from all colour groups helps you get the most out of antioxidant nutrients.
Can I just take a dietary supplement?
No, there is no scientific proof that taking an antioxidant supplement will improve your health. Some people swear by supplements but there is no evidence that they work. The only thing that supplements do is make you think you’re doing something when you aren’t.
How do I know if I’m getting enough antioxidants?
If you want to make sure you’re getting enough antioxidants, it’s easy. Simply look at your plate when you sit down to dinner. If half or more of your plate is filled with colourful fruits and veggies, then you’ve got plenty of antioxidants.
But if you only see white potatoes, pasta, rice and bread on your plate, you might want to think about adding more fruits and veggies to your meals.
And remember: The best way to ensure you’re getting enough antioxidants is by eating a wide range of colours every day.
The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.