We’ve all been told to eat foods that are rich in antioxidants for optimal health and wellness. But what are antioxidants and how does this work?
Here’s how it goes…
Our bodies just by producing energy everyday create what are called “Free Radicals” so it is quite a natural process but Free Radicals can also be produced by toxins in the environment like diet, stress, smoking, alcohol, exercise, inflammation, drugs or exposure to sunlight and air pollutants.
A Free Radical is an atom or group of atoms that has an unpaired electron and is therefore unstable and highly reactive.
When the body is overwhelmed by too many “Free Radicals” the chief danger comes from the damage they can do when they react with important cellular components such as DNA, or the cell membrane around them. Cells may function poorly or die if this occurs. To prevent free radical damage the body has a defense system of “Antioxidants”.
Antioxidants are molecules which can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction
Protect your skin and repair cellular damage by adding more deeply colored, antioxidant rich vegetables and fruits to your diet.
The 5 best antioxidant-rich foods
In addition to being deliciously sweet, berries such as raspberries, blueberries and strawberries offer an abundance of antioxidant capacity. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are rich in proanthocyanidins, antioxidants that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Eat them frozen in a morning smoothie, toss a handful over soaked nuts or enjoy them as an afternoon snack.
Broccoli definitely takes the gold medal for most nutritious vegetable. This cruciferous vegetable contains more vitamin C than an orange and has more calcium than a glass of milk. In addition to minerals and vitamins, broccoli is filled with disease-fighting chemicals called phytonutrients. Sulforaphane, a phytonutrient found in broccoli, has been shown to lower the risk of many types of cancers. Try steaming your broccoli to retain most of the nutrients and seasoning with basil, lemon or salsa for a delicious side dish. This powerhouse vegetable is a perfect addition to omelettes, salads or stir-frys.
Garlic is used around the world as a delicious flavouring agent for any dish. The health benefits of garlic have been well touted for centuries, and raw garlic has been used as a natural antibiotic to kill off some strains of harmful bacteria. Garlic is also useful for decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol, removing heavy metals from the body, preventing cancer and acting as an antifungal and antiviral agent. One clove of garlic contains vitamins A, B and C, selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
4. Green tea
Green tea contains high concentrations of catechin polyphenols. These compounds work in the body with other chemicals to heighten levels of fat oxidation and thermogenesis (a state created in the body by burning fat as fuel). You should try to consume a cup of green tea per day or more to help with weight loss. Green tea has also been shown to be preventative against cancer, heart disease and high cholesterol.
Tomatoes (make sure they are organic to avoid GMO) are by far the richest source of a powerful anticancer agent called lycopene. In fact, research has shown lycopene to be an even more powerful disease fighter than vitamin E and beta carotene. Lycopene needs fat for optimal absorption to occur. Therefore, putting a healthy fat like virgin cold-pressed organic olive oil in your spaghetti sauce is an excellent trick to increase your lycopene levels. Start including more tomatoes in your diet in the form of sliced, whole, canned, stewed or sauced tomatoes or tomato paste.
In addition to the list above, red grapes, spinach, carrots and citrus fruits also offer plentiful antioxidant content.
NOTE: While it is interesting to learn what different foods can do for you, don’t forget that the general rule is “the more vegetables you eat in a wide variety the better”. Too much of a good thing is still not the recommended route, always diversify and rotate between types and variety of vegetables. And limit the amount of fruits consumed for two good reasons:
You need room for the more necessary protein & fat providing foods everyday
And to limit sugar consumption to a minimum.