What are Antioxidants, Why is it Important for your Health?
Antioxidants – You’ve been reading about it everywhere. Your doctor urges you to include more of kale, berries and other bright-colored produce because they are rich in antioxidants. But what are these antioxidants and what do they do? Why is everyone from doctors to fashion magazine recommending them?!
What is an antioxidant & what does it do?
As the name suggests the job of an antioxidant is to fight (anti) oxidation (oxidant). Antioxidants come from a variety of plant sources – herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. The characteristic bright hue of a fruit or a vegetable is due to its rich antioxidant content.
Take for instance, blueberries, the deep purple color is because of the anthocyanin, an antioxidant pigment. The orange hue of carrots is because of the betacaroetne, the orange antioxidant pigment. The bright yellow tone of turmeric powder is due to the presence of curcumin, a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant.
Research shows that these antioxidants confer many health benefits when included as part of the daily diet. Some of the health benefits include,
Lower risk of cancer
Protection from heart diseases and stroke
Slows the process of aging
Protects the cells from damage and increases longevity
Reduces the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, or vision loss due to aging
Necessary to protect the cartilage and joint health
What does an antioxidant do?
The job of an antioxidant is to fight oxidation. Oxidation takes place inside our body every second. It happens when you breathe, digest, eliminate, exercise, think, almost any activity. Oxidation is an inevitable part of us; however, the process produces byproducts called free radicals. We are equipped to neutralize the free radicals through a bunch of antioxidants. Our body makes these antioxidants naturally and operates an innate antioxidant defense to combat free radicals. It occurs efficiently along with antioxidants from the food. But here is the catch, when the number of free radicals produced exceed the body’s capacity to handle it can result in damage to cells.
It can happen when,
1. You are not producing enough antioxidants – Low production due to aging or inadequate intake of nutritious foods.
2. Certain conditions – Increased generation of free radicals due to chronic stress, pollution, exposure to chemicals, too many pesticides or certain medications.
3. Not eating enough antioxidant-rich foods – Poor consumption of wholesome foods like berries, grains, and other fresh produce that support body’s natural antioxidant defense.
4. Poor lifestyle and dietary habits – Increased intake of processed foods, refined oil, refined flour, white sugar, etc. Smoking, too much alcohol intake, little or no exercise or sedentary living can encourage free radical production.
Fortunately, tweaking your diet to include antioxidant-rich foods can prevent the adverse effects of free radicals. The solution is to include more fresh, unprocessed, more plant foods and least processed foods into your menu.
How to improve your antioxidant intake?
Try to include a variety of fresh fruits and veggies to add a variety of antioxidants in your diet. Here are some top antioxidant-rich foods for you
Most bright colored berries – blueberries, strawberries, goji berries, cranberries, etc.
Dark greens – Kale,spinach, broccoli
Herbs and spices- cilantro, ginger, turmeric, cumin, parsley
Other fresh fruits like Squash, oranges, grapes, etc.
Most nuts and seeds
Orange -pigmented produce like carrot, maize, corn, etc.
Whole foods like kidney beans, lentils, and legumes
Include high quality dietary antioxidant supplements
How much should you take?
There is no official recommended daily allowance for antioxidants or antioxidant foods. The more real foods and less processed foods in your diet the better.
Now you know why antioxidants are crucial to your health! Ensure to load up on a variety of antioxidant-rich foods every day. We encourage you to choose organic, non-GMO foods sources whenever possible.
*Statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and are not intended to treat or diagnose any disease or health condition. The information on this website is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is recommended that patients check with their doctors before taking herbs, to ensure that there are no contraindications with prescription medications. There is additional information linked within this site from a third party educational source containing the latest research on health and supplements.We will not be held accountable for this information and consider it an education reference only.