Antioxidants have been a healthy diet must-have for ages. In almost every isle of the grocery store you can find something claiming to contain these super boosters. But are they all they’re chalked up to be? If so, what’s the best (and easiest) way to include them in a well-rounded diet?
First – what are antioxidants?
As the name suggests, they are very “anti” all things “oxidized.” AKA, they support the removal and neutralization of oxidized molecules, aka free radicals (which can damage critical cellular components, like DNA and the cell membrane). What’s interesting is that during normal cellular activity, our bodies produce both free radicals and antioxidants to neutralize them. However, external factors like pollution, over exertion or exposure to radiation can increase the quantity of free radicals to a damaging degree. This imbalance, know as oxidative stress, is linked to inflammatory diseases and neurological disorders. So it is important to have the right balance of free radicals to antioxidants.
Okay, so they are important, but don’t skip over to Amazon to order a bottle of supplements just yet! Turns out, studies have shown little to no benefit from supplementation, and instead recommend a diet packed with antioxidant rich foods (mainly fruits and vegetables). One reason is that no two antioxidants serve the same function, so it’s best to have multiple sources. Plus, you’re getting all the beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber that come with a diet rich in whole foods.
What to eat to reap the benefits
The rainbow! Filling your plate with a range of colors is an easy (and pretty) way to be sure you’re getting what you need.
Here’s a list of the most common antioxidants and where to find them :
Vitamin A – Reduces inflammation and supports eye health, the immune system, skin and cell growth and more. Vitamin A comes in two forms: beta-carotene (found in orange foods!) and active vitamin A. The first is found in plants, the second in animal derived foods.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, sweet red peppers, apricots, cantaloupe, papaya, tuna and organ meats.
Vitamin C – Supports connective tissue, immune strength, cardiovascular system and more. *Important to have everyday, because our body neither creates nor stores vitamin C. Luckily it’s found in so many yummy fruits and veg. 1 serving of each of the below has over 100% of your daily value !
Guava, black currant, red and green peppers, kiwi, orange, strawberry, papaya, broccoli, kale, parsley, pineapple, Brussels sprouts, grapefruit.
Vitamin E – Fights free radical damage to important fats, reduces inflammation, helps balance and repair skin (especially acne and eczema), supports the immune system and more.
Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, wheat germ, kiwi, mangos and avocados.
Lutein – Known as the “eye vitamin,” lutein fights free radical damage caused by blue light (looking at your laptop) or sun exposure, helps prevent eye diseases and skin disorders.
Kale, Swiss chard, spinach, basil, garden cress, dandelion greens, radicchio, arugula, summer squash, paprika and cayenne pepper.
Polyphenols – Reduces inflammation, promotes gut health, protects the cardiovascular system, supports blood sugar and blood pressure, defends against ultraviolet radiation and more.
Olives, artichoke, flaxseed meal, blueberries, dark chocolate, raw cacao, green tea / matcha, olive oil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary.
Remember, with fruit and veg, it’s best to eat raw, or as close to raw as possible to reap all the benefits. However, for some, eating certain raw veg can be tough on digestion. So do what feels right for you. And try steaming vs. boiling to keep as many nutrients as possible.
Don’t forget to spice things up
Herbs and spices are not only delicious but also packed with nutrients. They help prevent disease, clear toxins and provide an additional source of vitamins and minerals (more on the benefits in a later post). Top of our list: ginger, turmeric, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, paprika, cayenne and parsley liberally.
Image by HonestlyFIT