Antioxidants – everyone is talking about them. Food products are making sure you know they are in there. They’re everywhere you look right now. What are antioxidants, and why are they so great?
Before we get into what makes antioxidants so awesome, let’s start with talking about free radicals. These cause oxidation (You must have an oxidant, to have an ANTI-oxidant!). Free radicals are chemicals that will steal electrons from your body. This is what causes oxidation. When they steal electrons from structures, this can weaken or change tissues in the body and lead to early aging, illness, or cancer. Free radicals enter the body through pollution (smoking is a big one!), cell damage from the sun, and even some foods. Because we are frequently exposed to free radicals, our bodies have evolved to fight them. But, after a while, exposure to these free radicals can start to cause more damage. So, this is where antioxidants come in.
We can get extra antioxidants from food and some vitamins, like foods containing vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, to name a few. Antioxidants give electrons to stabilize free radicals so that they won’t damage our bodies. This means that the free radicals are no longer “free” to steal important electrons from our bodies. They become bound up and damage control is done. What does this mean to you?
There have been many medical studies that show that eating foods rich in antioxidants are good for you and can help fight free radicals. There are also studies that show that taking “antioxidant supplements” haven’t shown a decrease in health problems and can increase some risks.
The bottom line is that there are foods that naturally help your body fight oxidants, and this is great and a good reason to eat a nutritious diet. Buying expensive specialty vitamins for that purpose is unnecessary. Instead, throw a handful of blueberries in your yogurt! It isn’t a miracle cure, but your body will appreciate the nutrition you are giving it to help fight against free radical damage.
Examples of foods containing antioxidants:
Beans, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums, prunes, artichokes, apples, pecans, cherries, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, citrus, tomatoes.