When I say, the word "antioxidants" what's the first thing that pops into your head?
It seems everywhere you go nowadays it's blueberry this and blueberry that! Well, I'm here today to tell you that there are a plethora of foods packed with immune-boosting antioxidants available at your local market or grocery store. Rest assured, you don't have to eat blueberries for breakfast lunch, and dinner to stay healthy! There are many things you can eat!
I'm sure you've heard of the phrase "Eat the rainbow", (and no, I don't mean skittles or M&Ms).
Maybe when you were in preschool and they first taught you about the food pyramid?
Well, antioxidants are all the rage today. And, justifiably so! They have so many benefits!
Research suggests that consumption of antioxidant-rich foods reduces damage to cells and biochemicals from free radicals. Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals which ultimately can lead to diseases of the heart and cancer. This may slow down, prevent, or even reverse certain diseases that result from cellular damage, and perhaps even slow down the natural aging process. Since the discovery of vitamins, it has been recognized that antioxidants in the diet are essential for healthful lives.
Let's take a deeper look into how antioxidants help prevent diseases and keep us healthy!
What are Antioxidants and why are they Important?
The prefix 'anti' means against, in opposition to, or corrective in nature. In this case, the 'anti' in antioxidant describes the effect these chemicals have on oxidants. Oxidants are usually referred to as 'free radicals'.
Free radicals also enter the body through external in nuances such as exposure to the sun, pesticides, and other kinds of environmental pollution. In addition, free radical oxidation levels are increased by mental and physical stress, the consumption of alcoholic beverages, unhealthy foods, cigarette smoke, and inadequate sleep.
In much the same way as oxidation causes rust on cars, oxidation inside the body causes a breakdown of cells. If the amount of free radical oxidation in the body is allowed to rise to an unhealthy level, it can result in extensive damage to cellular components and can accelerate the aging process. More importantly, it may contribute to a wide range of degenerative illnesses and reduce the body's ability to deal with other problems, including cardiovascular malfunction, eye disease, and cancer.
Additionally, it may result in a compromised immune system, leading to immunological disorders and a lessening of the body's ability to heal wounds and overcome infections. Some studies indicate possible links to arthritis and similar chronic conditions. Researchers have found a high correlation between oxidative damage and the occurrence of disease. For example, LDL oxidation is associated with cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants counter these effects by binding with free radicals before they can cause damage.
What Should I Eat?
A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables provides a large supply of these antioxidants, to help eliminate damaging free radicals. The highest concentrations are found in fruits and leafy green vegetables, such as carrots, oranges, red peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. A diet containing antioxidants from plants are required for good health since plants are an important source of organic antioxidant chemicals.
*Warning* Cooking can destroy some antioxidants and interfere with the body's ability to absorb them, so eating raw vegetables and fruit, and including sprouts in the diet can help. Steaming vegetables as opposed to frying, microwaving, or boiling is also a good idea.
Antioxidants: Eat All Your Colors!
You have your choice of wild blueberry juice, blueberry-pomegranate juice, blueberry-cranberry juice and so on and so on. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love blueberries. But, in our rush to embrace the latest antioxidant food craze (blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates) we’re ignoring some very high-antioxidant foods that are probably sitting ignored in our cupboards.
“What?” You ask, “What could possibly be higher in antioxidants than my beloved wild blueberry?” Well, how about the small red bean? That’s right, I said “bean.”
The kidney bean; this small red bean actually has more antioxidants per serving size than the wild blueberry. And the red kidney bean and pinto bean have more antioxidants per serving size than a serving of cultivated blueberries.
What other foods are high in antioxidants?
For starters, there are artichoke hearts, blackberries, prunes, pecans, spinach, kale, russet potatoes, and plums. And, no, that’s not a mistake. Russet potatoes are on the list of foods high in antioxidants. The truth is, there are many common foods high in antioxidants and you should not just restrict yourself to one particular food source. Why? Well, the expression, “eat your colors?” refers to the fact that foods are in different color “families” containing different types of antioxidants that have different benefits.
The yellow-orange color family of peaches and nectarines help our immune systems.
The purple-red color family of foods (pomegranates, plums, berries, red cabbage) helps reduce in inflammation.
It’s important to eat foods from all color groups to reap the full bene ts of antioxidants. The good news is that you can eat healthy foods high in antioxidants (by eating them raw, cooking them, or juicing them yourself) without having to pay a high price for the “flavor of the month” antioxidant juices being peddled in the supermarkets. So, give your blueberries some company at the dinner table. Invite some beans, spinach, potatoes, and artichoke hearts, and enjoy your antioxidants!