Why do we need to eat foods that are found to be naturally high in antioxidants?
What are antioxidants?
Which foods do we need to eat, in order to naturally fight free radicals?
Scientists have found that the body forms unstable oxygen molecules, called free radicals; every cell produces tens of thousands of them each day.
A free radical is basically an atom with an odd number of electrons in its outer ring.
Since electrons have a very strong tendency to exist in a paired rather than an unpaired state, free radicals indiscriminately pick up electrons from other atoms.
Which in turn convert those other atoms into secondary free radicals, thus setting up a chain reaction, which can cause substantial biological damage.
This, in short, is bad.
There are also many kinds of free radicals, which we are exposed to everyday, for example, pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides.
Antioxidants are thought to neutralise and stabilise these free radicals.
So, which antioxidants are naturally found in which foods?
A fat-soluble vitamin found in vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and fortified cereals.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin involved in the metabolism of all cells. It protects vitamin A and essential fatty acids from oxidation in the body cells and prevents breakdown of body tissues.
It is important in forming collagen, a protein that gives structure to bones, cartilage, muscle, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also aids in the absorption of iron, and helps maintain capillaries, bones, and teeth.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A.
It is present in liver, egg yolk, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, and grains.
Studies have been done on beta-carotene’s effectiveness for heart disease, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease, fibromyalgia, male infertility, and psoriasis.
CoQ10 boosts energy, enhances the immune system, and acts as an antioxidant.
Primary dietary sources of CoQ10 include oily fish, organ meats such as liver, spinach, broccoli, peanuts, wheat germ and whole grains.
Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health but required only in small amounts.
It helps synthesize antibodies; helps synthesize co-enzyme Q10 and helps transport ions across cell membranes.
The best sources of selenium are Brazil nuts, wheat germ, molasses, sunflower seeds, whole wheat bread and dairy foods.
You should note that there are many other antioxidants naturally found in foods.
You should also note that the best way to take antioxidants is naturally, through fresh, vibrant food.
One more thing; sometimes less is more.
Some of these antioxidants are only needed in small amounts, so check into whether you need to take more or not, before you start overdosing on antioxidants!
Your Action Plan
“I love red peppers, kiwis, and pumpkin, but I think the unexpected one is coffee,” Bjork says. While she admits it’s not the richest source, it is one of the top sources of antioxidants in terms of popularity.
Whenever you have the option—say with foods such as apples, potatoes, or grapes—eat them with the skin on, McKay says, since it’s packed with antioxidants.
Another unexpected source? Herbs and spices. “We consume them in small amounts, but they’re usually dried, so they’re more concentrated,” McKay says.
“You’re not going to get a whole lot by sprinkling some oregano on once, but if you do that regularly, it does add up.”
When in doubt, eat a wide variety of colors in fruits and veggies. And if you’d like to start taking a supplement regularly, it’s always a good idea to run it by your health provider first.
The following is a list of different kinds of antioxidants and foods that are high in each.
- Allium sulphur compounds: Leeks, onions, garlic
- Anthocyanins: Eggplant, grapes, berries
- Beta carotene: Pumpkin, mangoes, apricots, carrots, spinach, parsley
- Catechins: Red wine, tea
- Copper: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts, legumes
- Cryptoxanthins: Red peppers, pumpkin, mangoes
- Flavonoids: Tea, green tea, red wine, citrus fruits, onion, apples
- Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower
- Lignans: Sesame seeds, bran, whole grains, vegetables
- Lutein: Corn, leafy greens (such as spinach)
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon
- Manganese: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Polyphenols: Thyme, oregano
- Selenium: Seafood, offal, lean meat, whole grains
- Vitamin C: Oranges, berries, kiwi fruit, mangoes, broccoli, spinach, peppers
- Vitamin E: Vegetable oils, nuts, avocados, seeds, whole grains
- Zinc: Seafood, lean meat, milk, nuts
- Zoochemicals: Red meat, offal, fish
Are There Any Antioxidant Precautions or Side Effects?
Just like any other supplement, it doesn’t seem that it’s beneficial or even necessarily safe to consume high doses of antioxidants in supplement form.
For example, because during exercise oxygen consumption can increase by a factor of more than 10, taking high doses of antioxidants might interfere with proper exercise recovery.
Other research has shown that high-dose antioxidant supplementation may interfere with the cardiovascular benefits of exercise.
Have negative effects on the body’s natural anti-cancer activities, and affect how the body balances levels of different chemicals and nutrients on its own.
When it comes to protection against things like cancer or heart disease, overall the medical literature seems conflicting.
Although some studies found a positive relationship between antioxidant supplementation and risk reduction, others have not found such positive effects.
To be safe, always follow directions carefully and speak with your doctor if you’re unsure of whether or not a supplement is right for you.
And to remain your healthiest into older age, aim to reduce free radical load in your body by practicing things like:
- avoiding environmental pollutants in water
- reducing chemical exposure in household and cosmetic products
- limiting intake of processed and refined foods
- limit intake of pesticide and herbicide-laden foods
- limiting intake of antibiotic and hormone-laden foods
- avoiding overuse of medications
- reducing stress
- getting moderate amounts of exercise
- using natural, cold-pressed oils (heat oxidizes fats in refined oils)
Top 10 Antioxidant Herbs List
Along with antioxidant foods, certain herbs, spices and essential oils derived from nutrient-dense plants are extremely high in healing antioxidant compounds.
Here is another list of the herbs you can try adding to your diet for increased protection against disease.
Look for 100 percent pure (therapeutic grade) oils, which are highest in antioxidants.
- Clove:314,446 ORAC score
- Cinnamon: 267,537 ORAC score
- Oregano: 159,277 ORAC score
- Turmeric: 102,700 ORAC score
- Cocoa: 80,933 ORAC score
- Cumin: 76,800 ORAC score
- Parsley (dried): 74,349 ORAC score
- Basil: 67,553 ORAC score
- Ginger: 28,811 ORAC score
- Thyme: 27,426 ORAC score
Other antioxidant-rich herbs include garlic, cayenne pepper and green tea. Aim to consume two to three servings of these herbs or herbal teas daily.