Q: What is the big deal about antioxidants? Jamie T.
A: What exactly are antioxidants? How can they improve my health? These are the questions we often generally get in regards to antioxidants. The health and wellness industry is just starting to scratch the surface on the benefits.
What are antioxidants? They are substances that defend against (or mop up) the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that naturally occur from oxygen in the normal course of metabolism. They also occur from the effects of UV radiation, air pollution, tobacco smoke, infection and stress. Antioxidants neutralize, stabilize and minimize the damage produced by free radicals. Our bodies have a natural defense against free radicals, but as we age this defense becomes less effective. That is why we must consume antioxidants in our diets to maintain optimal health and decrease the impact of aging.
How do free radicals damage the body? The free radical effects include damage to skin, cells, tissues and organs. This consists of general inflammation, degenerative arthritis, aging and age related diseases, and disease in general.
Where can I find antioxidants? They are found in vitamins C and E, beta carotene, carotenoids that are converted to vitamin A, and minerals such as selenium. Some hormones and amino acids are also forms of antioxidants. Foods rich in these substances include barley, whole grain brown rice, mint leaves, leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, beets, garlic, onions, carrots, grapes, citrus fruits, and berries. The acai, pomegranate, and blueberries have extremely high levels. Choose a variety of brightly colored fruits, vegetables and herbs for a rich antioxidant diet.
What are some of the benefits ? Getting a variety of antioxidant rich foods will slow down the aging process of the skin, cells, tissues and organs, strengthen your immune system, and reduce the chance of developing some forms of cancer. They also help decreases inflammation. They prevent artery clogging plaque from being deposited on coronary artery walls and reduce heart disease.
How much do I need? The American Heart Association says to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables choosing 5 or more servings per day because fruits and vegetables are the primary source of antioxidants. But can you really eat too many? We say load up on fruits and vegetables as well as supplements and drinks high in antioxidants which are a good way to get them in a potent, condensed form. Have fun with colors, taste and health!