We allknow that foods full of antioxidants are really good for us but do we know what antioxidants actually are and what they do for us? Here is everything you need to know about antioxidants and why they are so important.
Antioxidants are molecules that help fight off and even prevent cell damage caused by free radicals. In essence, antioxidants help clean up the waste products in our cells. Free radicals are compounds that are highly reactive, which means that they can attach and bind to, and ultimately damage, normal cells in the body. Free radicals arenaturally formed when you exercise and when your body converts food into energy. Your body can also be exposed to free radicals from a variety of environmental sources, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, radiation and sunlight. When these free radical become too high they can cause harm to your body by causing “oxidative stress,” a process that can trigger cell damage. Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in a variety of diseases including Cancer, Cardiovascular diseases, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and certain eye diseases.
This is where the importance of antioxidants comes in. Your body uses antioxidants to balance free radicals, which keeps them from causing damage to other cells. Antioxidants can even protect and reverse some of the damage already done and they also boost your immunity. Although our body has its own antioxidant defences to keep free radicals in check, we can also get antioxidants from the food we eat as well. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, such as beta-carotenes, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthinmay help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. There are other naturally occurring antioxidants such as flavonoids, tannins, phenols and lignans. Plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains. nuts, seeds, herbs and spices are the best sources of antioxidants.
Here are some examples of foods rich in antioxidants.
- Vitamin A is in milk, butter, eggs, and liver.
- Vitamin C is in most fruits and vegetables. Eat fruits such as berries, oranges, kiwis, cantaloupes, and papayas. Eat vegetables such as broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale.
- Vitamin E is in some nuts and seeds. For example, almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts. You can find it in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale. You also can find it in soybean, sunflower, corn, and canola oils.
- Beta-carotene is in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Eat fruits such as peaches, apricots, papayas, mangoes, and cantaloupes. Eat vegetables such as carrots, peas, broccoli, squash, and sweet potatoes. It also is in some leafy green vegetables such as beet greens, spinach, and kale.
- Lycopene is in pink and red fruits and vegetables. This includes pink grapefruits, watermelon, apricots, and tomatoes.
- Luteinis in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, and kale. You also can find it in broccoli, corn, peas, papayas, and oranges.
- Seleniumis in pasta, bread, and grains, including corn, wheat, and rice. You can find it in animal products, like beef, fish, turkey, and chicken. You also can find it in nuts, legumes, eggs, and cheese.