Do you really know what antioxidants are?
You probably know that they’re healthy because they “help us fight off potential cancer”, but I bet that you don’t know the how, what, and why. With so much talk about superfoods and antioxidants these days, the word is thrown around assuming everyone knows what the heck these babies are. If you don’t know, or if you’re unsure about antioxidants, I’m here to set the record straight.
So…What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants fight against free radicals in the body. Now, you might be saying “what are free radicals?” Let’s get science-y for a second. Free radicals are molecules with an uneven number of electrons in their outer shell. They’re very unstable in the body and actively steal electrons from other molecules to become balanced. Then, those molecule(s) that they stole electrons from become free radicals. A chain reaction can be set off in our body in incredibly fast time, eventually disrupting our living cells and causing damage.
Antioxidants help protect you. They donate an electron to free radicals, without becoming free radicals themselves! They even get re-energized when they come in contact with other antioxidants, so they can go forth and do more free-radical-fighting for us! They’re kind of brilliant, and are nature’s way of fighting back against free radicals from pollutants, chemicals and other toxins in our life.
Where do I get antioxidants?
There are so many different kinds of antioxidants out there. Some are in the foods we eat, and some are enzymes that we create in our body. But did you know that certain vitamins and minerals act as antioxidants in our body?
Vitamins A, E and C are all free-radical fighting antioxidants. Vitamin C is especially strong in its immunity and ability to fight toxins. The minerals Zinc and Selenium are also antioxidants. These micronutrients are fantastic for your health, and can be found in the following foods:
VITAMIN A | Eggs, liver, dairy products, and cod liver oil . If you are vegetarian, try pumpkin, carrots, dark leafy greens and sweet potatoes – anything that has beta carotene. Beta carotene is transformed into vitamin A in our bodies.
VITAMIN E | Almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, almond butter and spinach. Vitamin E is also good for the skin, and is said to be anti-aging.
VITAMIN C | Sweet red peppers (one of the best sources!), oranges, papaya, kiwi, strawberries & broccoli. Vitamin C is an unstable vitamin, meaning it’s susceptible to damage from heat, oxygen exposure, light and cooking. You are best to eat fresh, raw foods to get your vitamin C. Chop up that sweet red pepper and add it to a salad!
SELENIUM | Yogurt, eggs, salmon, Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, and other mixed nuts. Because Brazil nuts are so high in selenium, it’s best not to eat too many of them every day, but only on occasion.
ZINC | Crab, pork, beef, beans, pumpkin seeds, and wheat germ. Did you know zinc also plays a role in your ability to taste and smell?
These vitamins and minerals are powerful antioxidants, and we haven’t even touched on phytonutrients or other antioxidant compounds! Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants, and many of them have antioxidant properties. Carotenoids (i.e. beta-carotene) and flavonoids are some that are most commonly discussed phytonutrients that act as antioxidants in the body. Glucosinolates are some of the most important phytonutrients, as they break down and help create glutathione. Glutathione is arguably our body’s most potent antioxidant and detoxifier in the liver!
Antioxidants are just one of the many benefits of eating a balanced diet. Curious if you have enough antioxidants in your life? Feel free to reach out and schedule a consultation with me! I can help you understand what nutrient-dense foods will provide high antioxidant values, and teach you how to incorporate these foods into your daily life.
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