It feels like we have been hearing about antioxidants for decades now. We know they are supposedly good for us, but it’s almost like no one seems to understand why they are good for us. When we hear a new tea is rich with antioxidants or our favorite fruity snack also contains these mysterious substances without sacrificing flavor, we jump on the bandwagon. Fortunately, antioxidants are not as mysterious as society has made them out to be, but high antioxidant foods really are quite good for you.
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What Are Antioxidants and How Do They Protect Your Health?
In grade school science class, you probably heard the well-known phrase, “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s third law is continuously at work inside of the body, even if you do not see it right away. In the body, cells are always busy at work. As cells use oxygen to create the energy they use to complete processes in the body, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, the equal and opposite reaction of cells using oxygen is the production of free radicals. Free radicals inside of the body are essentially atoms that are a byproduct of cellular processes. Free radicals are also formed in the environment outside of the body as a result of pollution, alcohol, smoking, and ingesting certain unhealthy foods. They are then introduced to the body via exposure or ingestion. As free radicals infiltrate the body, oxidative stress occurs. Oxidative stress is what leads to a whole slew of negative consequences from early aging to diseases. This is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants work to fight against oxidative stress within the body. These proactive substances, which usually manifest in the form of well-known vitamins, are a strong (and often tasty) line of defense against natural and external free radicals that slowly break the body down.
In balanced doses, antioxidants work with your body to protect it against these oxidizing agents. Benefits include increasing tissue, organ, and muscle health. Ocular and cardiovascular wellness is also a positive effect of antioxidants. Prevention of diseases such as cancer and type 2 diabetes as well as the debilitating course of cognitive decline associated with old age are also advantages of increasing your antioxidant intake.
Slow the Effects of Aging on Organs and Skin
We know that getting old is not for quitters. We now also know that antioxidants play a role in slowing down the visible signs of aging as well as the non-visible signs. Some consequences of aging are completely normal, but we have all seen an individual or two who just look prematurely aged. What you are most likely witnessing is free radicals at play. Antioxidants work against those free radicals to slow down the premature aging they cause. This is especially true for people who live and work in polluted cities or in factories that increase their exposure to toxic or unsafe substances. Antioxidants are a proactive and preventative measure to help keep your organs and skin on the same level as someone who lives in optimal conditions. You might not be able to change where you live or work, but you can change your diet to protect against the consequences of your environment.
Protect Vision and Eye Health
In trial studies, antioxidants were shown to have a positive effect on vision and eye health in general. The trial’s participants were shown to have maintained eye health after ingesting antioxidants on a daily basis. They were also shown to have markedly improved eye health when compared to individuals who did not consume foods rich with antioxidants. Though more studies need to be conducted before determining the extent to which antioxidants benefit ocular health, there certainly seems to be a beneficial relationship.
Help Prevent Stroke and Heart Disease
The heart takes a heavy beating throughout your life. It pumps and circulates the blood that is responsible for keeping your body going. If free radicals are created within the body and not kept in equilibrium, the heart is put under pressure. According to one study, there is a direct link between oxidative stress and cardiovascular disease. By ingesting balanced amounts of antioxidants each day, you can help prevent free radicals from overpopulating your body and prevent stroke and heart disease from manifesting at a young age.
May Help Reduce the Risk of Cancer
Beta-carotene, also known as vitamin A, has been linked to cancer treatment. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that can be dangerous to the body in very high doses. In moderate doses that are regulated by doctors, it can actually prevent cancerous cells from running rampant in the body before its too late. Once cancer is already present, this antioxidant has been shown to severely limit the damage that the cancerous cells inflict on the body.
Can Help Prevent Cognitive Decline
Dementia and cognitive decline, in general, are a real and present fear that many adults face – even if they have no history of family illness. People just cannot help but be wary of losing cognitive control and wherewithal and for a good reason. Fortunately, antioxidant-rich foods have been linked to cognitive fortitude. In a longterm study, individuals consumed antioxidants such as vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene. They were less likely to develop dementia and other diseases whose main symptom is a loss in cognitive functioning. While there is still substantial research that must be conducted before antioxidants can be deemed a cure for dementia. They are certainly a preventative measure in the fight against intellectual loss.
May Aid in Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes
Many of the foods typically associated with the prevention of Type 2 diabetes are strong sources of antioxidants. Some studies have also shown that oxidative stress can be a contributing factor in determining whether a person develops Type 2 Diabetes. Consuming a moderate amount of foods that are high in antioxidants can help keep your diet nutrient-dense and your blood glucose levels stable.
High Antioxidant Diet
It is so easy to work antioxidants into your diet. Food containing antioxidants are colorful, they are plentiful, and most importantly, they are flavorful an nutritious! You can eat foods that are high in antioxidants on their own or add them into delicious recipes for a complete meal. By working the following foods into your daily food selection, your body will be better fortified against oxidative stress – and your taste buds will thank you!
High Antioxidant Foods You Should Add To Your Diet
Purple, Red and Black Grapes
Grapes are downright delicious, and they are a truly versatile fruit. As a general rule, the darker the grape, the higher its antioxidant content. Grapes contain antioxidants ranging from carotenoids to polyphenols. The grape’s immensely high antioxidant content is behind their remarkable ability to aid in reversing the debilitating effects of free radicals. Grapes are a perfect snack on their own and are also great when mixed in salads or eaten as a side to a refreshing summer meal.
Blueberries are chock full of nutrients and are a powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants. Blueberries contain one of the most powerful and concentrated antioxidants: anthocyanin. Anthocyanins have been shown to protect tissue and organs. Blueberries are perfect as a snack on their own and are also excellent in smoothies, salads, and treats such as a blueberry pie! Have your dessert, and do not even begin to feel bad about it!
Another sweet treat to make this list, red berries are also very high in antioxidants. Like blueberries and grapes, red berries have been known to have healing properties. Especially red berries such as raspberries and strawberries, these tasty fruits are high in antioxidants that protect the skin. They are perfect as a sweet supplement to a salad or smoothie.
Nuts are home to a mighty antioxidant: Vitamin E. Vitamin E has been linked to increased heart health and decreased inflammation. Nuts are a nutritional live-wire in general, but as far as antioxidants are concerned, they are a great source. Nuts can be added to soups, smoothies and eaten on their own in a raw or roasted form. Regardless of your method of chowing down on nuts, they are great for your body.
When consumed raw, leafy green vegetables are a fortifying source of antioxidants. Spinach, kale, turnip greens and chard are all outstanding sources of antioxidants. Unlike other foods on this list, though, how you consume leafy green vegetables will dictate the extent to which your body received antioxidants. If you are not a fan of salads, try blending these vegetables into a smoothie with plenty of berries!
Orange Vegetables and Sweet Potatoes
Vegetables such as carrots and the tasty starch sweet potato have two main elements in common: their color and their antioxidants. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange color you often see in nature. This substance, also known as Vitamin A, is a fantastic antioxidant that has been linked to the protection of eyesight. These orange ingredients are perfect in soups, bisques, stews, casseroles and one-pan sheet bakes. Not only are they delicious but also a great source of necessary nutrition.
Cereal lovers will be thrilled to hear that whole grains are a strong source of polyphenols. Polyphenols are an essential antioxidant that has been linked to cancer prevention as well as prevention in cardiovascular decline. You can enjoy a healthy amount of whole grains in the form of cereal, bread, rice, and quinoa.
Beans really are a superfood. They are rich in fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Beans are also incredibly versatile. Enjoy them on their own, add them to a soup or stew or dine on them as a side to your favorite entree. The possibilities of beans are endless, and if you are looking for something a little heartier than berries or nuts, beans are a great way to consume antioxidants.
Fish is home to a little known antioxidant called selenium. This mineral has been linked to improved thyroid health as well as decreased cardiovascular decline. Fish are a great source of lean protein, as well. For a protein that is light and nutrient-dense, try fish such as tilapia for your dinner this evening.
Dark Chocolate and Tea
What better way to start or finish your day than with a cup of tea and a piece of dark chocolate? Dark chocolate has a plethora of health benefits, ranging from high amounts of magnesium to high amounts of antioxidants. In small doses, dark chocolate has been linked to decreased heart problems and increased circulation as well as improved appearance of skin. Likewise, tea, specifically green tea and herbal teas, have been linked to improved circulation, decreased cardiovascular inflammation, and improved cognition over time. The next time you are craving a sweet treat or a little caffeine booster, push aside the soda for a cup of tea or a piece of dark chocolate. These tiny treats pack a powerful punch when it comes to healthy antioxidants, after all.
There really is not anything mystifying about antioxidants. Your body makes them naturally to counterbalance the prevalence of free radicals. But sometimes, your body needs a little help from outside sources, such as the food you eat. Remarkably enough, most foods that are rich in antioxidants are also rich in unparalleled flavors. With sources such as dark chocolate and raspberries, combatting the troubling effects of free radicals has never been so easy or tasted so good!