If eating healthily is your thing or you just like reading about healthy nutrition, you must've heard about antioxidants. However, many may not be familiar with this term and might wonder why they have become so popular lately. Nutritionists and doctors always suggest eating foods high in antioxidants. So, you will read everything you need to know about antioxidants in this article.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that can stop harmful effects that happen naturally in your body during the physiological process of oxidation in the tissues. Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals), but also enzymes (proteins in your body that participate in chemical reactions). These well-known compounds stop the effect of free radicals and they represent a natural defense system that protects cells. Every day your body struggles to keep you healthy and young.
The free radicals that are the side effects of metabolism attack your cells and they destroy them. The greatest protectors of your health and beauty, the antioxidants, have the most important role in fighting against free radicals.
And what are free radicals?
Every cell in your body needs oxygen for normal functioning and living. The result of using oxygen in the cells are particularly reactive molecules called free radicals. They have one unpaired electron in the external membrane, so they react with other substances easily trying to fulfill the empty spot and become more stable. Hence, substances in the cells that react with free radicals become damaged and they die. Also, tissues, DNA molecules, and proteins are damaged, and tumors might appear.
Free radicals don’t occur because of oxygen in the cells, they can be a consequence of bad habits such as smoking, eating processed meat and junk food, too. Furthermore, they can occur because of polluted air, stress, exposure to UV rays, and too much physical strain. Therefore, free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage the cells in your body. So, they happen as a consequence of unhealthy diet, polluted air, and stress.
When your body fights against free radicals, antioxidants are its best ally. They work as cleaners wiping out all the harm caused by free radicals. In addition, antioxidants protect you from cancer, Alzheimer, and stroke. Antioxidants are essential when it comes to boosting your immune system and they are very important because they prevent oxidative stress. Antioxidants are molecules that can prevent other molecules to oxidize, or in other words, they donate one or more electrons to the free radical stabilizing it and preventing oxidative stress which is the cause of damaged cells.
The 3 Essential Roles of Antioxidants – the triple role:
- Disabling new free radicals to emerge
- Neutralizing already existing free radicals
- Fixing the damaged cells caused by oxidative stress
What is Oxidative Stress?
When you have all the risk factors (bad diet, stress, pollution, weak immune system) that affect your health badly that's called oxidative stress. Every cell in your body produces ROS (reactive oxidative substances) aka free radicals (see more above). These substances happen during the normal work of your metabolism.
Cells produce free radicals, but they also produce mechanisms to neutralize them-antioxidants. However, in some cases when you are exposed for a long time to the above-mentioned risk factors, the free radicals can outweigh the capability of cells to neutralize them and then your body deals with oxidative stress. Oxidative stress destroys proteins, membranes, and DNA in your cells. It can lead to heart diseases, hyperglycemia, hypertension, high LDL cholesterol, as well. So, it is very important to increase your intake of antioxidants to prevent oxidative stress and protect your immune system.
How to get enough antioxidants?
You can find antioxidants in food, but only in fresh, raw food. That means you need to eat more food high in antioxidants, especially raw fruit and vegetables. The biggest concentration of antioxidants is in bright colored food. The brighter the color is, the more antioxidants it contains. So, if you want to feel good and cleanse your body, eat some berries, for example. Food high in vitamin C, A and E, and food high in selenium is something to consider too if you want to intake antioxidants.
Blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, currents are very high in antioxidants. Two apples per day, one in the morning and one before bed is the right way to get enough antioxidants. Furthermore, cranberry, beans (the darker the better), nuts abound in antioxidants.
To sum up, when it comes to fruit the best antioxidants providers are raspberry, currant, cherry, apple, and when it comes to vegetable beans, potato, and artichoke. If your diet is based on fast food and food high in conservatives and additives, then you should definitely eat food high in antioxidants.
The recommended daily intake of antioxidants is between 8,000 – 11,000 antioxidants units. This amount is necessary to have enough antioxidants fighting against oxidative stress every day.
Suggested Foods that can Help You Increase Your Level of Antioxidants:
- Berries – blueberry, currant, raspberry. A cup of berries provides the necessary number of antioxidants per day.
- Food high in vitamin C – pineapple, orange, kiwi, melon, lemon, cauliflower, kale, strawberry,
- Food high in vitamin E – almond, hazelnut, walnut, pistachio, olive oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil.
- Food high in beta-carotene – carrot, kale, spinach, cantaloupe, winter squash.
- Food high in zinc – beef, turkey, lamb, beans, dairy products, dark chocolate. For instance, 1/2 cup of red beans provides you with almost twice the daily requirement of antioxidants.
- Food high in selenium – salmon, brown rice, whole wheat bread.
- Fresh fruit: apple, plum, red grapefruit, cherry, grapes, banana, apricot, pear, peach.
- Fresh vegetables: beetroot, sweet potato, eggplant, pepper, broccoli, cabbage.
- Spices: cinnamon, ginger, garlic, carnation, curcuma.
- Coffee, green tea, and red wine also contain many antioxidants.
- Last, but not least, baobab fruit is something you may not know about, but its nutritious value is huge. It has six times more vitamin C than orange and twice more antioxidants than any berry.
Intaking antioxidants is as important as in taking vitamins and minerals. Luckily, you should choose the same ingredients since food high in vitamins and minerals is also high in antioxidants. Make sure to include food of non-animal origin, vegetables, fruit and whole-wheat cereals in at least half of your daily meals. It’s important to have a variety of food included in your diet because different kind of antioxidants can be found in different kinds of plants.
If you have a hard time remembering which ingredients to take into consideration, then remember these 3 colors- dark green, red, and orange. It’s simple, choose your ingredients carefully in accordance with your calorie intake and you will satisfy the recommended intake of antioxidants. Your choice will be easier and better if you already eat the food of non-animal origin since it contains 64 times more antioxidants than the food of animal origin.
Should you use supplements?
Many people think that if they take a pill that contains antioxidants they will get the right amount. But, that's not always true.
The antioxidants you can get from fresh fruit and vegetables cannot be replaced by any supplement. It's necessary to get as much fresh fruit and veggies as possible every day. Natural ingredients contain antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fibers that have a positive effect on your entire body. Ideally, you should intake all these ingredients raw, without any processing.
For example, a big plate of vegetables, a cup of blueberries and raspberries and a freshly squeezed orange juice is the right way to get enough antioxidants daily.
So, as long as you eat fresh fruit and vegetables you don't need to intake additional antioxidants through supplements. However, if you are on a low-calorie diet, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or you just don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, some supplements high in antioxidants can be a good solution to satisfy your body’s increased needs and protect yourself from illnesses. Of course, if you want to take some supplements, consult your doctor first.
So, what's the bottom line?
According to many research, antioxidants are vital for your health and some studies show that they can be very effective in preventing some types of cancer and heart diseases.
There are many benefits of antioxidants
- They prevent the negative effect of free radicals
- They fight against oxidative stress
- They boost the immune system
In addition, if your body lacks them your chances of developing some diseases such as cancer, hypertension, Alzheimer is bigger.
To sum up, antioxidants can help you clean your body and fight against free radicals, so consider including food high in these powerful substances in your diet. Hence, experts nowadays recommend getting enough antioxidants in order to protect your body from sickness and aging. Antioxidants are necessary for your body’s normal functioning, and a lack of them can lead to developing some diseases, including tumors. The best way to build a healthy diet plan is eating balanced meals and snacks including a wide range of foods.
For example, you should eat 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day if you want to live healthily and intake enough antioxidants units.
Stacey McGregor is a co-founder of Beauty and Health Life… and then link name of my website to beautyandhealthlife.com website which provides information about Weight Loss, Nutrition, and Fitness. Also, be sure to check her out on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/staceymcgregor17/