What are antioxidants?
An “antioxidant” isn’t the name of an individual molecule, but rather describes a group of substances that have each been found to prevent cell damage (oxidative stress) caused by free radicals.
There are thousands of substances that act as antioxidants. Vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, polyphenols, and flavonoids are all examples of antioxidants. Each plays a unique role in fighting free radicals.
Why are antioxidants important?
Antioxidants have been found to help neutralize free radicals and protect against oxidative stress — the cell damage that high levels of free radicals can cause.
Free radicals are inevitably created just from breathing and living - specifically after exercising or when our bodies convert food into energy. They are also formed with high exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and sunlight. Our bodies have mechanisms to fight free radicals. However, it’s important to extract antioxidants from foods to support our bodies systems since high levels of free radicals can damage cells and genetic material. This damage is called oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, arthritis, vision loss, and other inflammatory conditions.
What are good food sources of antioxidants?
Isolated antioxidant supplements, like a vitamin C supplement, do not have the same impact as antioxidants from food sources, since the combination of nutrients in foods work together to deliver the powerful antioxidant benefit.
The best way to ensure a balanced intake of antioxidants is through a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Purple or red grapes
- Brazil nuts, peanuts, sunflower seeds
- High-phenolic olive oil
- Dark Chocolate
5 tips to increase your antioxidant intake:
Include a fruit or vegetable every time you eat, including meals and snacks. If your plate is brown or beige, you're likely not getting enough antioxidants!
Add a dash of cinnamon to your breakfast or morning coffee.
Snack on nuts and seeds, especially Brazil nuts, walnuts and sunflower seeds - without the added sugar or salt.
Take a shot (or a tablespoon) of high-phenolic olive oil as part of your morning routine.
Choose dark chocolate and berries as your go-to dessert option!