The word “antioxidant” is everywhere! You see it emblazoned on the food you buy and you see it mentioned as a benefit in your beauty and skin care products, but have you ever stopped to wonder what they actually? Sure, you know they are “good for you” but what does that even mean?
Simply put, antioxidants are compounds found in the food we eat and they stop or slow down damage to our cells. Antioxidants are released through digestion and travel through the bloodstream to the cells where they clear out harmful free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that can bind themselves to, and cause damage in, healthy cells. These harmful compounds can come from external sources, like smoking, but most often come from normal metabolism in the body. Your body is able to minimize the impact of free radicals but sometimes, it needs to call for reinforcements. Antioxidants come in, bind to the free radicals and render them unable to bind with, and potentially damage, cells in your body.
Where can you find antioxidants?
Antioxidants are largely found in plant based foods. Vitamins A, C, and E as well as selenium, lycopene, and lutein, all have antioxidant properties. But the thing is, there are potentially thousands of compounds that function in a similar way, it’s just hard to prove given that we don’t know for certain how each one behave once it has been digested. This means that it’s hard to determine just how important any one of these compounds is in the maintenance of your health.
BUT, even though they are tough to nail down, there are foods that have definite, proven benefits, that have been attributed to antioxidant compounds. Dark, pigmented foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, red grapes, kale, spinach, red grapefruit, papaya and watermelon are great sources of lycopene and lutein. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, peanuts, lentils, green tea, broccoli, apples, beans, and asparagus are also great antioxidant sources.
Researchers are working hard to unlock the mystery of antioxidants but in the meantime, it’s a good idea to stock up on the foods that are known to contain them.
These foods all contain other vitamins and minerals that are absolutely vital to the health and functioning of your body. Many of them also contain protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and water! So when you are choosing your fruits and veggies for the day, try to eat a rainbow of colors to maximize the antioxidant potential!. A wide range of whole foods can only help! If you struggle with keeping healthy eating exciting, the BodyRock Meal Plan can help! It’s 30 days of real food and clean eating made easy! We supply the recipes and the grocery list and all you have to do is follow along, learning while you go! We’ve taken away all the guess work! Why not take a closer look?
Do you eat a diet rich in antioxidant foods? Which are your favorite? Share your opinion in a comment!