By: Rick Bellanti – July, 2020
We are now six months into 2020, I hope that everyone is doing well and taking whatever precautions that need to be taken to stay safe, in these unprecedented times.
This month I’m talking about antioxidants and what they do for us. Antioxidants are essential for the survival of all living things. You may have heard the term before but may not know what it means or what it does. The simplest definition of antioxidants is, they are molecules that fight free radicals in your body. Which then makes you ask the question; what is a free radical?
Free radicals are compounds that can cause harm to you if their levels become too high in your body. They are linked to multiple illnesses, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. The body has built-in defenses to reduce the impact of free radicals, but it could use some help. That’s where antioxidants come in.
Free radicals are constantly being formed in your body and without antioxidants, free radicals would cause serious harm very quickly, and possibly death. However, free radicals also serve important functions that are essential for our everyday health. For example, your immune cells use free radicals to fight infections, and as a result, your body needs to maintain a certain balance of free radicals and antioxidants together.
There are over the counter antioxidant supplements you can take, but it is not recommended by most health professionals and dieticians who advise patients to avoid high-dose antioxidant supplements. Eating plenty of antioxidant-rich whole food is a much better idea. Studies indicate that foods reduce oxidative damage to a greater extent than supplements.
The health benefits associated with a diet rich in plants, is at least partially due to the variety of antioxidants they provide. Antioxidants are found in a lot of the food we eat, especially found in fruits and vegetables. Meat and fish also contain antioxidants, but to a lesser extent than fruits and vegetables. Pick out bright colored food, because foods with rich, vibrant colors often contain the most antioxidants.
Here are some of the best antioxidant foods to add into our diet:
Blueberries: (one of the best) studies have shown that wild blueberries contain a large number of antioxidants. They may help prevent high levels LDL (the bad cholesterol) as well as lowering the risk of heart disease and decreasing a person’s blood pressure.
Dark Chocolate; Good quality dark chocolate has high levels of nutrients and antioxidants. Researchers have linked dark chocolate to a range of potential health benefits, including: lower risk of heart disease, reduced inflammation, less chance of high blood pressure and promotion of good cholesterol.
Spinach; this green leafy vegetable is full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It is low in calories, making it an excellent choice as an addition to salads and entrees. Studies have shown that the antioxidants in spinach may promote good eye health and they also help prevent damage from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Coffee; Yup, you read that right! Coffee beans contain disease-ravaging antioxidants, called quinines, which become more potent after roasting. According to an American Chemical Society news release, coffee is the leading source of antioxidants in American diets — in part because we consume a lot of it.
There are many common everyday foods that we can eat to increase the antioxidants that we consume. The antioxidants in these foods may help promote heart and eye health, prevent cancer, and protect against other common diseases that scientists associate with harmful free radicals as mentioned and some of the honorable mentions that we should be loading our diets with that are full of antioxidants are kale, beets, artichokes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, red cabbage and fruits such as red (or dark) grapes, apples, raspberries, strawberries and even nuts such as pecans are rich with antioxidants. You may also like to try pinto beans and legumes, all high in antioxidants.
Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants are often referred to as a super-food and keep in mind, that the important thing is to eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods (and raw whenever possible) is best, as cooking some of these vegetables lose some of their antioxidant potency.
As always, The best strategy to ensure adequate antioxidant intake is to follow a diet rich in various vegetables and fruits, that way you’ll get a range of antioxidants from sources that have proven health perks (alongside other healthy habits).
The vitamins and minerals that have antioxidant properties are essential nutrients, meaning that we need them for other aspects of our health. So no matter what, you should be eating them regularly.
Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 160lbs since the start of 2015. You can find Rick on Facebook at: Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti ◊