What’s All the Fuss About Antioxidants?
This was my first question after beginning my journey into healthy eating. No matter what I read about foods, diets and balanced lifestyle choices, antioxidants were there. I knew they were important and beneficial, but what are they exactly? What do they do to our body that makes them so special?
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With these questions in mind, I created this blog post that will helpfully sort things out in a simple manner. Let’s dive in!
What are antioxidants?
If we want to understand antioxidants, we must first look a bit into free radicals – another word commonly used by specialists nowadays.
Edward Giovannucci, M.C., professor of nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, explains that free radicals are highly reactive compounds that can attach themselves to healthy cells and damage them. Some free radicals naturally form in our body to help with food digestion or exercise; these are the good guys.
However, the National Cancer Institute shows that toxins found in the environment can also lead to dangerously high concentrations of free radicals, which may lead to oxidative stress. This process can severely damage healthy cells in your body and it’s linked to Type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other long-term degenerating illnesses, NCCIH says.
This is where antioxidants come in.
Antioxidants neutralize the bad free radicals that cause oxidative stress, hence the name ‘antioxidant.’ Although our bodies can make their own antioxidants, it’s mandatory that they get additional ones from the diet too.
Lauri Wright, Ph.D., assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida, puts things very simply:
‘Antioxidants are compounds found in food that stop or delay damage to the cells.’
Best sources of antioxidants
So now we know what antioxidants are and why they matter so much for our health. But where do we find them?
These compounds can currently be found in certain foods (fruits and vegetables in particular) and supplements. After studying this topic for a while, I decided it’s important to talk a bit about getting supplements vs. adopting an antioxidant-rich diet.
Whole foods vs. supplements
The industry of supplements exploded during the past few years and I think that’s great. These little pills can help us reach our daily recommended intake of nutrients when it’s not possible and may even aid in hormone regulation and disease prevention.
When it comes to antioxidants, though, Dr. Giovannucci insists on getting as many antioxidants as possible from whole foods and not supplements. Why?
- Antioxidant-rich foods provide so many important health benefits other than just antioxidants. Eating a tomato, for instance, provides you with antioxidants and a whole range of vitamins and minerals that guard your immunity.
- According to the NCCIH, another good reason for focusing on foods is that there are no limitations or safety risks we should worry about. With supplements, it’s always good to ask your doctor before including them in your diet.
Furthermore, there’s still not much research done on the long-term effects offered by antioxidant supplements. One of the few studies published by the National Cancer Institute revealed that some antioxidant supplements may increase the risks for lung cancer or prostate cancer. Furthermore, NCI points out that certain types of supplements may interact negatively with other medication. For example, the vitamin E found in some antioxidant supplements may increase risks of bleeding when combined with anticoagulant drugs.
Natural is best
Now that we cleared the issue of supplements off the list too, it’s clear as day that focusing on a balanced diet filled with antioxidant-rich whole foods is key.
Once again, I’ve got you covered. I created a list of 12 of the most powerful antioxidant-rich foods that can be included in countless tasty recipes because I want you to be healthy and happy. That’s what wellness is all about, right?
With that in mind, you can click here to check out my list of top 10 antioxidant-rich foods. See you there!