Antioxidants! Antioxidants? Antioxidants.
While the vast majority of people have heard of the word “antioxidants” and perhaps have even used it in casual conversation, how many of us really understand what antioxidants are, how they work, and why they’re important in the first place?
The fact is, when a scientific term enters popular culture, its meaning can get a little twisted causing a lot of people to act on misinformation. So, when figuring out important health terminology, it’s always best to start at the beginning.
Dictionary.com provides two distinct definitions for the term “antioxidant”.
The first defines an antioxidant as
“any substance that inhibits oxidation, as a substance that inhibits oxidative deterioration of gasoline, rubbers, plastics, soaps, etc.” While accurate, it’s hard to understand how this definition applies to human health.
The second definition, however, clarifies the confusion. It defines an antioxidant as
“an enzyme or other organic substance, as Vitamin E or beta carotene, that is capable of counteracting the damaging effects of oxidation in animal tissues”.
Great. Now that we know what an antioxidant is, can anyone recall why oxidation is bad for the body? After all, oxygen was absolutely necessary for a long and lasting life last time we heard.
Oxidation is a chemical process that occurs when a substance is exposed to oxygen. Turns out that the process of oxidation in humans results in damaged cell membranes, cellular proteins, lipids (fats) and even DNA, among other structures.
When your body metabolizes oxygen, it creates “free radicals” that steal electrons from other molecules causing damage. The human body does need some forms of free radicals to function, but an overload of them can cause really serious problems.
Some of these are:
– Heart Disease
– Liver Disease
– Inflammatory Joint Disease
– Degenerative Eye Disease
– Accelerated Aging
– Senile Dementia
– Some Forms of Cancer
According to a paper published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine:
“Evidence is accumulating that most of the degenerative diseases that afflict humanity have their origin in deleterious free radical reactions… The human species is not genetically adapted to survive past middle age, and it appears that antioxidant supplementation of our diet is needed to ensure a more healthy elderly population.”
Furthermore, the effects of oxidation can be made worse by pollution, overexposure to sunlight, stress, cigarette smoking, alcohol and many other factors. Hence, it’s immeasurably important to combat the damaging side effects of too many free radicals by engaging in preventative care.
To neutralize the damaging effect posed by too many free radicals, we need to consume certain foods that have high concentrations of antioxidants. Nutrient antioxidants can be obtained from foods rich in Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as minerals like zinc, selenium and copper.
Non-nutrient antioxidants like phytochemicals are found in plants, while zoochemicals are found in animal products; both are believed to have a more powerful antioxidant effect than either vitamins or minerals.
Some of the benefits of consuming antioxidant-rich foods include:
– Slower aging
– Healthy glowing skin
– Reduced cancer risk
– Detoxification support
– Longer life span
The more antioxidant-rich foods we consume, the healthier and happier we’ll be. And, doing so is actually really pretty easy; most fruit, vegetables, and herbs are packed with antioxidants like beta-carotene, flavonoids, lycopene and Vitamin C.
The 10 Most Common Antioxidant Rich Foods
According to WebMd.com, these are the 10 most easy-to-find antioxidant rich foods we can all consume on a daily basis:
– ½ a Cup of Small Red Beans (dried)
– 1 Cup of Wild blueberries
– ½ Cup of Red kidney beans (dried) with
– ½ Cup of Pinto beans
– 1 Cup of Blueberries (cultivated)
– 1 Cup of Cranberries (whole)
– 1 Cup of Artichoke Hearts (cooked)
– 1 Cup of Blackberries
– ½ Cup of Prunes
– 1 Cup of Raspberries
“Each food was measured for antioxidant concentration as well as antioxidant capacity per serving size. Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables. Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts ranked highest in the nut category.”
Best Ways to Consume Antioxidants
– Aim to shop more often but buy less food at a time. This way, you can ensure that you and your family are getting the freshest ingredients.
– Pay attention to food preparation. Remember that steaming your food retains their nutrients and frozen veggies are good sources of antioxidants.
– Antioxidants give food different colors, so eat as may different color foods as you can. Aim for at least 3 different color foods a day.
– Pay attention to what you drink and how much you drink. Tea, fruit juice, coffee, and wine are all good sources of antioxidants, but consuming them in very large quantities is still bad.
– Mind your herbs and spices. Turmeric, mint, cumin and ginger are all excellent sources of antioxidants, and so are dill, thyme, cilantro and so on.
– Snack healthy. Try relying on nuts and seeds as your trusted go-to snacks. Not only are they rich in fiber and antioxidants, they are also full of healthy oils that will make your skin glow!
“We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture – imagine this – where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.” – Michelle Obama
We know that we just gave you a lot to think about, and that is part of what we strive to accomplish here, at Merkaela. Our goal is to provide you with scientifically backed information, up-to-date health coverage as well as sound and environmentally friendly beauty advice so that you can make informed decisions for yourselves.
We believe that health is more important than monetary wealth, wide-spread praise, or anything else for that matter, which is why we strive to provide you with useful information about the best ways to maintain it.
Understanding how antioxidants work and why they are good for you will help you take control of your health now and, in many ways, the way it will progress in the future.