The Superheroes of Food
The nutrition world has been buzzing for the last several years about antioxidants. Antioxidants are natural substances found in foods. They contain the pigments that lend color to fruits, vegetables and other foods.
But why the superhero status? Experts believe antioxidants may help prevent disease by fighting substances called "free radicals." Free radicals cause cell damage throughout the body. Antioxidants combine with, and thereby "neutralize" free radicals. In this way, antioxidants may help slow or prevent damage to cells.
Antioxidants to the rescue
Free radicals are created in your body everyday. They form during cell reactions involving oxygen, such as breathing. The problem occurs when free radicals are created in abnormally large amounts. This can happen when the body is exposed to things such as:
Without adequate amounts of antioxidants to combat the free radicals, they travel throughout the body, damaging cells. Damage caused by free radicals is thought to cause or contribute to heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, age-related changes in vision and other signs of aging.
Food sources of antioxidants
Some of the more common antioxidants below can be found in these foods:
Vitamin A: Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots
Vitamin C: Citrus fruits like oranges and lime, apples, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes
Vitamin E: Nuts and seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil
Selenium: Fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic
Flavenoids: Beans, red wine, purple grapes, pomegranate, cranberries, tea
Lycopene: Tomato and tomato products, pink grapefruit, watermelon
Lutein: Dark green veggies such as kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach
To supplement or not?
Most Americans fall way short of the recommended daily servings of antioxidant- rich foods. About one in five Americans takes an antioxidant supplement. However, a review of recent studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that taking certain antioxidants as supplements:
Though there has been some controversy surrounding this and other studies, research consistently shows that those who eat antioxidant-rich foods reap health benefits.
Until further notice, its best to get your antioxidants from foods, not supplements. In addition, though a supplement may contain one or more antioxidants, foods are thought to contain thousands of types. And it's not clear which of these substances or combination of substances are the most beneficial.
A balanced diet your best bet
In order to get the most out of your foods and fight off free radical damage, follow these recommendations:
Start adding antioxidant-rich foods to your diet today. It's not too much effort when you consider that taking this advice may help slow down the aging process and help safeguard your health.