written by Meha Sethi
Antioxidants… sound fancy don’t they? They almost sound like little superhero’s coming to save the day, and that’s essentially what they are. Antioxidants, or our little superhero friends, fight free radicals in our body, which are unstable molecules that can cause DNA mutation. Each and every one of us is exposed to free radicals on a daily basis through pollution, improper diet, smoking, drinking, stress, oxidation, chemical toxins, radiation etc. The damage caused by these free radicals, or the “bad guys” can result in a number of different unwanted health concerns including:
1. Increased risk of cancer
2. Heart disease and atherosclerosis
4. Weakened immune system
5. Cataracts and macular degeneration
6. Accelerated aging
7. Parkinson’s Disease
Although we generally view free radicals as being the villains, there is some good to them and they are absolutely essential to life. Immune cells will send free radicals onto evading bacteria to destroy them, therefore playing a crucial role in our body’s defense mechanism. It’s only when we have too many free radicals that we start to see a problem, and the reality is, is that the majority of us are exposed to far too many of these bad guys on a daily basis.
The good thing is that there are certain things we can do to lower our risk and help fight off these nasty free radicals, and that’s where our antioxidant superheros come in to play.
By working towards eliminating our exposure to free radicals by avoiding smoke, pollution, stress etc. and by ensuring that we saturate our bodies with antioxidants consistently we can effectively lessen our chances of developing unwanted health issues and slowing down the aging process (now who doesn’t want that?).
What are the BEST Sources of Antioxidants?
Now that we know what they are and why we need them, the question is where should we get them?
There are over 8,000 types of antioxidants out there and because nobody has time for that I’m just going to emphasize some familiar sounding ones that, in my opinion, are the most essential to focus on in our diets.
Vitamin A - Carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, animal and fish livers, butternut squash
Vitamin C - Citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, fish, chili peppers, cruciferous veggies
Vitamin E - Spinach, almonds, sunflower seeds, avocados, trout, olive oil, broccoli
Selenium – Brazil nuts, oysters, tuna, sunflower seeds, crimini mushrooms, beef
Zinc – Oysters, wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, cashews, cocoa, mung beans
These five antioxidants work synergistically in our bodies, meaning that you can’t rely on one or two to get the job done. It is essential to have all five in adequate amounts because all antioxidants work in different ways and no amount of vitamin C is ever going to do the job for vitamin E or Zinc. The best way to approach this antioxidant situation it to look at them like an army and therefore in order to effectively battle the enemy (or in this case, free radicals) you need them all; generals, lieutenants, privates and others with individual duties.
Eating a diverse, whole foods, rotational and mostly organic diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some grass-fed organic meats (unless vegetarian), and herbs and spices will set you on your way to building a strong army of antioxidants. And for those of you that want the additional protection and support from supplements, a supplement, from a reputable company, containing these 5 nutrients will further help you build a strong army and slow down the aging process.
Antioxidant Powerhouse Smoothie
2 cups spinach
1 cup strawberries
1 Tbsp almond butter
squeeze of half a lemon
1 tsp greens powder
1 cup of water or coconut water
Blend everything together in the food processor until creamy and smooth.
Meha Sethi is currently studying to become a certified holistic nutritionist, which she plans on using to help others find their personal optimal health. A business student turned health junkie she is passionate and inspired by anything health, wellness and nutrition related. She strongly believes that living a healthier and greener life is simple and possible for every lifestyle. While still a budding student, she is currently working towards developing her own blog, twitter and Facebook page.