Written by Lauren Rae, Wellness Coach and CPT at TRYM Fitness
What is the deal with antioxidants? This buzzword has people excited and ready to buy, all while generally confused. While these miracle compounds are noted for fighting disease, protecting memory, reversing signs of aging and much more, there hangs a cloud of perplexity in the air. So let’s get the important facts straightened out. In this article I’m going to tell you exactly what these compounds are and the best ways to implement them into your diet.
What is an antioxidant?
Everyday our bodies naturally go through a chemical breakdown process known as oxidation which can introduce free radicals into our system. When additional stress is introduced to the body, especially in addition to cigarette smoking and alcohol, this process is accelerated. While some free radicals are produced during natural cell breakdown during metabolism, environmental toxins like processed foods, pollution, and radiation reproduce a higher level than the body can handle naturally. With this excess damage occurring, aging, memory loss, disease, and decay are increased at a rapid rate.
Here’s the good news: when antioxidants are introduced to the equation, they protect the body against the effects of free radicals by neutralizing them. They kindly give their own cellular elements to stabilize the effects of the oxidation and put a hold on the cell and tissue damage that causes disease. Plain and simple, antioxidants fight oxidation.
Best Sources for Antioxidants
Now that you know why it is important to be aware of your antioxidant intake to neutralize free radicals, here are the best sources for you to implement into your regular routine. While there are many elements available from protein sources, plant-based sources are the best place to find antioxidants.
Eat your fruits and veggies! The brighter the color the better. Any deeply pigmented food source is generally high in one or all of the following: carotenoids, tannins, flavonoids, resveratrol, and isothiocyanates. Foods like cruciferous (green leafy) vegetables, pomegranates, red wine, green tea, berries, and legumes will have the most bang for your buck. These foods contain high levels of vitamin E and C which are the most abundant fat and water soluble antioxidants in the body.
- Vitamin E is the most effective antioxidant available and may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by protecting against LDL oxidation and the formation of plaque that can clog your arteries.
- Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in your body, is the most effective against pollution and cigarette smoke, and has also been linked to lowering your risk for cancer. More specifically, cancers of the mouth, larynx, and esophagus. Vitamin C is also responsible for helping vitamin E return to its most active form.
How to Implement Antioxidants in Your Diet
Before you stock your cabinets with vitamins and supplements, remember that whole foods and natural sources will always have the best source of antioxidants and nutrients for the most effective results. Follow these simple rules to get those crucial antioxidants into your diet:
- Buy your fruits and vegetables fresh, and buy often! Go to your local farmers’ market to get the freshest produce available and support your community while doing so.
- Fill 70% of your plate with them and make your fruits and veggies take the main stage at meal time. This can help you avoid overeating and keep you fuller, longer.
- Eat fruits and/or vegetables at every meal. The recommended 5–8 servings a day means feeding multiple times a day!
- Get creative. Try adventuring into new territory in the produce aisle and research recipes where the antioxidants build up the dish for success.