Why Antioxidants are important
There are numerous factors that contribute in maintaining a good health. Some of them are easily controllable, like our lifestyle choices, while others such as genetics, are not so much.Diet is one such factor that we can fully control and has a huge and direct impact on our health.
Understanding the antioxidants benefits of superfoods and eating right is the first step toward achieving your health goals. Over the last few decades, our knowledge of the inner workings of our bodies has increased tremendously and we now understand the effect our diets on our bodies, both good and bad alike.
We keep hearing and reading about the benefits of modifying our diets to stay healthy and live long.One such modification, that physicians and health experts can’t stop talking about, is including more and more foods rich in antioxidants in your diet. More and more scientific studies are implicating antioxidant rich diets in maintaining good health. But what really is the best antioxidant?
Let us try and understand more about these fantastic nutrients and how they work. We will also see how we can incorporate them in our daily diets effectively and deliciously.
What are antioxidants?
Scientifically speaking, antioxidants are a group of molecules that are capable of preventing the oxidation of other molecules. Our bodies naturally produce various enzymes that act as natural antioxidants. Many vitamins such as Vitamin C are also excellent antioxidants.
The antioxidants, play a pivotal role in managing these free radicals and help the body keep their level under a check.
The antioxidants ‘neutralize’ these free radicals by getting oxidized themselves and preventing oxidation of other important cellular components.
Although the body keeps a supply of these antioxidant enzymes at hand, it relies heavily on external sources, i.e diet, to be more efficient. Thus, eating antioxidant rich foods will help boost the much needed defense against the free radicals.
What should you do to get more antioxidants?
Eating fresh, unprocessed food will provide all the antioxidants your body will need. Although there are a slew of antioxidant supplements in the market, it is always better to rely on diet to get your nutrient requirement especially when it comes to antioxidants.
The dietary antioxidants are easy for your body to absorb and with supplements, there is always a chance of over compensating. Although we will cover some of the good and approved supplements toward the end, I would still suggest you to stick to an antioxidant rich diet.
What foods should you eat?
There are many foods that are rich in antioxidants to suit every palate. Some my favorite ones are:
1. Fresh green veggies
Fresh leafy vegetables are rich in antioxidants. They are cheap and delicious, which is an added bonus! Plus, they are high in fiber and will keep you full for a long time.
The best ones include everyones favorite kale, artichokes, okra and pretty much all the greens.However, to get all the antioxidant goodness, you should consume them raw and uncooked. Cooking often destroys almost all antioxidants. Try making delicious salads or even juices or smoothies.
Sprouts are really amazing in how much nutrients they can pack in including plenty of antioxidants. Include sprouts in your salads or include them in smoothies, you can not go wrong. Peas and sunflower sprouts are so easy to obtain. You can make your own sprouts as well.
Many fruits, especially berries, are rich in antioxidants. However, if you are watching your weight, don’t over-indulge in fruits as they are rich in sugars such as fructose. Again eating fresh, uncooked fruit is the key. So no to fruits in pies or pancakes, eat fresh fruits instead.
Many delicious nuts such as pecans, hazelnuts and walnuts are rich in antioxidants. Just a tip: while buying nuts look for organic ones that are nor pasteurized or irradiated. Peanuts are also good, but many people are allergic to them and they are usually laden with pesticides.
5. Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices not only make your food super tasty, they are seriously loaded with antioxidants. Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, oregano and garlic. While choosing the herbs, always prefer fresh ones. Avoid processed or powdered ones as much as possible.
6. Green tea
Green tea is so rich in antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate, that it deserves a special mention. Again, as a rule of thumb, do nit buy processed tea. Stick to organic loose tea from good sources.
The scientists at USDA have created a scale to measure the antioxidant property of foods or supplements in neutralizing free radicals. The scale called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) score. The higher the ORAC score, the more powerful antioxidant the food is. You can download the database from the following link: http://www.orac-info-portal.de/download/ORAC_R2.pdf