We all know that eating more fruits and vegetable can have a significant impact on health. But do you know how amazing antioxidants are and how easy they are to add to your diet? From decreased risk of chronic diseases, to protective effects against cancer, antioxidants are a clear winner in supporting your health!
First, let’s talk about oxidation.
Oxidation is a natural process that occurs in the body’s cells as a result of everyday activities. During oxidation, cells become damaged and turn in to free radicals. We are also exposed to environmental factors that create free radicals:
- Sun exposure
- Cigarette smoke
The problem with free radicals is that they’re thieves. That’s right—thieves. They steal electrons from nearby cells in the body, which can cause damage to the cell and genetic material (DNA). This can start the chain reaction of harming even more cells.
Free radical damage can result in increased susceptibility to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Thankfully, our bodies don’t leave us defenseless. Our bodies create molecules that “clean up” free radicals. Antioxidants in foods also play a major role in coming to the rescue.
What’s so great about antioxidants?
Antioxidants are important compounds that fight against diseases caused by oxidative stress. Studies show that eating whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, which are rich in antioxidants, provide protection against free radical damage and associated chronic diseases.
Although many fruits and vegetables have a high antioxidant content, the body may not absorb all of these special nutrients. This is why it is important to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
How to choose antioxidant-rich foods
If you’re looking to increase the antioxidants in your diet look for purple, blue, red, and orange fruits, which are the most antioxidant-rich. Berries pack a powerful punch of antioxidants, offering the highest amount among fruits and vegetables.
Here are 7 antioxidant-rich foods to add to your diet:
- Acai berries: Acai berries have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. They are a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.
- Blueberries: In a major study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, berries surpassed other fruits and vegetables to provide the most antioxidants.
- Cranberries: A cousin to blueberries, cranberries are also very high in antioxidants. They contain A-type proanthocyanidins, a class of antioxidants believed to be effective against urinary tract infections.
- Cacao: Cacao powder and dark chocolate have relatively high concentrations of polyphenolic compounds, specifically flavanols. Cacao flavanols have been associated with several health benefits including improved blood flow and arterial elasticity, anti-inflammatory actions, and lowering blood pressure and platelet aggregation. (Choose 70% and higher cocoa content.)
- Goji berry: Goji berry is a great source of antioxidants, as well as vitamins A and C.
- Green tea: Green tea has high levels of polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins that function as powerful antioxidants. Laboratory studies also suggest that green tea may help protect or slow the growth of certain cancers. It is also good for improving mental alertness.
- Noni: Along with its antioxidant benefits, laboratory studies show that noni has immune-stimulating, and tumor-fighting properties.
...and remember, qualified nutritionists at Healthy Being are available to offer further general advice to help guide you in selecting the right products. So please, feel free to contact us at anytime!
Aminta Bullard is a Master's-trained Registered Dietitian and a regular contributor to HB Insights. She specialises in health and nutrition communications, as well as nutrition education.