Any health-conscious person will have heard about antioxidants, and how they can benefit our health. But what are they exactly, where can we find them, and just how can they help to keep our bodies in tip-top condition? Read on to find out more.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are substances that are found in a wide variety of foods, particularly fruit and vegetables. They are highly regarded in the health world, because of the good that they do for our bodies.
Antioxidants have the ability to mop up harmful free radicals, which can cause damage to our cells. Free radicals are a by-product of the natural production of oxygen in our body (oxidation), but we also create more free radicals in our bodies from exposure to pollution, tobacco smoke, and unhealthy foods.
Free radicals damage cells, which can speed up the aging process and even contribute to illness and disease.
Since antioxidants have the ability to wipe out free radicals, it makes sense that we should aim to up our intake of them in order to keep ourselves healthy.
The power of antioxidants
You can get a good dose of antioxidants by eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals. Eating a varied, balanced diet is a good starting point. The more varied the colors of the fruits and vegetables that you eat, the greater your intake of antioxidants. Deep colored fruits and vegetables, in particular, are considered beneficial sources of antioxidants.
But, it isn’t just about eating healthy foods. Often, the way they are cooked or stored can have an influence on antioxidant levels.
It might seem obvious, but foods that are fresh are going to be more abundant with disease-fighting substances than those that have been stored for a while, as they lose their nutritional value over time.
Frying food is generally considered bad for your health and can impact on the nutritional content of the food. Boiling vegetables also wipes out a lot of the health-giving properties of many foods, so it’s worth steaming, grilling, poaching, or eating your fruits and vegetables raw for maximum health benefits.
Which are the best antioxidant-rich foods?
It’s always a good idea to eat a balanced, varied diet to ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients, rather than focusing on certain foods only. But, if you want to ensure you are getting adequate antioxidants, then there are some foods that are particular powerhouses.
Green vegetables such as broccoli and kale are rich in isothiocyanates, which are antioxidants known to fight cancer.
Flavonoids found in green tea and soft berries are rich in disease-busting antioxidants.
For anti-aging benefits eat foods rich in resveratrol, such as grapes, blueberries, or red wine.
Carotenoids are found in abundance in orange and red vegetables and are known for neutralizing free radicals.
But, don’t think you have to stick to a diet of just fruit and vegetables in order to benefit. Antioxidants are found in all sorts of foods, including fish, eggs, herbs, spices, meat, nuts, and seeds.
Dark chocolate may be an indulgent treat, but it is also considered one of the best sources of antioxidants and is equally known for protecting heart health and circulatory problems. Stick to the high-quality varieties which have fewer additives and processing.