Antioxidants are substances that help protect your body from free radical damage.
Let’s start off by talking a bit about free radicals…
What are free radicals?
A free radical is a molecule within our bodies that has an unpaired electron in its outer shell. They are unstable and highly reactive. Free radicals cause problems in the body by stealing an electron from a nearby stable molecule. This turns the stable molecule into a free radical and a chain reaction begins. Free radicals contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and vision loss.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by providing them with the missing electron or by breaking down the free radical, leaving it harmless.
How are free radicals formed?
Free radicals can be produced unnaturally by air pollution, pesticides, UV light from the sun, fried foods, cigarette smoke, drugs – prescription and recreational, processed foods, stress – emotional and physical, and x-rays.
Free radicals are the by-product of normal metabolism (converting nutrients into energy). They are also used by the immune system to attack viruses and bacteria.
Types of antioxidants (the good guys):
Superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and catalase (CAT) are antioxidant enzymes which are the first line of defense when it comes to eliminating free radicals. These are produced naturally within your body and can also be obtained through raw foods such as algae, sprouts, vegetables, yeast and wheat grass.
Minerals such as selenium (brazil nuts are a great plant source), manganese and zinc all form parts of antioxidant enzymes.
A variety of nutrients including vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein act as antioxidants in the body.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an antioxidant found naturally in the body but is also obtained through diet. It`s found in red meat, oily fish and various plant foods. Plant sources of CoQ10 include walnuts, broccoli, spinach and azuki beans.
A general rule of thumb is that the deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables contain the most antioxidants. To get a variety of antioxidants eat a diet consisting of different coloured produce. Examples – lutein is found in green leafy vegetables and beta-carotene is found in orange coloured fruits and vegetables.
Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is measured in a lab, testing a food or substance’s ability to neutralize free radicals. This scoring system was developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health. The greater the number, the more antioxidants in the food.
Here are 5 foods that are loaded with antioxidants:
Cacao – How can you beat the taste of chocolate? This superfood is an excellent addition to smoothies, elixirs or raw desserts. The powdered form of cacao has the highest ORAC score compared to the nibs and beans.
Blueberries – These work well in smoothies or are delicious on their own. It has been determined that consuming organic blueberries maximizes the antioxidant capacity when compared to conventionally grown.
Chaga Mushrooms – These mushrooms have the highest ORAC value of any substance on the planet. They make a wonderful immune boosting tea.
Pecans – These nuts are packed with antioxidants. Pecans are a great addition to raw deserts or a handful makes a great midday snack.
Green Tea – Regular consumption of green tea provides a number of health benefits including weight loss and increasing immunity. It contains an antioxidant that kills/inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
Help prevent many chronic diseases by keeping your levels of free radicals in check. This means eating a whole food diet high in antioxidants.
What’s your favourite antioxidant rich food?
To your health!