When you hear that a food is filled with antioxidants you assume it’s healthy for you, right? But could you say why? Antioxidants are found in everyday foods like berries, tomatoes and chia seeds and pack a major punch for your overall health. An antioxidant is a compound that aids in repairing cell damage. Damage, of which, may be caused by a slew of factors including exposure to sun, toxins and for today’s lesson – nasty free radicals.
The term ‘free radicals’ sounds like something born in the summer of love era, but by definition, a free radical is, “an uncharged molecule having an unpaired valence electron.” Free radicals essentially move through the body looking to steal a partner electron from other molecules like fats, proteins, cell membranes, even DNA, in a process called oxidation. This oxidation can affect molecules over a period of time setting off a serious of negative events and imbalances resulting in aging and degenerative issues.
It is when the balance of free radicals and antioxidants are off that oxidative stress occurs which leads to cell damage.
This oxidative stress and free radical damage are where the caped antioxidants, often referred to as superfoods, come into play. They are needed to defend against stray free radicals (unpartnered electrons) and keep our bodies healthy and disease free. Combatting free radicals has some incredibly positive effects too, including anti-aging, detoxification, skin vitality, heart disease prevention and immune system strength.
How, you ask? Antioxidants give freely an electron to those grabby free radicals. The power of antioxidants is that they have the ability to remain stable despite being a man down on the electron team. In this way, the free radicals are deterred from stealing electrons from others and knocking off DNA balance.
Though some antioxidants are made from the body, it is still not enough to shelter our cells. Enter stage right- whole foods! The most beneficial way for our bodies to obtain these little defenders is through real, nutritious foods. They are naturally found in plant and animal sources. There are also certain vitamins that act as antioxidants such as A, C, E, and selenium. Vitamins C and E are some of the most important due to their assistance in fighting against free radical cell damage. Other important compounds of antioxidants are lycopene, flavanols, and resveratrol which can be found in fruits and vegetables.
So what foods are best if we want our antioxidants? Plant-based foods are the way to go here. Berries are known to have the highest amount of antioxidants, so load up on those blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, blackberries, all the berries! Other great sources of this powerful compound include:
Get creative with the ways you incorporate more antioxidants into your diet. From green smoothies to salads to stir-frys, you can add a little touch of free-radical fighting goodies into every meal. Check out our recipes for some inspiration!