The Truth about Antioxidants
What are antioxidants anyway? Most people understand that they’re beneficial to health, but may be unsure of what they are or how they work! Our cells need oxygen to perform vital tasks, such as transferring energy stored in food, or for powering our muscles. When our cells use energy, they produce a by-product of organic molecules known as free-radicals. Unfortunately, these free radicals are damaging to our bodies. They can lead to aging, tissue damage, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. This is where antioxidants come in! They are used to help prevent and repair the damage of the free radicals. The most common antioxidants are Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as Carotenoids, Lutein, Lycopene, and Selenium. Below is a list of foods to help you find these antioxidants!
Vitamin A and Carotenoids- Carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, apricots, cantaloupe- Look for BRIGHT colored fruits and veggies! If you didn’t know- carotenoids are naturally occurring pigments in foods (mostly red, yellow, and orange) that can be converted into vitamin A in your body.
Vitamin E- Sunflower seeds, almonds, asparagus, green leafy vegetables, bell peppers, and kiwi
Vitamin C- Strawberries, oranges, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, green leafy vegetables, and broccoli
Lutein- A green carotenoid pigment found in kale, broccoli, kiwi, spinach, brussels sprouts, peas, zucchini, and other green leafy vegetables
Lycopene- A red carotenoid pigment found in grapefruit, watermelon, and tomato products
Selenium- A trace mineral found in eggs, red meat, grains, fish, shellfish, chicken, and garlic
Other common antioxidants include Flavonoids which are found in red wine, tea, and cranberries, and Lignans which is found in oatmeal, flaxseed, and barley.
Learn more about antioxidants at the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; they have great resources on usage, safety and general information!