There is a lot of hype surrounding antioxidants, but few people understand exactly what they are and what they do. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage your DNA and cells, and they are impossible to avoid. Free radicals are your body’s natural response to the many environmental toxins that you are exposed to everyday, as well as to your body’s normal cellular functions. These molecules are unstable because they don’t have the proper number of electrons, forcing them to steal electrons from otherwise healthy cells. This causes what is known as oxidative stress, which leads to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and more. But that is where antioxidants come in. Antioxidants offer free radicals some of their own electrons, which essentially powers them down before they can damage your body. Here are three ways to get more antioxidants in your diet.
There are many different types of antioxidants. You know some of them very well, such as Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, zinc, and beta-carotene. You might not be as familiar with others, such as anthocyanins, catechins, and cryptoxanthin. Luckily, you don’t need to know the names of all the different types of antioxidants to reap their benefits. Vegetables are some of the best sources of antioxidants out there. Green, leafy vegetables are full of lutein. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are bursting with indoles. Leeks and onions are excellent sources of allium sulfur compounds. And herbs such as thyme and oregano abound in polyphenols. Try to eat as many different vegetables as you can every day.
Some people think fruit isn’t as healthy because it is sweet and tastes so delicious. However, fruits high in vitamin C and antioxidants are great for tissue health. Citrus fruits, kiwis, mangoes, and strawberries provide high amounts of Vitamin C. Apricots are excellent sources of beta-carotene. Grapefruit and watermelon are full of lycopene, and berries are little powerhouses bursting with anthocyanins. Get more fruit by including it in your salads, cereals, desserts, and smoothies.
Eat Healthy Proteins
When people think of antioxidants, they usually go straight to fruits and vegetables. However, healthy proteins such as nuts, seeds, eggs, low-fat milk, seafood, beans, and lean meats are also great sources of antioxidants. These foods give you zinc, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, copper, isoflavonoids, manganese, selenium, and more.
When you think of all those free radicals wreaking havoc on your body, it increases your motivation to eat foods that are high in antioxidants. These foods slow the aging process, protect you from oxidative stress, and taste great. Try to plan as many antioxidants into your day as possible for optimal health.
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