For some years, research has been trying to determine the role of antioxidants in preventing cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's and other conditions as well as boosting the immune system.
Antioxidants provide a layer of protection for the cells and tissues of our bodies.
Antioxidants help to guard against free radical damage
We all know that we need to breathe in oxygen – it is vital for all of our essential body functions. Constantly on the move in our blood stream, oxygen is delivered to every cell. Sometimes, and often because of lifestyle and external factors, a small amount of this oxygen breaks loose and produces free radicals. Too many and we get damaged cells, disease and aging.
Our bodies are naturally built to handle free radicals but the ability of these in-built antioxidants to deal with the free radicals can be insufficient, particularly if we are subjected to environmental stress such as car exhaust fumes or cigarette smoke plus they may be insufficient to handle rising levels of free radical attacks as we get older.
In today's lifestyle we are exposed to multiple levels of toxicity with an accumulation of free radical damage to the otherwise healthy cells of the body. Making sure we get plenty of antioxidants becomes more vital than ever. Fortunately it's easy to supplement our reserves of antioxidants as there are literally hundreds of natural food compounds that act as antioxidants in the body. Most research has focused on three very active antioxidant compounds - vitamins C and E and carotenoids but these form only a small proportion of a huge number of protective compounds found in foods.
Antioxidants protect our bodies from damage caused by harmful free radicals
These may come about...
- Through by-products of normal processes that take place in your body (this can be burning of sugars for energy or the release of digestive enzymes to break down food).
- When the body breaks down certain medicines.
- Through pollutants in the environment and in what we ingest.
How to increase antioxidants?
The good news is that there are lots of powerful antioxidants found in food, especially fruit and vegetables. And it is so much better to get your antioxidants from a diet rich in fruits and vegetables rather than from supplements because taking supplements in high doses can even be toxic. You can find lists and lists on the internet of the top antioxidant fruits and vegetables with small red dried beans being the top of those lists but surely it is better to have an all round balanced diet of fruit and vegetables plus other foods so that as well as antioxidants you are including lots of different other nutrients too.
Here are 6 different groups you can include in your diet
– blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, apples, watermelon, raspberries, crow berries, black currants, pomegranates, grapes, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, plums, pineapples and kiwi fruit.
2. Dried Fruits
- apricots, prunes, dates.
– beans, artichoke hearts, russet potatoes, kale, red cabbage, peppers, parsley, Brussels sprouts, spinach, ginger, red beets.
– pecans, walnuts, sun flower seeds and hazelnuts (raw) as well as peanuts (roasted).
– turmeric, cinnamon, oregano and ground cloves.
– barley, millet, oats and corn.
It goes without saying that eating many of these raw is best (nutrients can so easily be destroyed by cooking) and do seriously think about juicing so you can have a fresh vegetable drink every day. Buy organic whenever you can especially berries, apples, potatoes and spinach. If it is not always possible, then wash fruit and vegetables very carefully to remove any pesticide residue.
Raw chocolate is very rich in antioxidants as a non fruit or veggie sweet treat
You can fight the battle against those free radicals with your armory of antioxidants – it is well worth the fuss.