(As published on TheTownDish.com)
Antioxidants seem to be dominating the supermarket these days -- you hear all about them from foods to skin care products, but what are they exactly? You'll be surprised to learn just how they work and where you can find them (they're more common than you think!). Let's look into the science and sources of this popular substance.
What are antioxidants? The explanation is complicated, but the big picture is easy to understand. Antioxidants describe the "stuff" that helps to protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.
What are free radicals, you ask? They are produced by the breakdown of food in your body or by environmental exposure like smoke or radiation. Cell damage from free radicals can wreak havoc on your skin by causing early signs of aging and may possibly prevent disease.
Think of free radicals as little particles bouncing around in your body looking for a match to pair up with. These lonely guys are constantly searching for a mate, and, when they can't find one, they steal electrons from your body -- this is what causes damage to your cells. Now, enter antioxidants. When free radicals run into antioxidants, they decide that they're good enough of a match, and the two will pair up in healthy harmony, keeping them from causing damage.
The science behind antioxidants may be confusing, but getting them into your system couldn't be simpler. If you are a lover of fruits and veggies, you're already well on your way to packing in the antioxidants. Antioxidant-filled foods are high in fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol and are good sources of vitamins and minerals. What a healthy coincidence! Here are some top contenders in the antioxidant world:
- Berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries)
- Fruit juices (pomegranate and cranberry juices are good sources)
- Red cabbage
- Red leaf lettuce
- Sweet and russet potatoes
Nuts & Beans:
- Kidney beans
Load up on different sources to max out your antioxidant benefits. It's great if you have strawberries with your yogurt every morning, but no one food or food group should be your single source. Enjoy a variety of antioxidant-rich foods to make up a healthy diet.
Your body does produce antioxidants naturally, but most come from the food we eat. If you're struggling to incorporate these foods into your diet, there are certain supplements that can serve as an alternative as long as you are taking them with care. Don't overdo it -- taking multiple or strong supplements does not go along with the "more is better" philosophy.
Next time you treat yourself to an antioxidant-filled food, remember the great things they're offering your body. Try spreading out your intake with morning fruit, a nutty snack and a side of veggies at dinner for a day packed with antioxidant power. This makes us want to eat healthier...what about you?