What Do Antioxidants Really Do?
Do your eyes light up every time you see “antioxidants” on a label? It’s one of the most popular and trendy buzzwords that catches the attention of health-conscious consumers, but most people really do not understand what an antioxidant is and how it works in the body. Did you know there’s an ever-growing body of research showing that antioxidants are one of the most important dietary compounds to help squash accelerated aging and even some chronic diseases? But not all antioxidants do the same magical healing. So, read on and find out once and for all what antioxidants are, how they fight the bad stuff in your body, and exactly which antioxidants are the best for you to consume (and get from supplements).
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds naturally found in foods (especially plants) that stop or delay damage to the cells. They help protect cells from being damaged by collecting the “garbage” in our cells. Let’s call the “garbage” free radicals. Antioxidants escort free radicals to the dump before they begin to cause harm (inflammation or disease). Antioxidants are released from the foods we eat through digestion and travel through the bloodstream and into cells where they do their work on free radicals.
What Are Oxidation and Oxidative Stress in the Body?
Oxidation: Antioxidants prevent a chemical process known as oxidation, which is a natural part of living and aging.
Oxidative Stress: When free radicals are produced in excess, they generate a phenomenon called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is at the root of so much illness and pain.
Be Aware That Not All Antioxidants Are Created Equal
There is conflicting data on whether antioxidants can help prevent or mitigate cancer, illness, or other chronic diseases. No wonder this makes it difficult for you to know exactly what to buy. Which type of antioxidant is going to be best at knocking out free radicals and oxidative stress?
The Best Antioxidants
Here is a list of foods that contain what is considered some of the top antioxidant oxidative stress fighting powers. Top healing and immunity-boosting antioxidants include vitamins C and E, CoQ10, lipoic acid, glutathione, flavonoids (antioxidants that come from plants), carotenoids, and selenium. All the foods in this list contain a mixture of these antioxidants. These are the ones to have in your grocery cart when shopping that have been proven to help slow the signs of aging, help us feel more youthful, support our heart and brain to function better, and give us glowing skin and healthy eyes.
Top Foods with the Highest Amounts of Antioxidant Power:
- Wild Blueberries
- Citrus Fruits (picked ripe from the tree, in season)
- Cruciferous Vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale)
- Dark Chocolate
- Dried Fruit (without sulfate)
- Garlic (raw, unheated, chopped) and Onions
- Ginger Root
- Goji Berries
- Greens (phytochemical-rich: collard greens, mustard greens, Swiss chard, all cruciferous vegetables, beet greens, watercress)
- Kidney Beans
- Organic Red Grapes
- Sesame and Black Seed Oil
- Sweet Potatoes
- Tomatoes (cooked is best)
- Tea (Organic Green and Black or Matcha Tea)
- Winter Squash
So, the next time your eyes light up and you get excited when you see “antioxidants” on a packaged food label, look for some of the items on this list on the packaging, but keep in mind it is best when antioxidants come from real, whole foods. You’ll also remember that antioxidants may not only keep disease and organ troubles at bay—they could help the brain to function more clearly, keep your heart pumping strong and your vision sharp, slow your cellular aging, detoxify your body and blood, serve as a natural anti-inflammatory agent, and fight chronic fatigue. And load up that shopping cart!