Antioxidant is one word that seems to appear everywhere these days. Food packages in grocery stores proclaim their antioxidant content in bright bold lettering. The term is tossed around in television commercials and other media thousands of times a day. You may be getting the idea that they are good for you, but you may not know how or why.
Antioxidants have demonstrated the ability to prevent cancer in animals. They do this by protecting cells from damage caused by molecules that are known as free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that will change DNA. Over time, this damage builds up and can eventually lead to cancer. Free radicals are missing an electron in their outer shell. Antioxidants willingly give up one of their outer shell electrons to fill in the gap, which stabilizes the free radical making it unable to attach DNA.
Smoking, radiation, too much sun, and other harmful substances lead to the formation of free radicals in the body. Although research on humans regarding antioxidants and cancer are not consistent, the consumption of foods high in antioxidants is still considered important in maintaining health in preventing cancer. Several population studies do support that diet high in antioxidants result in lower cancer rates. Free radicals not only contribute to cancer, they are also a factor in the development of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and vision loss due to aging.
Antioxidants include lycopene, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and others. The best sources of these antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Consequently, some U.S. government studies have found that taking supplements of antioxidants in high amounts may have the opposite effect, leading to the development of cancer rather than eliminating it. Researchers and physicians agree that the best source of antioxidants is that which is found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Here is a rundown of the five best foods for making sure that you get enough antioxidants.
Goji Berries and Acai berries are among the highest antioxidant foods in the world. Although other berries such as blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, pomegranates, elder berries, strawberries, and other berries are not far below. Eating a variety of fruits and berries is the best way to make certain that you get as many different antioxidants as possible. Dried fruits are just as good as fresh ones.
2. Veggies of All Colors
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli also offer important sources of a variety of antioxidants, particularly lutein, which is good for the eyes. Artichokes have the highest level of antioxidants of any vegetable studied thus far. Surprisingly, the Russet potato also ranked high in antioxidants, only it was found that frying in oil at a high temperature destroyed them. Orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, and mangoes are the best sources of beta-carotene. Lycopene is found in tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, and apricots.
Legumes, including black beans and kidney beans are good sources of certain types of antioxidants. They tend to lose antioxidants over time, so it is best to use them as quickly as possible. Picked fresh is always best.
4. Nuts and Grains
Nuts and grains are essential for antioxidants and proteins. Steel cut oats, quinoa, and other whole grains are excellent sources of antioxidants. Pecans were the highest-ranking nut, followed by walnuts and almonds. Eating a handful of nuts every day is recommended by many nutritionists.
5. Coffee and Chocolate
There is good news for coffee and chocolate lovers. It appears that both of these foods are high in antioxidants. This does not mean that you have permission to go crazy though, because their other affects must be kept in check. When choosing chocolate for antioxidant power, it must be dark, unprocessed, and high in cacao content. Chocolate is three times as high in antioxidants as coffee.
The best advice for making certain that you get enough antioxidants is to add color and variety to your diet. Eating healthy choice of berries, vegetables, legumes, nuts and grains with the occasional chocolate and coffee sprinkled in will help you make certain that you get as many antioxidants as possible. Health begins at the grocery store with the foods that you choose.
What is your favorite antioxidant fruit or vegetable? Do you grow any yourself? Any Favorite Recipes?