Antioxidants: What They Do and Antioxidant-Rich Foods

Antioxidants are a kind of stuff you hear loads about. Whether it’s from a healthcare supplier or in promoting, there’s no getting round all of the chatter about antioxidants and the way vital they’re.  

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But what are antioxidants? And why are they so vital? To resolve all the thrill, we spoke with registered dietician Nicole Hopsecger, RD

What are antioxidants?

“Antioxidants are naturally occurring chemicals in foods that can serve as a defense against free radicals,” explains Hopsecger. “Free radicals are normal byproducts of metabolism that occur in our bodies or can be a result of environmental factors, like air pollution and smoke.” 

The main advantage of antioxidants is their means to securely react with free radicals earlier than harm will be finished on a mobile stage. Basically, “Antioxidants fight free radicals,” says Hopsecger. 

“Free radicals can damage the body’s cells by changing a cell’s DNA, or it can alter a cell’s membrane,” explains Hopsecger. “This interaction between free radicals and the body is called oxidative stress, which is often thought to be what contributes to the increased risk of developing chronic disease.”

Hopsecger says that whereas preventing free radicals is the first advantage of antioxidants, there’s a secondary profit.

“Indirectly, antioxidants help reduce the risk of chronic disease development because they negate those free radicals from causing havoc to our cells,” Hopsecger says.

Antioxidants and your food plan 

While our bodies naturally produce some antioxidants, sure meals are one of the best ways to make sure you’re getting sufficient antioxidants.  

Antioxidant-rich meals 

Some examples of antioxidants and the meals (and vitamin sources) wherein you’ll find them, based on Hopsecger, embody: 

  • Vitamin C: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, candy potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes and citrus fruits. 
  • Vitamin E: Almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds, oatmeal and legumes (beans, lentils, cut up peas). 
  • Beta carotene: Apricots, cantaloupe, mangos, carrots, grapefruit and bell peppers. 
  • Selenium: Eggs, tuna, salmon, brown rice, onions and lots of different greens. 

Like many healthcare suppliers, Hopsecger recommends a “rainbow diet” to make sure you’re getting all the required vitamins your physique wants.  

A rainbow food plan means consuming fruit and greens of various colours like inexperienced (broccoli or spinach), pink (tomatoes or strawberries), orange (carrots or oranges) and yellow (bell peppers or banana). This ensures you devour a various vary of nutritional vitamins, vitamins and, sure, antioxidants. 

What to find out about antioxidants 

While antioxidants are excellent to your well being, there are misconceptions about them and confusion on how finest to make them a part of your food plan.

No single antioxidant can do all the pieces

“We can’t rely on any single antioxidant or nutrient to do all the work,” Hopsecger says. “We need to get a variety of those to make sure we stay healthy and the best way to do that is through a healthy, balanced and varied diet.”  

Each antioxidant behaves in another way in our physique, Hopsecger says, and no antioxidant can do all of the work of a number of totally different ones. On the same be aware, she provides that the concept of a “superfood” that may provide a better stage of vitamins than others is a little bit of a misnomer.  

“Superfoods tend to be tied more to a marketing trend,” she says, noting that each kale and avocados have skilled booms in reputation in recent times. And whereas these meals are wholesome, it’s extra vital to be sure you’re getting a wide range of meals in your food plan — like that rainbow food plan — than specializing in anyone specific meals an excessive amount of.  

Don’t depend on dietary supplements 

While getting antioxidants into your physique is sweet, doing so by means of dietary supplements is probably not, says Hopsecger. “Studies are inconclusive about whether or not supplements actually help, or in some cases, cause more harm than benefit,” she says.  

“Not only can these interact with medications you’re already taking, but you’re not getting a well-rounded variety, particularly if you’re mega-dosing a single one,” she provides. “And those single antioxidants may not work as well without the presence of other nutrients you get more naturally through a well-balanced diet.” 

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