Understand the importance of why you must boost antioxidants and keep Free Radicals away. This is one of the cornerstones to reducing stress on your body.
You will not boost antioxidants if you over-eat high calorific, rich foods, consume too much alcohol, processed foods, red meat and suffer the stresses and strains of modern living. Quite simply, these will take their toll on your digestive system and overall wellbeing and it will probably make you sick. But there are some simple ways to improve your well-being and feel more energized by increasing your antioxidant intake.
Good diet choices will help reduce stress in your body.
Food that is loaded with salt, fat, and sugar create spikes to your blood glucose and insulin levels, causing an increase in the number of free radicals, or molecules with unattached electrons, and this can do serious cellular damage. You will hear a lot about antioxidants and the benefits of eating foods that are rich in them, but what exactly are they, and why do we need them?
Boost antioxidants with antioxidant-rich foods
Now, you may not have fully grasped the explanation above, but in simple terms ‘free radical production increases when we overeat the wrong foods’. As we eat too much, the mitochondria releases more activated oxygen than normal during energy consumption, and this generates higher levels of free radicals. The risk of oxidative stress is far greater when we eat certain kinds of foods and the degree of danger is influenced by the way these foods are prepared or cooked.
Our bodies use oxygen to function, and this results in free radicals being produced and bouncing around causing all sorts of damage to our cells. This natural process is protected by antioxidants as they clean up the free radicals and help reduce their potential damage. Basically, antioxidants help to stop or slow down oxidative damage. The big problem today is that too many people lack enough fruit and vegetable in their diet and if you smoke, diet regularly or live in a polluted city, you will definitely benefit from increasing your antioxidant intake. You might ask if taking an antioxidant supplement could help, but research is mixed with some studies finding antioxidant supplements reducing the risk of disease, but others have found supplements to have NO benefits. What is agreed, is that people who have a diet rich with a mixture of fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants, they tend to live longer with healthier lives than those who don’t.
So don’t rely or waste your money on supplements, increase your antioxidant intake, naturally and avoid creating too many free radicals. Ensure your diet incorporates healthy high antioxidant-rich foods and avoid nutrient-poor meals.
Here are some foods to avoid
- High Glycemic Goods – They are more likely to generate free radicals due to these foods being rich in refined carbohydrates and sugars.
- Processed Meats – Remove foods like sausages, bacon, and salami as they contain preservatives that lead to the production of free radicals.
- Red Meat – Meat is especially vulnerable to oxidation due to its high iron content, so why not simplify your life and just go vegetarian!
- Cooking Fats and Oils – Never reuse fats and oils that have been heated up as they oxidize and generate free radicals, which seep back into our foods.
- Alcohol – Alcoholic beverages are not only high in calories, but it too produces bad free radicals. Limit your drinking or better still kick the habit!
Eat Foods Rich In Antioxidants
Foods rich in antioxidants help to inhibit the oxidation of molecules by neutralizing free radicals and stopping cellular damage. Antioxidants are found in a variety of plants in the form of vitamins A, C and E, Selenium and certain phytonutrients and polyphenols.
- Choose foods with β-carotene, lycopene, and lutein – Broccoli, Alfalfa Sprouts, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Collard Greens, Corn, Mango’s and Tomatoes. Incorporate these foods into vegetable medleys, casseroles, and salads.
- Fruit for dessert – Replace rich pies and cakes with – Apples, Cantaloupe (Melon), Cherries, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Papaya, Red Grapes, Blackberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries. Fantastic on their own or mixed as a lovely fruit salad.
- Grab some nut – Rich in vitamin E
- Plant Flavonoids are also antioxidant-rich flavonoids – Onions, Eggplant (aubergine), Lettuce, Turnip, Greens, Endives (chicory), Pears, Parsley, Citrus Fruits, Berries, Cherries, Plums, Legumes, Soybeans, Milk, Cheese, Tofu and Miso.
- Antioxidant Superfoods – Offer high levels of more than one vitamin – Prunes, Plums, Raisins, Blueberries, Cranberries, Figs, Oranges, Pomegranates, Sweet Red Bell Peppers, Beets, Kale, Spinach and Dark Chocolate.
- Herbal Therapy – Many spices can not only enhance the flavor but also reduce oxidative stress – Ginger, Grape Seed Extract, Ginkgo, Rosemary, and Turmeric.
- Green Tea – polyphenols in this brew also combat oxidation.
Pay attention to food preparation
Eating most veggies raw will certainly maximize your antioxidant intake, but you don’t have to turn into a rabbit! Just follow these tips on how best to prepare then cook your vegetables to best affect the nutrients in them.
- Don’t peel your veggies
- Minimize chopping
- Don’t soak in water pre-cooking
- Cook quickly at a high heat rather than slowly on a lower heat
- Don’t cook in copper pots as this reduces the amount of vitamin C
- Frozen vegetables are a great source of antioxidants
- Steaming helps retain nutrients
Choose bright colored vegetables to boost antioxidants
Antioxidants often give color to foods, so choosing a variety of colors means you are getting a variety of antioxidants. Salmon and egg yolks, for example, are orange and so high in astaxanthin, an important anti-inflammatory antioxidant.
All fruits contain beneficial nutrients, so don’t buy into the superfruit hype and feel you need to buy expensive exotic fruit to get benefits. The key is variety and more importantly the variety in colour. Aim for two or three different colours of fruits and vegetables each day, and if you are pushed for time, go ahead and juice your fruit and vegetables to help increase your intake. Get creative and really enjoy trying new foods as it’s hard to go wrong! If you are wanting to lose weight, then just be mindful that fruit contains fructose so can by high in natural sugar, so juice more vegetables than fruit.
Enjoy drinks like Green tea, Cranberry juice, Cherry juice, specialized teas like ‘Matcha Tea’ and even fresh Coffee and if you need to keep drinking wine, choose Red Wine as it offers a better source of antioxidants, BUT don’t think downing five glasses of red wine will go towards your ‘five a day’ because the downside of drinking alcohol far outways any benefits!
Herbs, Spices, Seeds and Nuts
Most herbs and spices are a good source to boost antioxidants, and Turmeric is one of the best. Make your meals more tasty and healthy by adding herbs and spices instead of salt. Sprinkle herbs and spices on vegetables, mix with yogurt or cream cheese for a tasty dip and add to salad dressings. I sprinkle Chia Seeds on pretty much everything and make fantastic chia seed puddings.
Choose nuts and seeds as a healthy snack to keep you going between meals, as they are rich in antioxidants. Brazil nuts are a key source of selenium, which is important for brain health, and almonds and sunflower seeds are great sources of vitamin E. Mix nuts and seeds with dried fruit for even more beneficial nutrients.
For those of you who need your daily CHOCOLATE fix, switch to polyphenol-rich dark chocolate, to have a positive effect on your heart health. Ditch milk chocolate for dark chocolate (or cacao), and of course eat in moderation – a couple of squares a day should be enough!
Interesting article to explain cellular damage, how the oxidative process works and why it’s important to curb it.
This explanation is from an article written byPostdoctoral Research Fellow in Nutrition, Georgia State University
If a substance is “oxidized,” it has lost electrons to another substance. In contrast, we say a substance is “reduced” when it has gained electrons from another substance. Oxidizing agents are called electron acceptors, because they remove electrons from a substance, putting them in a state of loss, or oxidized. Oxidizing agents keep electrons for themselves.
The oxidizing agents that have accepted electrons become free radicals if the unpaired electrons don’t bind to other molecules. These free radicals mess with our cellular metabolism, even interfering with our DNA.
Nutrient metabolism and free radical formation
Our mitochondria, which operate like little factories in our cells, are responsible for burning fuel from food and producing energy in each of our cells via a process called oxidative phosphorylation. This metabolic pathway is a cellular chain reaction that involves a series of oxidation and reduction reactions in which atoms try to give or receive enough electrons to have a full “shell.” Most atoms have a matching number of protons and electrons, but this leaves the various “shells” of electrons incomplete, rendering them vulnerable to scavenge the body in search of electrons for pairing.
Normally, when an electron separates from a molecule involved in oxidation and reduction, it reattaches almost immediately to another. But when they don’t, free radicals form.
Under ordinary conditions, this oxidative process creates chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen. This in turn can lead to the production of molecules of free radicals that are unstable in high concentrations.
Not all free radicals are bad. Free radical formation is crucial to the process of oxidizing nutrients from our food into chemical energy.
Free radical accumulation, however, be it atoms, ions or molecules, is harmful and can have severe consequences on our health. These unstable molecules are detrimental to the proper structure and function of cells throughout the body due to their ability to oxidize cells, known as oxidative stress.
Free radicals damage the growth, development and survival of cells in the body. Their reactive nature allows them to engage in unnecessary side reactions causing cellular impairment and eventually injury when they are present in disproportionate amounts.
They directly impair cell membranes and DNA. This leads to cell mutation and causes new cells to grow erroneously, which means free radicals are associated with both development of cancer as well as the progression of aging. Free radicals are frequently implicated with health problems that are experienced with age, such as hardened arteries, diabetes and even wrinkle formation.