Did you know that some protective effects of foods high in vitamins are contained in those foods’ antioxidants? That’s right—and here’s why. Antioxidants protect cells from the ravages of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecules capable of damaging cells and tissues—a kind of rusting out of the body. Antioxidants fight against free radicals continually, too, since free radicals are constantly formed in the body.
Free radicals are increased by injury, stress, pollution, and illness. They’re also contributors to unhealth and the aging process. But here’s the bottom line: the more free radicals are formed, the more antioxidants are needed to neutralize them.
In the fight against free radicals, many people want to know more about antioxidants and their health benefits. Some sports enthusiasts are interested in antioxidants because they overexert themselves while training—which can increase free radicals. And did you know that as we age, we require more antioxidants? It's true. Living in polluted environments increases the need for antioxidants as well.
Here’s the good news: You can increase your body’s ability to defend against free radicals by eating a diet high in antioxidants. The body cannot manufacture these micronutrients, so they must be supplied in the diet. Good antioxidant sources include fruits, vegetables, meats, seeds, nuts, eggs, dairy and certain types of tea. Here are some vital antioxidants and their food sources:
Vitamin A: As an antioxidant, vitamin A protects cell membranes and fatty tissues, helps repair damage caused by air pollutants, and supports the immune system. Foods rich in vitamin A include liver, eggs, and some dairy products.
Carotenoids: This class of antioxidants includes beta carotene, lutein, and lycopene. Research indicates that carotenoids support heart, cellular and immune health. Food sources are: kale, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which supports the immune system and the cardiovascular system. Good sources include citrus fruits and juices, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, cantaloupe, kiwi and strawberries.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant by itself, but is magnified when it is ingested with other antioxidants such as vitamin C, selenium, and beta carotene. Vitamin E supports immune, DNA and metabolic health. Good sources of vitamin E include nuts like almonds, seeds, fish oils, avocados, peanut butter, whole grains, and apricots.
So...if you’re a little rusty, don’t miss out on the health benefits of antioxidants.