You may have heard of the term ‘antioxidant’. This word is splashed across so many different foods along the supermarket aisles that it is hard to miss. However, do you really know what antioxidants are? What are the benefits anyway? Which foods have the best antioxidizing abilities? Read this article to find out more.
What Are Antioxidants?
Simply put, antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against free radicals, which are unstable atoms. Free radicals are molecules produced as a result of a variety of things. Some examples include:
- Antioxidant deficiency
- Cigarette smoke
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Excessive intake of antioxidants
- Exposure to toxins
- High blood sugar levels
- Smoked or charred foods
When free radicals build up in a person’s cells, they can create oxidative stress. This can cause damage to cells in the body, which can be attributed to heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
However, that does not mean that the body needs to get rid of all free radicals. They are actually being formed in the body and have various health benefits, such as helping the immune system to fight infections. As such, it is important to maintain a good balance of free radicals in the body as well. Having too much or too little antioxidants in the body can be harmful!
The body naturally produces antioxidants to keep things in check. However, plants also contain antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and flavonoids. Other naturally occurring antioxidants include flavonoids, tannins, phenols, and lignans.
How Can The Antioxidizing Properties Of Foods Be Quantified?
One measure is the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), a laboratory analysis that provides a measure of a food’s antioxidant capabilities. The higher the score, the greater the antioxidant capacity! ORAC is the most widely accepted measure, but scores can vary significantly and testing between various laboratories are not standardized.
Which Foods Contain Antioxidants?
Blueberries are wonderful foods. Beyond their antioxidizing abilities, blueberries are also rich in many nutrients whilst being tasty and low in calories. Learn more about the other benefits of dried blueberries here! Studies have shown that antioxidants in blueberries might have medicinal uses that can even combat neurological conditions. Compared to many other fruits, blueberries are one of the highest in terms of their antioxidant values. Grab a handful of this wonderful fruit before you head out in the future!
#2 Dark chocolate
This rich, creamy, melt-in-your-mouth, gooey treat is one I often crave. What’s even better is that this delicious treat also has many health benefits! Dark chocolate is loaded with organic compounds that are biologically active and function as antioxidants. These include polyphenols, flavanols, and catechins, among others. Dark chocolate is also rich in fibre which can aid in healthy bowel movement. 100 grams of dark chocolate can even meet 98% of the recommended daily intake for manganese, a vitamin that improves brain health and inflammation.
Spinach is a wonderfully green vegetable full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Spinach is known for the high iron content it has, but this green vegetable is a wonderful antioxidant as well. Zeaxanthin and lutein are two of the antioxidants in spinach that may promote eye health. They help prevent damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays and other harmful light waves.
Pecans are a good source of calcium, magnesium, and potassium, which help lower blood pressure. Pecans are also rich in Vitamin E and a number of phenolic substances, which is what gives pecans their antioxidant properties. The findings of a study conducted by the Loma Linda University show that after eating pecans, unhealthy oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood decreased by as much as 33 percent.
Carrots contain two main antioxidants, namely carotenoids and anthocyanins. Other foods, such as blueberries and acai, also contain anthocyanins. These result in the distinct red and purple coloring that such foods have. Furthermore, carrots are also good for those that are more weight-conscious and can be linked to improved eye health. The fiber in carrots is great for the digestive system too!
Keep your antioxidant levels in check
We hope this article has allowed you to understand more about the role that free radicals and antioxidants play when it comes to your health. Both are important, so make sure to consume antioxidants in moderation. Looking for a tasty yet convenient way to give your body the antioxidants it needs? Try our antioxidant nut mix today.