There are many discussions about antioxidants, but not a lot of clarity. We often hear that antioxidants are a key to good health, and while this is true, it’s only part of the story. Not all antioxidants are created equal. However, by better understanding oxidation (the damaging force that antioxidants combat), we can make the best possible choices to limit oxidative harm.
Types Of Destruction
To oversimplify a bit, oxidation is a form of destruction. Rust is a type of oxidation. In some cases, destruction is a good thing. For example, some immune cells use oxidative destruction to kill dangerous pathogens.
However, the oxidation with which we’re concerned goes beyond normal limits. In the presence of illness, toxin overload, poor diet, too much or too little exercise, and other factors, the body accumulates too many free radicals, volatile atoms, or molecules missing an electron.
The missing electron puts free radicals in an oxidized state. That’s why these caustic molecules try to steal electrons from other atoms, generating more free radicals and more oxidization in an ongoing chain reaction.
Inflammation And Aging
On a cellular level, this can get us into trouble. What happens if the molecule being oxidized is crucial, such as a piece of DNA or the fats forming cell membranes? As it progresses, free radical oxidation can generate inflammation and wreak havoc on cells, tissues, and organs, accelerating aging. This is where potent molecules called antioxidants come to the rescue. They intervene by scavenging and deactivating free radicals, preventing further damage from this chain reaction. They help control inflammation since oxidation and inflammation are two aspects of the same situation.
Free radicals originate from various sources, including food, environmental toxins, UV sunlight, and air pollution. The body has several robust mechanisms to protect against them. The liver and other organs produce antioxidants. Sometimes the body can’t keep up — that’s where we need to bolster the system.
Eat Your Antioxidants
Food can be a source of free radicals and antioxidants, so choosing what you eat is essential. It’s no surprise that fried and processed foods generate the freest radicals. The freshness of foods and how they’re prepared are as much a part of the story as your food choices. Heat, air, and light exposure contribute to oxidation. Oils, in particular, are vulnerable to rancidity and damage.
It’s easy to find an abundance of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables, particularly those that are deeply colored. Here are a few examples:
Carotenoids: Block free radicals and are abundant in carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, and tomatoes. These compounds include substances like beta-carotene and lycopene that work to neutralize free radicals.
Flavonoids: Found in strawberries, blueberries, onions, cabbage, and green tea.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Includes broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Rich in isothiocyanates, antioxidants are known to fight cancer.
Resveratrol: Found in red wine, grapes, and blueberries. A powerful antioxidant touted for its anti-aging properties.
The Color of Antioxidants
It’s worth noting that different antioxidants often concentrate in variously colored foods. This is important: Each variety has a unique way of protecting our bodies. That’s why preparing foods with varied colors is more than aesthetically pleasing: It is also suitable for health.
Here are some food prep tips to minimize oxidative damage:
- Buy small quantities so stored perishables are always fresh.
- Steam vegetables or lightly sauté using oils that can tolerate higher heat, such as coconut, avocado, or macadamia nut oils.
- Cook your veggies in broth, coconut water, or oil and liquid to keep the heat at a lower temperature.
- Prepare raw foods before serving rather than cutting and exposing them to the air.
Orac Scoring: Measuring Antioxidant Power
One way to determine whether a food is rich in antioxidants is its oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score. This measures how powerfully food neutralizes free radicals. Higher numbers are better. ORAC daily consumption of up to 50,000 units is recommended if you’re physically active. The fact that we live in a toxic environment requires more antioxidants now than over a century ago. Exercising regularly increases the potential for oxidative stress, making the consumption of antioxidants even more critical. Here are a few examples measured per 100 grams:
Unsweetened baking chocolate: 49,944
Green tea: 1,253
As you can see by the scores above, chocolate is very high in antioxidants. Chocolate contains polyphenols, compounds beneficial for the brain. A recent study has shown that polyphenols from unprocessed cocoa protect brain cells from neurodegeneration. However, that doesn’t mean we should be eating chocolate nonstop. Instead, choose a variety of antioxidant-rich foods for the best protection.
Another way to bulk up on antioxidants is through supplements. There are a variety of vitamins, minerals, and herbs that increase antioxidant activity in the body and support health in other ways:
Vitamins A, C, E, D3 and Beta Carotene
Alpha Lipoic Acid
Beta-glucans (found in mushrooms)
Two supplements, NAC and Milk Thistle, aid in the liver’s glutathione production. Glutathione is one of the most potent antioxidants; its primary purpose is detoxification. Glutathione can scavenge free radicals and support heart, liver, kidney, and brain health.
Like many nutrients and active compounds, certain combinations of antioxidants are greater than the sum of their parts. Using them together can boost their total effectiveness. For example, various herbs and green tea provide more significant antioxidant activity than individual herbs.
Ultimately, variety is the key. Seek out a combination of antioxidant foods and supplements that fit your lifestyle. Fortunately, there are many options. By carefully choosing a range of antioxidants, you can help your body win the ongoing battle with oxidation while enjoying colorfully delicious, healthfully prepared meals with family and friends.
To learn what antioxidants can do for you, call Doctor’s Nutrition at 228-897-0070 Today.
Check Out Our Green Tea Max
Green Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. Asian cultures have believed for centuries that green tea has properties beneficial to human health modern science is just discovering this to be true. Green Tea is also a potent antioxidant and helps fight mental fatigue. Doctor’s Nutrition Green Tea Extract contains a minimum of 50% catechins, with epigallocatechin, the most powerful catechins making up 25% of the total product. Green Tea may lower the risk of esophageal, stomach, colon, and skin cancer and delay the onset of arteriosclerosis. In this product, you get all the benefits of green tea without brewing and in the convenience of a capsule that is taken anywhere.
Some of the health benefits of Green Tea are:
- Phytochemicals in Green Tea combat free radicals known as Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that damage and destroy healthy cells in our bodies.
- Antioxidants in Green Tea help prevent the mutation of cells that become cancer and other diseases.
- Polyphenols and catechins in tea help lower undesirable fats in the blood, including cholesterol.
- Green Tea has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.