Have you been wondering how to include sources of antioxidants in your diet? Antioxidants are the body’s first line of defense against free radicals, molecules of oxygen that damage healthy cells by stealing electrons, and thus altering their chemical makeup and preventing them from carrying out their normal function.
Scientists believe that free radicals are the main cause of aging, so antioxidants can be seen as a modern version of the “fountain of youth,” allowing those who consume them regularly to slow down the aging process. But, where do these helpful sources of antioxidants come from and what vitamins and minerals do you need to maximize your intake on a daily basis?
Blueberries are among the fruits with the highest concentration of antioxidant activity. Loaded with Vitamins C and E, scientists have found that one cup of these little wonders per day increases motor skill efficiency, as well as overall short- and long-term memory. Plus, they go great in the morning over a bowl of shredded wheat and skim milk.
2. Pomegranate Juice
This juice has existed as a medicinal elixir for over 5,000 years, and scientists are just beginning to understand why. This delicious beverage not only refreshes, but it can also prevent hardening of the arteries and has even been tested for its beneficial effects on those suffering from diabetes. For those who exercise frequently, researchers have found that blood vessel cells treated with pomegranate juice showed less strain when exposed to physical stress than those that were not. So, it can be seen as a natural supplement to your daily workout.
Even just a handful of pecans per day can curb oxidation within the blood (the process by which free radicals critically alter cells), and thus help prevent the clogging of arteries (which leads to heart disease). These delicious treats are jammed-packed with Vitamin E, and provide the highest percentage of antioxidant capacity of any nut. And who could resist a low-fat pecan muffin for an afternoon snack?
4. Beta Carotene
This powerful micronutrient found in such foods as carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and mangoes, works by producing Vitamin A when it is broken down within the body. Studies have shown that diets rich in beta carotene and other members of the carotenoid family reduce the overall risk of heart disease, cataracts, and forms of cancer, and improve the overall function of the immune system as a whole.
5. Lipoic Acid
Lipoic acid is produced naturally within the body, but only in very small quantities. Normally, it acts as a regulator of metabolic functions within each cell, but it is also one of the most potent antioxidants available. What makes it so effective is that it can work in both water and fatty tissues, whereas other antioxidants (such as Vitamins C and E) can only function in one or the other. Researchers recommend a supplement that provides 100-200 mg per day.
It is essential that your body maintain a high level of antioxidants each day in order to wage its ongoing battle with free radicals that are constantly on the attack. As you can see, though, there are a wide variety of options out there to keep your body well stocked with the needed ammunition.