Antioxidants – no doubt you’ve heard of them. Why are they good for you? First, a little background: our environment is constantly bombarding us with oxidants through various sources such as sun exposure, pollution, alcohol and unhealthy foods. These oxidants are also known as free radicals and they attack healthy body cells, leading to several undesireable results – among them earlier aging, cataracts, heart disease and various forms of cancer.
Enter antioxidants. These molecules lessen the effects of free radicals by attaching themselves to the free radicals, thus reducing their harmful effects.
So, since antioxidants play such an important role in maintaining good health, how can you get more of them into your body?
Antioxidant Food Sources
Many foods contain antioxidants. Among the best sources are
- grain cereals
It’s important to remember that many of the antioxidants in these foods can be destroyed by overcooking, so eat the foods in as natural a state as possible. Generally, the more processed a food is, the less antioxidants it will contain.
Fruit Sources of Antioxidants
Fruits are some of your best bets for antioxidant-rich foods. Specifically,
All these are excellent sources of antioxidants. Each of them is high in the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E or beta carotene.
For the most antioxidant “punch,” eat the fruits fresh and uncooked. It’s recommended to eat at least 2 servings of these fruits daily, including at least one citrus variety.
Vegetable Sources of Antioxidants
Vegetables are another potent source of antioxidants; specifically vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene. Try these options:
- Brussels sprouts
Again, for maximum antioxidant content, eat the foods raw or minimally cooked.
Recommended vegetable intake is 3 servings daily.
Other Common Household Food Sources
Don’t despair if you don’t love fruits and vegetables. Other common household foods are good sources of antioxidants as well. Try adding cheese, eggs, sunflower seeds and chicken to your diet – these are high in vitamin A and selenium (another antioxidant).
Various types of seafood (mackerel, salmon, shellfish and tuna specifically) are high in antioxidants selenium and vitamin C.
Nuts (specifically cashews, Brazil nuts and walnuts) are good sources for vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium.
Beans are another good antioxidant choice: try red beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and black beans.
So, you can see that many common household foods are excellent antioxidant sources. It’s important to eat a variety of these foods as this provides a more effective array of antioxidants than you would get from simply eating a large quantity of one of these foods. Antioxidant concentration also tends to be higher in the outer layers of foods, so eat the skins of these foods when possible.
By making wise food choices, you can greatly increase your antioxidant intake and thereby take an important step towards improving your health.