When it comes to antioxidants there is so much to know. Chances are high that you have heard that they are good for you and that you need to make sure that you eat foods that are rich in antioxidants as a way to stave off illnesses. In fact, you have probably even heard that eating a diet rich in antioxidants can help to fight off cancer. However, chances are high that you do not even really know what antioxidants are or what exactly they do in the body to help you stay healthy.
If you have purchased a product just because it states it is rich in antioxidants or if you added berries to your diet because you heard that you were supposed to, why not learn more about antioxidants and why they are considered to be super powered molecules. Here are 10 important facts that you should know about antioxidants.
1. What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidant enzymes are present in the body and offer protection from damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidant refers to molecules that will slow down or fight the oxidation process of chemicals that are harmful or dangerous. These chemicals may be found in the air as well as other materials throughout the environment. In fact, these harmful substances are found everywhere.
Foods that are dubbed as being super foods have a high amount of antioxidants. These foods can be added to a healthy diet in order to help the body fight off the free radicals that are absorbed into the body from the environment. It is important to make sure that you eat foods that are rich in antioxidants in order to help your body protect itself from the dangerous chemicals that are taken in. Some antioxidants can even help fight off cancer as well as other dangerous diseases.
2. Carbohydrate Oxidation Protection
Another interesting fact about antioxidants is that they will protect the body from oxidation that happens when carbohydrates are eaten. Carbohydrates are basically carbon atoms that are hydrated. When these break down during digestion, free radicals are created. Free radicals are what can cause a person to become ill if they are left unchecked.
There has been research that shows that when a person drinks sugar water, that has no antioxidants, the oxidation levels in the body increase. However, when a person drinks a glass of orange juice, oxidation levels do not increase because orange juice contains natural antioxidants. This is just one more reason that you should drink 100 percent juice instead of drinking energy drinks that are full of sugar. A glass of 100 percent juice is going to give you a better and healthier energy boost than any of those sugary drinks could.
3. Eating Antioxidant Foods at Every Meal
During the digestion process free radicals are produced. As mentioned, free radicals when left unchecked can cause a person to become quite ill. Harmful diseases such as cancer are caused by free radicals. Since digesting food causes free radicals to be produced, it is important to make sure that you are eating foods that are rich in antioxidants during every meal that you eat.
In fact, you need to consume more antioxidants than you may think in order to counteract the harmful substances that are created during the digestion process. A person who consumes about 2500 calories per day will need about 11,000 millimoles of antioxidants per day. For someone on an 1800 calorie diet about 8000 millimoles of antioxidants per day are needed. The majority of people do not consume this amount of antioxidants per day. It is important to track the amount of antioxidants that you are eating per day in order to counteract digestion.
3. Making Good Food Choices
Now that you realize that you are likely not eating enough antioxidants each day, you may be wondering how you can get enough of these important antioxidants into your body. It all comes to making good food choices. For example, perhaps you eat a banana each day.
A single banana has about 1000 millimoles of antioxidants. If you switch to eating a serving of blueberries instead, you would be getting 8000 millimoles of antioxidants in that serving. This simple switch can help you reach your goal of antioxidants per day. If you are on an 1800 calorie diet, a serving of blueberries can help you counteract digestion. However, it is best to eat antioxidant rich foods throughout the day instead of just once per day. The reason for this is because there are other factors such as stress and the environment that cause free radicals to form as well.
4. Where to Find Antioxidants
Acai berries, pomegranates, and goji berries are all touted for having a great amount of antioxidants. While these foods are not found in every grocery store, they can be purchased in most locations at specialty stores and even online. However, if you are not wanting to search for those foods, you may be surprised to learn that there are some common foods that have a high amount of antioxidants as well.
For example, there are many beans that have a high amount of antioxidants. This includes lentils, kidney beans, and black beans. Nuts are also good sources of antioxidants. Walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans are all rich in antioxidants. Even a red delicious apple contains more than 7000 millimoles of antioxidants. When it comes down to it, if you are eating a diet that is full of fruits and vegetables, chances are good that you are filling your body with much needed antioxidants.
5. Herbs and Spices
Another great way to add antioxidants to your diet is by spicing up your food. There are many herbs and spices that contain high amounts of antioxidants. The best part is, adding just a small amount of these herbs and spices to your meals can provide a boost to the antioxidant content. For example, if you add some oregano to your pasta dish made with whole wheat noodles and a tomato sauce, will double the amount of antioxidants that it contains.
Some of the other herbs and spices that contain a powerful amount of antioxidants include marjoram, cinnamon, dried lemon balm, allspice, cloves, and peppermint. The great thing is that all of these spices can easily be added to many different types of dishes. You can add some peppermint to your coffee or tea, sprinkle some cinnamon on your oatmeal, add some allspice to a great Jamaican dish, the possibilities are endless.
6. Cooking and Antioxidants
When it comes to antioxidants it is important to note that there are some cooking methods that can actually deplete the antioxidants that are found in some foods. Pressure cooking and boiling will cause the most loss of antioxidants. This means that you will want to stick to other types of cooking methods if you want to get the most out of your food. Baking and steaming foods are the best options if you want to preserve antioxidants.
In addition to how you are cooking your foods it is important to think about the foods that you are cooking. For example, bell peppers will easily lose antioxidants and for this reason should be eaten raw for the most benefit. However, celery and carrots will actually show an increase in antioxidants when they are cooked. This is all the more reason to add these vegetables to any dish that you are making.
7. Antioxidants and Exercise
There have been several studies about antioxidants and exercise. It has been found that exercise will actually increase oxidation. This sounds like something that you do not want. However, it has been found that during the recovery period after exercising antioxidant levels actually increased. This is just one more reason that you should add some exercise to your daily routine.
Exercise recovery is good for your antioxidant levels. In order to get the most benefits from your exercise it is important to make sure that you are eating a diet that is rich in antioxidants. Berries, dark chocolate, and green leafy vegetables will all improve your antioxidant levels. When you eat these foods either before or after you exercise you will help to prevent or eliminate any pain that you may experience after exercising as they improve recovery. So eat some fruits and vegetables before and after you exercise. Your body will thank you.
8. Relationship Between Antioxidants and Free Radicals
When it comes to understanding antioxidants it is important to also understand the role of free radicals in the body. The relationship between the two is actually a delicate balance. In fact, not all free radicals are bad. There is a certain amount of free radicals that are needed in the body in order to power some reactions. For example, hydrogen peroxide is a free radical that helps to activate white blood cells.
The white blood cells are needed to help get rid of certain bacteria that can be harmful such as pathogens, fungi, and cancer cells. However, since there is a limited number of antioxidants within the body, it is important to make sure that the stores of free radicals are kept under control. If they are not the free radicals may start to cause damage within the body. This is why it is important to make sure that you take in enough antioxidants to help keep the free radicals under control.
9. Antioxidant Supplements
There are several antioxidant supplements available on the market today. It can be easy to think that simply taking one of these supplements is the perfect answer to making sure that you are getting enough antioxidants each day. However, some of the supplements that are on the market are not from reputable sources and many will not do anything to help improve your overall health or your antioxidant levels.
For this reason, if you truly want to lead a healthy lifestyle it is best to get the majority of your antioxidants from the food that you eat. The best way to ensure that you have a good balance of antioxidants within your body is to make sure that you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that have a high antioxidant content. When you are eating a healthy diet you are not only going to have enough antioxidants, but other important nutrients as well.
10. Too Many Antioxidants?
As mentioned above, there is a delicate balance between the antioxidant enzymes and free radicals that are found within the body. While it is important to make sure that you are taking in enough antioxidants to keep the free radicals under control within the body, it is possible that you can overdo it when it comes to antioxidants. For example, when there are too many antioxidants within the body it is possible for a person to suffer from immune suppression.
This causes the number of white blood cells to become quite low. When there is a lowered amount of white blood cells, the body does not have the protection that it needs to fight off bacteria. When the immune system is suppressed, it can cause a person to become ill more often. This is why it is important to keep a good balance of antioxidants and free radicals within the body.