You’ve all heard of antioxidants. But, do you know what they are and why they are important for you?
Antioxidants are substances that defend your cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that the body produces in reaction to all sorts of environmental stress.
If your body cannot remove free radicals as it should, oxidative stress can result. This can harm your cells and affect the functioning of your body.
What Increases the Levels of Free radicals?
- UV exposure.
- Cigarette smoking.
Oxidative stress can cause heart disease, cancer, arthritis, stroke, and other respiratory diseases. It can also lead to a weak immune system, emphysema, Parkinson’s disease, and other inflammatory conditions.
Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can increase the level of antioxidants in your blood to fight oxidative stress. So, it is important to ensure that you eat a diet rich in foods that have antioxidants.
What Causes Oxidative Stress?
- Excessive exercise.
- Normal cell activity.
- Inflammation and injury to tissues.
- Eating processed foods, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, and certain dyes and additives
- Smoking and environmental pollution
- Exposure to chemicals, such as pesticides and drugs, including chemotherapy
- Industrial solvents
Having enough antioxidants in your diet can help neutralize free radicals in your body, and hence boost your health.
Benefits of Antioxidants
- Are beneficial to good health and can help prevent cancer.
- They can slow ageing.
- A boost to your immune system.
- An increase in your energy levels.
- Better heart function and as well as other vital organs.
To reap the greatest benefits from these compounds, you must eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Here are 8 simple steps to get more antioxidants into your diet.
Add fruit to your breakfast
Plan for and prepare a healthy breakfast every day. This is an important meal that you should be keen on all the ingredients that you use.
Add strawberries to a cup of yoghurt to get at least two fruit servings to your daily intake. You can also add some berries to your morning cereal.
Have a handful of raisins for a snack or some fresh red grapes. Consider a handful of pecans for crunch and a nice antioxidant boost.
Lunch and dinner
Add a salad to your main meals to contribute to better health and well-being. You can also make it interesting by adding some red pepper slices to your green salad. Be adventurous by mixing up a variety of vegetables like string beans, tomatoes, peppers and red onions.
Eating berries with or without whipped cream or chocolate are a wonderful way to end your day of healthy antioxidant-rich eating.
Replace your soda with tea or coffee both of which boast a high level of antioxidant compounds. Have an occasional glass of wine with dinner.
Think outside the box
You can also get powerful antioxidants in a variety of unexpected foods like potatoes, artichokes, and small red beans.
In fact, beans may have more antioxidant power than blueberries. So to your rice salad full of vegetables, add some beans for even more antioxidants.
You think you’re being good, preparing vegetables each night for your family’s dinner. But if you’re overcooking the vegetables, you’re removing a lot of the beneficial properties of antioxidants.
Steam your (don’t boil) vegetables, and stop cooking when they still have all their bright colours.
Prepare your food at home
If you’re cooking, you’re not opening bags and boxes. Cooking involves washing and peeling vegetables while paying attention to every detail until the food is ready.
If you’re ordering out every night, you’ll end up eating far less whole foods and natural fruits and vegetables.
Even though free radicals can cause lots of diseases, it does not mean that increasing your intake of antioxidants will prevent these diseases. Some antioxidants from artificial sources can cause health problems.
As a result, it is important to look for natural sources of antioxidants in the form of a healthful diet.
Eating lots of fruits and vegetables can lead to lower rates of chronic diseases because they are full of antioxidants. But, consuming added antioxidants especially those in processed foods will not have any significant benefits.