Health foods and natural beauty products alike claim that they’re antioxidative properties help keep you feeling and looking longer.
Basically, we can assume that Antioxidants are good for you right?
Well, there is more to antioxidants than just keeping us feeling and looking younger. When you look at what they are and how they work, it’s clear to see that antioxidants are good for you.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are a subgroup of phytonutrients. Basically, they are a plant-based nutrient that provides a variety of health benefits.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) defines Antioxidants to be:
Man-made or natural substances that may prevent or delay some types of cell damage
They are compounds that fight off free radical damage in the body.
How do they Work?
Antioxidants work to fight off free radical damage by preventing oxidative stress.
Free radicals cause oxidative stress because they oxidize (take electrons) from other molecules to obtain a stable structure.
This oxidization of molecules causes oxidative stress to our bodies which is known to be harmful.
Antioxidants work to fight off this damage by donating an electron to free radicals.
Because antioxidants donate an electron to the free radical, the free radical is happy.
This means it no longer needs to cause oxidative damage to our cells to reach stability. Thus, preventing oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
It’s important to prevent oxidative damage because it’s been known to play a role in:
– cardiovascular diseases
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Parkinson’s disease
– eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration
A lot of the disease listed above are diseases we associate with getting as we age.
Because antioxidants help prevent oxidative damage, which plays a role in those disease states, they can help you age more gracefully.
What’s a Good Antioxidant Activity Indicator?
A good indicator of antioxidant activity in foods is the color of the foods. Specifically the color of fruits and vegetables.
Deep colors of red, blue, purple, orange, yellow and even green can indicate strong antioxidant activity.
The color of fruits and vegetables are caused by the pigments found in them. These pigments are also antioxidants.
For example, tomatoes are bright red due to the red pigment and antioxidant, lycopene, which is found in them. Another example would be the antioxidant and pigment, anthocyanin, which is what gives blueberries their blue color.
The pigments that give plants their rich colors are good indicators of high antioxidant activity.
How can you Include More of Antioxidants into your Diet?
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health does not recommend taking antioxidant supplements. Studies have not proven that antioxidant supplements provide any beneficial impacts on the body (NCCIH) In fact, studies have indicated the opposite. Too high of supplement doses of certain antioxidants has shown to have negative impacts on the body (NCCIH).
However, the NCCIH does recommend that you eat more fruits and vegetables to get more antioxidants into your lifestyle and diet (NCCIH).
This is not a new reccomendation, however, it is an important one.
Eating lot’s of fruits and vegetables will help ensure you are getting enough phytonutrients and antioxidants into your diet. And don’t forget, eat the rainbow!
The more diversely colored fruits and vegetables you eat, the more variety of nutrients you will consume. The more variety of nutrients you consume, the more likely you are to stay happy and healthy.
I’ve talked about antioxidants briefly in a few of my blog posts but I believe the most in-depth I have gone was in my blog posts about tea and about vitamin E.
“Antioxidants: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 4 May 2016, nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm.