The generous nature of antioxidants makes them an important part of your diet
You’ve probably heard about antioxidants from doctors, dietitians, and even your friends at the gym. You may know that foods that have a lot of them are good for you. But why? What makes these molecules the good guys?
It’s what they can give to the bad guys, the free radicals.
Actually, free radicals aren’t bad, they’re just a little unstable. They form naturally in the body and can do things like help immune cells fight infection. But they are also missing an electron, which makes them bind easily with other molecules in a process called oxidation. Having too many free radicals causes oxidative stress, or damage to your DNA, fatty tissue and proteins. Over time, this stress contributes to aging and can also lead to diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Antioxidants, however, can donate one of their electrons to the free radical to stabilize it. These two were made for each other!
If you want to prevent oxidative stress and its effects, you can’t let free radicals outnumber the amount of antioxidants in your body. You naturally generate some of your own antioxidants, but diet is also an essential source. Make sure yours has plenty of:
- Fruits such as blueberries and strawberries
- Vegetables such as kale, artichokes, spinach and red cabbage
- Nuts such as pecans
- Dark chocolate (Yay!) – the higher the cocoa content, the better
Also, limit or avoid factors that can accelerate the production of free radicals. These include alcohol consumption, smoking and fried foods, as well as exposure to toxins such as pesticides and polluted air.