The amazing benefits of antioxidants have been touted for years, but how much do you really know about them? Here are some things about these exceptional compounds that you might not have known about until now.
Antioxidants & How They Affect the Body
Antioxidants are defined as natural substances that are strong enough to heal, protect and renew cells from harm and damage caused by environmental factors and personal lifestyle choices. Their main role in the body is to combat free radicals, which cause oxidative stress when they accumulate in the cells. Oxidative stress has the potential to damage our DNA and break down crucial cell structures. Chronic disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer are all attributed to the accumulation of free radicals and oxidative stress.
Rich Sources of Antioxidants
Fortunately, the effects of oxidative stress can be fought, controlled and prevented with foods rich in antioxidants.
Berries such as raspberries, goji berries, blueberries and strawberries are great sources of antioxidants. These berries are also high in anthocyanins, which are pigments responsible for providing the red, purple and blue colours in certain plants. Anthocyanins improve the health of your heart, and prevent obesity and certain cancers.
Raspberries are filled with manganese, dietary fibre, vitamin C and antioxidants. The crimson berry is powerful enough to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer in the human body. Raspberries are responsible for destroying cancer cells in different parts of the body, including the stomach, breast and colon.
As a reliable traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, goji berries have been praised to be a superfood that offers the body a number of health benefits. High in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, goji berries contain something called lycium barbarum polysaccharides. These unique antioxidants are said to prevent premature aging and lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.
Blueberries are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, and the best part is you can have as much blueberries as you like, without worrying too much about your calorie intake. Blueberries work to delay the slow deterioration of our brain cells as well. They also contain anthocyanins, which work to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels in the blood.
Strawberries have been a popular choice amongst many people who enjoy them in a variety of ways. Apart from being a versatile fruit, strawberries are full of vitamin C and antioxidants. Like blueberries, strawberries also have anthocyanins. Be sure to look out for bright red strawberries, as berries with a higher anthocyanin content generally tend to be brighter in colour.
Some vegetables like the red cabbage also contain anthocyanin. Sporting a deep purple or reddish-purple colour, red cabbages are highly antioxidant and good sources of vitamins A, C and K. Besides functioning as an antioxidant, vitamin C assists in the upkeep of the immune system, defends against premature aging and maintains the structure of the skin. Red cabbages are also associated with providing the body with several health benefits, including lowering the risk of certain cancers, easing inflammation and preventing heart disease. The best way to prepare red cabbage is to either boil or stir-fry before consuming it. This will ensure that you get the most out of this vegetable and its antioxidant properties. Avoid steaming the vegetable as this is believed to lower the antioxidant content by almost 35 percent.
Other vegetables like kale and spinach should also be included in your diet for that extra antioxidant boost for your system. Kale offers a number of benefits for the body, including vitamins A, C and K. The next time you go grocery shopping, pick up some red kale, as these varieties of the cruciferous vegetable contain higher amounts of anthocyanins and therefore have a higher antioxidant content.
Low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the humble spinach is a must-have in your diet. These dark, leafy greens contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two very crucial antioxidants that play a key role in protecting your eyes from prolonged damage caused by free radicals.
Nuts & Beans
Nuts like pecans also aid in increasing the antioxidant levels in your blood. Additionally, they are rich in healthy fats and minerals. However, just like any other nut, pecans are high in calories and are advised to be taken in moderation.
The underrated bean is another notable contender when it comes to supplying the body with life-saving antioxidants. Pinto beans, for instance, have a unique antioxidant called kaempferol, which might prevent cancer growth in the breast, bladder, kidneys and lungs. Besides offering antioxidants to the body, beans, which are rich in fibre, help to regulate bowel movement in the body.
To Put it Simply
Maintain a balanced diet containing foods high in antioxidants and you will be amazed by the effects it has on your body. If you have a genetic predisposition to certain chronic diseases, antioxidants will go a long way in defending your cells from free radicals and significantly lowering the risk of certain cancers and health conditions.