The Antioxidant Rainbow



It’s that time of year again: summertime. Fresh, colorful produce is everywhere.  This also means it’s the perfect season to get a hefty dose of antioxidants in your diet.  Recently the media has been disclosing the power of these amazing particles on your health.  In order to fully comprehend the health benefits of antioxidants, however, we need to understand what they are protecting us from.

Antioxidants help to reverse the effects of molecules called free radicals.  These are hormones, byproducts, and toxins found in the atmosphere that enter the body and cause damage to cells.

“Free radicals can damage any cells that get in their way,” says Jeffrey Blumberg, a Tufts University nutrition professor.

This is precisely why too many free radicals can lead to diseases such as cancer. From pollution byproducts to food additives, free radicals are everywhere.

Luckily, “superhero” antioxidants are around to come and save the day.  They fight the effects of free radicals by hindering the oxidation of said pollutants and then dismissing them from the body.  Here are a couple of lists to help you navigate your way through the world of antioxidants. Below are the “magic seven” antioxidants pointed out by Women’s Health magazine.  They are the most vital in reversing harmful processes inside your body.

1.         Selenium- This antioxidant revs up production of other antioxidants in the body.  Look for it in foods such as Brazil nuts.

2.         Vitamin E- Want to keep wrinkles at bay?  Make sure you’re getting plenty of vitamin E through sunflower seeds.

3.         Vitamin C- Think color! Citrus fruits are great sources of this vitamin.  It greatly reduces your risk of colds and sickness.

4.         Carotenoids- Like the name implies, carrots are a great source of carotenoids.  Carotenoids are crucial to protecting your skin and eyes.

5.         Isothiocyanates- This special molecule stops cancer cells from forming.  A good source of it can be found in broccoli.

6.         Polyphenols- When most people think of antioxidants, polyphenols are likely the first to come to mind.  They are most notably found in red wine and dark chocolate and are especially important in keeping your mind sharp as you age.

7.         Coenzyme Q10- This underdog antioxidant protects cells, specifically brain cells, against headaches and other issues.  Proteins such as poultry and seafood are loaded with it.

All of these antioxidants are also available in supplement form.  Be careful of supplements, however, because they can cause more problems than the free radicals themselves, says the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  It’s better to have a well-balanced diet than to take the antioxidants in pill form.  Still looking for more information?  Here are the top 10 most antioxidant rich foods as found by Fitness magazine.

1.         Blackberries

2.         Walnuts

3.         Strawberries

4.         Artichoke hearts

5.         Cranberries

6.         Brewed coffee

7.         Raspberries

8.         Pecans

9.         Blueberries

10.       Ground cloves

Antioxidants can appear in the most unsuspecting places.  A recent study by the American Chemical Society found that popcorn contained almost double the amount of polyphenols than the average fruit- almost 300 milligrams per serving!

“Popcorn has more antioxidants in total than other snack foods that you can consume,” says Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton. To keep this salty snack in the healthy zone, aim for air popped versus movie theater popcorn doused in butter.  Better yet, eat a serving of fruits or nuts with the popcorn and you’ll have an easy and inexpensive snack to pack a supercharged punch.

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Categories: Home, Sections, Your Health News, Your Nutrition

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