In the world of health, antioxidants are a big deal. Helping our bodies in the fight against free radicals, antioxidants play a vital role in keeping us healthy. And luckily, they can be found in all sorts of foods, from leafy vegetables to chocolate.
But what exactly are antioxidants? What do they do for our bodies? And what’s the best way of boosting your intake? Here’s the lowdown.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants occur naturally in all sorts of plant-based foods, including fruits, vegetables, coffee, tea, and even chocolate. But not all antioxidants are the same. Some of the most common variations include flavanols (found in chocolate), lycopene (found in tomatoes) and resveratrol (found in grapes).
To complicate matters, each type of antioxidant carries distinct health benefits. For example, beta-carotene is hugely beneficial to eye health, while flavonoids can help promote heart health. So to make the most of antioxidants, it’s vital that we eat a varied and nutritious diet.
Free radicals are often portrayed as the arch nemesis to our health, but what exactly are they? The human body naturally produces free radicals, as well as antioxidants to counter their damaging effects. However, the number of free radicals tends to far outnumber the antioxidants produced in our body. That means we have to find extra antioxidants from elsewhere – namely in plant-based foods. These antioxidants then neutralize and deactivate free radicals in the bloodstream, preventing them from attacking cells.
A huge proportion of American adults fail to hit the minimum daily recommendations of essential vitamins and minerals. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition revealed that 65 percent of Americans don’t hit their daily allowance of vitamin K, with a massive 97 percent failing to get enough potassium in their diets. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many people are struggling to consume the recommended levels of antioxidants.
So what are the effects? Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and the mineral selenium are just a few of the many antioxidants needed for energy production. So antioxidant deficiencies can leave you feeling sluggish, not to mention more susceptible to illness.
Sources of Antioxidants
Antioxidants can be found in all manner of fruits and vegetables, along with other herbs, legumes and seeds. But some foods have far more antioxidants to offer than others, so to ensure you capitalise on these great health benefits, you need to know the best sources.
Black plums have a whopping 4,873 antioxidants, while their dried counterpart pack an even greater punch, with 7,291 in just half a cup.
Blueberries have gained a reputation for their impressive antioxidant content, and for good reason. Boasting more antioxidants than 40 other common fruits and vegetables, just one cup of wild blueberries will set you up with 13,427 types of antioxidants.
Rich in flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, kale is also a great source of beta-carotene – an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A.
They may be small, but alfafa sprouts certainly pack a punch. These little powerhouses are loaded with beta-carotene and are a good source of heart-healthy
If you’re looking for a superfood with a range of health benefits, Turmeric Curcumin is one to explore. In fact, if you only add one superfood to your diet, make it Turmeric. This tasty natural supplement has been shown to have powerful antioxidant qualities, but it’s also an excellent natural anti-inflammatory. Read more about the health benefits of Turmeric Curcumin here.
Moringa is one of the most nutrient-dense plants available, boasting high levels of protein, vitamin A and vitamin C. It’s also packed with antioxidants which help improve thyroid health, and it helps support a strong immune system and glowing skin. Explore Moringa and its extensive health benefits in detail here.
Chlorella, a type of single-celled cyanobacteria, is one of the most nutrient dense foods in the world. It’s also been shown to support antioxidant status and prevent lipid damage, leading to a stronger immune system.
Green tea isn’t just a warming drink – it’s packed full of antioxidants and nutrients. Loaded with polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, just a mug a day can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body.