Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.
Your body is in a constant battle against infection, diseases, and the formation of free radicals. However, there's a secret weapon that can help you fight against these things: antioxidants! Antioxidants are elements such as vitamins A, C, and E that counteract the damage caused by free radicals and help protect your healthy cells. Free radicals are the molecules that contain unpaired electrons, which make them highly reactive. In this form, they can cause damage by attacking healthy cells, and when these cells grow weakened, you become more vulnerable to disease.
Free radicals may be produced from normal body functions such as breathing or physical activity, but they are mainly formed from your exposure to environmental hazards, such as pesticides, air pollution, and cigarette smoke. Antioxidants work to disable the disease-causing free radicals, thus preventing the damage from occurring. Although your body naturally produces antioxidants, it doesn't produce enough to protect you from free radicals, so that is why it is important to include antioxidant-rich foods in your diet on a regular basis.
Antioxidant - Rich Foods
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts all contain an intricate mix of antioxidants, so eating a variety of these healthy foods will help ensure that you are getting plenty of these disease-fighting nutrients.
Here are some ways you can include antioxidant-rich foods into your diet:
- Consume at least one fruit or vegetable with every meal.
- Choose fruits and vegetables rich in colors like blue, purple, red, orange, yellow, and green, because they often pack the most nutrients and antioxidants.
- Smoothies are a great way to reap the health benefits of antioxidants. Try blending darkly colored berries such as blueberries or blackberries with citrus fruits, pineapples, apples, or pears.
- Antioxidants are also found in grain products. Oats, in particular, are an excellent source for incorporating antioxidants into your daily diet. Oatmeal and oat bran are two good food choices.
- Eat your legumes. Red beans, kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans are all rich sources of antioxidants.
- Cooking with herbs and spices like dried oregano, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger supply excellent doses of antioxidants.
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There are many possible benefits from antioxidants; for example, antioxidants can prevent age-related diseases, strengthen the immune system in the management of HIV infection, and prevent against some forms of cancer. However, much of the research done on the benefits of antioxidants, especially supplements, has been inconclusive. Minimal benefits from antioxidant supplementation have been found and in some cases, antioxidant supplements were proven to be dangerous when taken in excess. Until more information is known on the actual benefits, consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts that contain antioxidants naturally is the best course of action.
In summary, antioxidants are substances found in food such as vitamins A, C, and E that offset the damage to healthy cells caused by harmful free radicals. Free radicals are the molecules that contain unpaired electrons, which make them highly reactive and can make you more susceptible to disease. A diet containing a variety of antioxidant-rich foods like colorful vegetables and fruits, as well as legumes and whole grains, will help maintain overall good health and could even prevent serious diseases.
Lesson at a Glance
To maintain a healthy diet, eating foods rich in antioxidants will help offset the damage to healthy cells caused by harmful free radicals. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts all contain an intricate mix of antioxidants.
After learning about antioxidants in this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define free radicals and explain how they are created
- Identify foods rich in antioxidants
- Explain the benefits of consuming foods rich in antioxidants
Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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What Are Antioxidants? - Definition, Foods & Benefits
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