Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals, enzymes, nutrients, and other compounds that protect the body's cells and tissues from the damaging effects of molecules we call "free radicals."
Antioxidants are found in abundant supply in nature in all brightly colored fruits and veggies. Not only are they highly nutritious, but they also naturally reduce chronic inflammation within the body.
What Exactly Is A Free Radical?
Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and other health issues ranging from cancer to heart disease. Understanding what free radicals are and what they do requires a little lesson in understanding molecules.
Each cell in the body consists of atoms that bond together to form molecules. Every atom consists of three types of particles: Protons, neutrons, and electrons.
The protons and neutrons cluster together in the center of the atom (called the nucleus), and the electrons 'orbit' the nucleus. In a stable atom, the proper number of electrons orbit the atom (called a "full shell").
But let's see what happens when the atom becomes unstable:
- If the shell is incomplete, electrons from other atoms will try to bind with these electrons in an attempt to create a full shell. When these bonds are weak and break, the atom becomes unstable and a "free radical" is formed.
- This free radical then steals electrons from other atoms, which in turn causes that atom to become unstable too, creating another free radical.
- This process keeps repeating, until many cells in the body become damaged.
Because the element "oxygen" steals the electrons and causes the atoms to become unstable, this condition is called oxidation.
Some free radicals are naturally created as a byproduct of our metabolism, and when oxygen is burned by the body. The problem arises when environmental factors such as stress, cigarette smoke, pollution, toxins, pesticides, processed foods, radiation, and other dangerous chemicals react with our bodies to create an overload of free radicals that the body is unable to handle. Excess free radicals can cause premature aging and a compromised immune system, which in turn opens the gate to many health problems.
Antioxidants - How They Can Help
An antioxidant is a substance that protects our cells from damage by neutralizing the damaging effects of the free radicals. It does this by "donating" one of its own electrons to the free radical, which in turn stops the free radical from stealing electrons from other atoms and creating more free radicals.
These wonderful antioxidants that help protect our cells from oxidation are found in many fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants also help purify our blood and lymph, as well as strengthen our entire lymphatic system. Learn more about the importance of lymph in the High Vibrational Living program.
Types of Antioxidants
There are many different types of antioxidants, most of which fall into the following 4 well-known categories. Many fruits and veggies contain a high amount of antioxidants from all of these categories:
Phytochemicals are a class of compounds found in the plant world. There are over 25,000 different phytochemicals found in the plant foods we eat. The 4 common types of phytonutrients are the:
- Carotenoids (found in bright yellow and orange fruits and veggies)
- Flavonoids (found in brilliant blue, purple, emerald green, and some yellow, red, and orange fruits and veggies)
- Polyphenols (founds in tea, grapes, berries, plums, dark chocolate...)
- Allyl sulfides (found in onions, garlic, leeks...)
There are several vitamins that are considered very powerful antioxidants:
- Vitamin A (beta-carotene)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- CoEnzyme Q10 (a vitamin-like substance essential to energy production)
There are several different types of antioxidant enzymes. They all require the presence of various minerals such as selenium, manganese, and zinc to fully function and benefit the body:
- Glutathione reductase
- Superoxidase dismutase
- Glutathione peroxidase
Amino acids such as glutathione and cysteine also have antioxidant properties.
A Rainbow of Goodness - Nature's Antioxidants
I like to refer to foods high in antioxidants as rainbow foods because they are often very bright and beautiful colors! From bright red strawberries and tomatoes, to bright orange carrots and apricots and oranges and butternut squash and pumpkin, to brilliant yellow peppers and corn and bananas, to deep purple eggplant and blueberries and blackberries - and don't forget the many green veggies ranging from kale and spinach to broccoli and artichokes.
|Berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bilberries, elderberries, currants, cranberries), cherries, apricots, peaches, pomegranates, grapes, oranges, plums, pineapples, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, prunes, dates, raisins, cantaloupe, mangoes, apples.|
|Chili peppers, corn, red cabbage, peppers, parsley, artichoke hearts, Brussels sprouts, spinach, kale, lemon, ginger, garlic, beetroot, broccoli, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potato.|
|Nuts & Seeds|
|Walnuts*, pecans, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts.
Nuts and seeds should always be purchased "raw" (available in most health food stores) and kept in the fridge. Soak for 6-8 hours before eating to improve digestibility.
|Fava (broad) beans, red beans, black beans, pinto beans, soybeans, kidney beans.|
|Allspice, basil, rosemary, oregano, mint, lemon balm, sage, marjoram, cloves, cinnamon, peppermint, meadowsweet.|
* Walnuts are an extremely potent source of antioxidants, as well as being an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. They also contain almost twice the antioxidant value of other nuts. Only 7 walnuts a day are enough to receive their wonderful health benefits.(1)
Because our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins in our environment and our food chain, as well as from chronic stress, they are much more at risk of free radical damage than in earlier years. Back then, our processed food chain and the high levels of pesticides sprayed on them didn't exist, nor did the high stress levels or dangerous chemicals in household cleaning and personal care products. Like an overworked factory, are bodies are in need of antioxidants now more than ever as our immunity becomes compromised.
Ditch Your Microwave
When we microwave foods, we not only destroy most of the antioxidants in those foods, but also many other nutrients.
- A Japanese study also revealed that 30-40% of vitamin B12 was destroyed in foods cooked by a microwave.
- Microwaving has been shown to cause a 97% decrease in antioxidant value (vitamin C) in broccoli alone, compared to other cooking methods.(2)
- Cancer-causing free radicals are formed in microwaved plants, especially root vegetables.
- An increase of structural degradation decreased the food value in 70-90% of all microwaved food tested.
Whole Foods vs. Supplements
Oxidative Medicine & Cellular Longevity
One of the best ways we can protect our bodies is to make sure we have plenty of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. This is why these foods form the basis of a healthy diet. While we work on improving our diet and naturally raising our antioxidant level, we can also temporarily use supplements sourced directly from whole-foods (preferably raw such as products available from Garden of Life).
There are many antioxidant products on the market sourced from whole foods. Synthetic supplement pills and powders are NOT the same as naturally sourced antioxidants, and should be avoided completely. Studies show that not only is it safer to consume antioxidants in whole foods vs. supplements, but the health benefits of antioxidants are much greater when they are consumed within their natural food source as compared to when taken as isolated nutrients in supplements.(3)
With antioxidants, do not assume "more is better" when it comes to supplements. Consuming mega-doses of isolated antioxidants in synthetic supplements can be toxic to the body when not accompanied by the spectrum of nutrients present when they are in their whole-food form.
High dose antioxidant supplements can also interfere with prescription medications.
- Using supplements
- Choosing the right supplements
- Dangers of using synthetic supplements
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Omegas - Essential fatty acids
- Antioxidants & free radicals
- Do you need vitamin B12?
- How we get sick, how we heal
- Digestion & elimination
- Your immune system & how it works
- Bacteria & intestinal flora
- Probiotics & gut health
- Raising children naturally