What are Antioxidants?

You’ve probably heard that antioxidants are really important for your health but do you know exactly what they do? Let’s…

You’ve probably heard that antioxidants are really important for your health but do you know exactly what they do? Let’s answer your question on what are antioxidants!

There are lots of different antioxidants and some of them are known for giving fruits and vegetables their distinctive colors.

For example, lycopene is found in red fruits and veggies and beta carotene is what gives carrots and other fruits and veggies their orange and yellow color. Vitamins A, C, and E are also antioxidants.  (think ACE)

They’re not just there to make things pretty though. The benefits of antioxidants extend to almost every area of your health and they can protect you against some pretty scary stuff. 

What are antioxidants and what can they do for your body?

Fighting free radicals

One of the most important roles that antioxidants play involves free radicals. When cells use oxygen, free radicals are a natural by-product. They may be natural but unfortunately, they can be pretty dangerous if there’s enough of them in your body. They’re linked to lots of health conditions, including heart disease and cancer. 

You’ll hear a lot about oxidative stress in relation to antioxidants. This is what happens when there is an imbalance between the number of free radicals that are roaming your body and the ability that your body has to cancel out their effects. Antioxidants give your body more power to affect this balance and make free radicals less damaging. 

The real problems start with oxidization. This is the same process that helps cuts to heal and turns apples brown when they’re exposed to air but it’s a lot more of a problem where free radicals are concerned. 

When oxidized cholesterol gets a “hit” from free radicals, it’s much more likely to find its way into the walls of your arteries. From there, it sets the scene for plaques to become an issue. And that raises the risk of blocked arteries and heart attacks. 

Antioxidants help to give this story a happier ending as in big enough numbers, they can mean that less cholesterol is oxidized. 

Now that we’ve answered what are antioxidants, let’s discuss what they can do for your body.

Cutting your cancer risk

Because free radicals are so unstable and volatile, they can be very harmful to cells and can damage cell DNA. This can encourage them to become cancerous. 

Fighting free radicals can also mean that antioxidants reduce your risk of some cancers. One particular plant pigment called carotenoids are a great choice for us to consume more of.  These carotenoids act like antioxidants in human bodies and studies are continuing to find anti-cancer qualities linked to them. You’ll find these in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables like squash, carrots, corn, sweet potato, oranges, apricots, peaches, and mangoes.  (just to name a few)

Keeping your eyes healthy

Several antioxidants are important for keeping your eyes healthy. While they won’t help you to see better, they can play a role in protecting against macular degeneration and other conditions that can affect your vision. 

Carotenoids are important here too. This includes beta carotene (which the body turns into vitamin A) and lutein. Both of these helps to protect your eyes against the damaging effects of free radicals, which can otherwise be a factor in your eye health. 

Studies have shown that women under the age of 75 could reduce their risk of macular degeneration by as much as 50% if their diet includes plenty of carotenoids, especially antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Carrots, leafy greens, kiwi and honeydew melon and peas are all great choices, along with eggs. 

Keeping your skin healthy

Tart cherries are a great source of melatonin. We often associate this with sleep but it can also have antioxidant qualities that protect your skin against the effects of UV rays from the sun. If you do get a sunburn, it also helps skin to heal more quickly by triggering production of new skin cells.  Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps slows the production of melanin in our skin.  This helps reduce age spotting.  Vitamin C also helps even out our skin tone and make our skin look more radiant and younger looking. 

Protecting against arthritis 

Oranges, mangoes, peaches and watermelon are all rich in an antioxidant called beta cryptoxanthin. According to a study from the UK, this antioxidant can help to protect against arthritis and can make you up to 40% less likely to be affected by it. Those suffering from any type of arthritis are strongly encouraged to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans.  This is due to their high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory effect.

what are antioxidants

What to eat to get more antioxidants into your diet 

Lots of fruits and veggies are packed full of antioxidants but you’ll also find them in other foods too. These are some of the foods to eat more of to reap the benefits of antioxidants:

  • Prunes
  • Plums
  • Red grapes
  • Raisins
  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cranberries
  • Cherries
  • Mangoes
  • Peaches
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits 
  • Pomegranates
  • Melon and watermelon
  • Goji berries
  • Kiwi
  • Leafy greens
  • Carrots
  • Dark chocolate
  • Garlic
  • Spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, cumin and cayenne pepper
  • Herbs such as oregano, parsley, basil and thyme

Combining certain foods can make antioxidants even more powerful. Eating raspberries, pomegranates or cranberries with apples or grapes helps to make the antioxidant, quercetin, have stronger effects against cancerous cells, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.

Have I answered what are antioxidants and how they can benefit us?  

Convinced to eat more antioxidant rich foods?  It’s important to note that several studies have been done and concluded that supplements containing antioxidants do NOT have the same health benefits as eating foods rich in antioxidants.  So please eat more fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts and don’t think taking supplements will give you the same outcome.  Studies have shown that to not be the case.

Need support and ideas so you can learn how to eat more antioxidant rich foods?  Be sure to join my Facebook Group!

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Hi, I'm Jodie!

Hey there my friend! My name is Jodie Crandall and I’m a veggie loving certified health and nutrition coach on a journey to spread the word about how amazing veggies are for our health!  I am a self-proclaimed “plant-based meat eater” who has recently lost almost 50 pounds by eating more veggies!

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