What are Antioxidants and Why are They Good for You?
You’ve probably heard about antioxidants and their positive effects on human health. Every health, wellness or nutrition article mentions them in one way or another.
You hear words like ORAC values and free radicals, but what are these super-powerful compounds called antioxidants? How do they help the body fight inflammations and illnesses? And more importantly - why are they so good for you and where can you find them?
Many of the healthiest foods on the planet are packed with antioxidants. They help the immune system fight toxins coming from food and environmental sources and prevent premature aging.
Curious to find out more about antioxidants and their health benefits? Keep reading to discover which foods contain the highest amounts and how you can incorporate them in your diet.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are stable molecules that prevent the process of oxidation in other unstable molecules. Oxidation as a chemical reaction is harmful because once a molecule oxidizes, it turns into a free radical.
Free radicals can form chains and together damage healthy cells and wreak chaos in the body. Some of the consequences of them rummaging through the system are cell-level inflammations, diseases, premature aging and even cancer.
In normal amounts, free radicals are actually beneficial and help the body fight off bacterial and viral infections. It’s when their numbers grow exponentially that they cause damage.
Some of the main factors causing abnormal production of free radicals are:
- Over-processed and unhealthy foods.
- Exposure to harmful UV rays.
- Air pollution.
- Leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
- Prolonged stress.
Antioxidants are stable molecules while free radicals are unstable ones. Once a stable molecule loses an electron, it turns into a free radical. To reverse the process, antioxidants donate a molecule to free radicals and thus neutralize them, preventing them from doing further damage.
While the human body produces some amounts of antioxidants, they usually come from food. The amount of antioxidants in food is measured through their Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC score).
For example, berries are among the top sources of antioxidants, but coffee and dark chocolate are not far behind. Some vitamins like C and E are powerful antioxidants themselves. Beta-carotene is another nutrient with strong antioxidant properties.
It’s important to note that too much antioxidant activity in the body can also be harmful. The key is to maintain a healthy balance. With all the hype surrounding antioxidants, people are inclined to consume them through supplements.
In fact, eating a healthy diet rich in superfoods is enough. Too many antioxidants can speed up oxidative damage instead of preventing it.
Chemical compounds in food are perfectly synced to work for your body’s chemical processes. If you can get antioxidants through food, there’s no need for supplements. Most of them don’t even work properly and fail to do their protective job in the metabolism.
Which Foods Are the Richest in Antioxidants?
Leading a modern, fast-paced lifestyle, especially in developed countries often goes hand in hand with eating unhealthy.
People have less time to cook hearty meals and go out to eat or grab something on the go. Fast food is especially problematic due to being overly processed and full of additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients.
The good news is, coffee is one of the main sources of antioxidants in the Western diet, according to some studies. In fact, a large number of Americans get their daily antioxidant intake through their daily cup of java. This is because their average diet doesn’t include as many fruits as vegetables.
Check out our Peace and Wellness collection of hemp oil infused coffees for a surge of antioxidants and a morning pick-me up. Hemp oil contains a variety of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Fruits Rich in Antioxidants
The fruits in this list have very high ORAC score and are abundant in antioxidants:
- Wild blueberries
- Goji berries
- Citrus fruits
- Black plums
Vegetables and Legumes Rich in Antioxidants
These vegetables and legumes are a significant source of antioxidants:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
- Red bell peppers
- Reishi mushrooms
Nuts, Seeds and Grains Rich in Antioxidants
A large variety of nuts, grains and seeds contain high amounts of antioxidants:
- Hemp seeds
- Chia seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Whole grains
- Brazil nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
Animal-Based Foods Rich in Antioxidants
Few animal-based foods contain antioxidants, but the biggest sources are:
- Lean meat
Other Foods Rich in Antioxidants
- Green tea
- Red wine
- Dark chocolate
- Hemp oil and CBD Oil
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
Are Antioxidants Worth The Hype?
Like with anything else, antioxidants are only useful when taken in balanced dosages. Unless there’s a specific or medical reason, there’s no need of supplements and pills.
Considering the dynamic lives we lead today, paying attention to our diet and taking care of our body is essential.
Going out in fresh air, implementing as many superfoods into your diet as possible and keeping stress at bay are all important factors for optimal health.
Ready to start living a more balanced lifestyle? Start by making a can making a wellness plan you’ll actually follow.
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Frosina A. Ivanovic is a content marketing specialist and writer. She’s passionate about quality coffee, travel, wellness, and digital marketing. You can connect with Frosina on LinkedIn or her website, Zhillmatic.