Why Antioxidants are Key and How to Get Them

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Antioxidants are key to helping our body function optimally, but do you know what the best source of them is and how they help us? Today’s post is for you!

Antioxidants fight oxidation that occurs in the body. Oxidation is a natural process, for example, a browning apple or rusting metal. It occurs as a normal process such as when metabolizing nutrients or exercising. What happens is that molecules lose electrons and create free radicals.

Free radicals in the body cause inflammation and can contribute to many diseases such as cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. What’s the solution? Antioxidants!

Some examples of antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E. So are other phytonutrients in foods like carotenoids and phenols. These compounds donate electrons to stop the oxidation process. An example is when you use lemon juice on your sliced apples, it slows down the browning process.

Not all oxidation in the body is bad. The key is maintaining a good balance between the process of oxidation and the availability of antioxidants.

Things like exposure to too much processed-food, alcohol, smoke and other pollutants can throw off the balance. Even over-exercising or too much sun exposure can create excess oxidation.

The best antioxidants to combat this are colourful fresh produce, e.g., blueberries, purple cabbage, etc. The more colourful and darker the plant is, the higher levels of antioxidants it usually has. Chemicals that give the plants their deep colours are often the antioxidants themselves.

Antioxidants in food

Check out these antioxidants and which foods they come from:

  • Vitamin A – liver, dark leafy greens, orange fruits & veggies (e.g. mangoes & carrots)
  • Vitamin C – bell peppers, citrus, berries, and dark leafy greens
  • Vitamin E – leafy greens, nuts and seeds
  • Carotenoids (e.g. beta-carotene, lycopene) – tomatoes, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and salmon
  • Phenols – green tea, black tea, coffee, cocoa, red wine, and berries

Blueberries are probably one of the most studied antioxidant foods. They contain a range of phytochemical compounds and are very high in anthocyanins (the blue-coloured compound). They also have one of the highest ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity) levels.

Are Food or Supplements Better?

Different fruit in capsule – healthy diet concept

While antioxidant supplements have been tested, their results haven’t been as good as consuming antioxidants from colourful plants. There is a fantastic synergy of phytonutrients that you receive when you get your antioxidants from food.

You definitely can’t out-supplement a poor diet, and there is a risk that you could consume too much of one thing. While I’m not against supplements and do take them myself, I make sure to “test, not guess”, and use my results combined with my symptoms so that I know what I actually need. Email me here if you want to learn more!

Bottom Line

Antioxidants are essential to helping our body feel it’s best.

We get antioxidant vitamins (A, C & E) and other antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols from colourful fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some meats, tea, coffee, and cocoa.

You can’t replace a diet full of nutrient-dense antioxidant-rich whole foods with supplements; you’ll be missing out on the synergies of nature!

Which antioxidant-rich foods and drinks are your favourites?

If you want some help in getting more balance in your diet or are interested in testing to determine your personal needs, please send me a note by clicking here so that we can set up a time to discuss it.

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“I believe that when we are empowered to take control of our health, we find the help we need to feel our best.”

Bonnie Flemington MBA, CNP

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