Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Antioxidants: What & Where

Last week my family took a trip down to Arizona to watch my brother in a basketball tournament. The weather was wonderful, the basketball was great, and I decided I will live there some day. This cold stuff in Utah does not work for me.

But while there, we headed to Trader Joe’s, since Utah hasn’t figured out what they are missing out on yet. There we found some pomegranate seeds out of the pomegranate and ready to eat. We bought them. Who wouldn’t?


While snacking on those in the car my dad started asking about antioxidants. This story is taking much longer than I thought. But anyway…I think antioxidants are one of those “if you eat them you are healthy” things that everyone hears about but isn’t sure exactly why they are or what they are. So I am here to tell you.
By definition, antioxidants are chemical substances that prevent or repair damage to cells caused by exposure to oxidizing agents such as oxygen, ozone, and smoke and to other oxidizing agents normally produced in the body.

Another version: Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods which can prevent or slow the oxidative damage to our body. When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals (by-products) which can cause damage. Antioxidants act as "free radical scavengers" and hence prevent and repair damage done by these free radicals.  Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer are all contributed by oxidative damage. Antioxidants may also enhance immune defense and therefore lower the risk of cancer and infection.

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Top sources of antioxidant-rich foods:
Pomegranate, blackberries, walnuts, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, artichokes, cranberries, red cabbage, pecans, cloves, grape juice, dark chocolate, guava nectar, mango nectar…to name a few

Here are (some of) the antioxidants themselves:
  • Vitamin A and Carotenoids
    Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-colored fruits and vegetables!)
  • Vitamin C
    Citrus fruits like oranges and lime etc, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and tomatoes
  • Vitamin ENuts & seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and liver oil
  • Selenium
    Fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic
  • Flavonoids / polyphenols red wine
    purple grapes
  • Lycopene
    Tomato and tomato products
    pink grapefruit
  • Lutein dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussels sprout and spinach
  • Lignan flax seed

Antioxidants are found abundant in beans, grain products, fruits and vegetables. Look for fruits with bright color - lutein in some of the yellow pigments found in corn; orange in cantaloupe, butternut squash and mango; red from lycopene in tomatoes and watermelon, and purple and blue in berries. So enjoy eating a variety of these products. It is best to obtain these antioxidants from foods instead of supplements. In addition, minimize the exposure of oxidative stress such as smoking and sunburn.

So…maybe this year a goal could be getting a bit more color into your diet, and a little less of that color tan and brown. (Like chips, fries, candy bars, crackers)

There ya go, pops.

1 comment:

  1. Dark choc = my favorite way to eat antioxidant-rich foods! haha


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