You’ve heard of free radicals before, of course. But if you’re a little murky on the details, you’re in the majority.
Oxidation creates free radicals. These molecules, which have an electron missing, go bouncing around inside our bodies trying to steal an electron to make themselves complete again.
The trouble is when they manage to pull of the heist they leave damaged cells and tissues in their wake.
We can’t avoid them altogether. In fact, some free radical activity is natural, and even necessary. Normal metabolic activities and reactions in your body produce them. Even eating and breathing.
But things like pollution, pesticides, chemicals, cigarette smoke, chronic stress and more also expose us to free radicals.
And in excess, they’re bad news. Because when you have a rioting mob of free radicals roaming around inside your body busting up the place they can cause a lot of destruction.
They hit the fast forward button on aging and lead to illness and disease.
Fight free radicals with antioxidant rich foods
Your body creates antioxidants to help defend your cells from the devastating effects of all those free radicals. But it can’t possibly keep up with the demand. So it’s critically important we supplement those through our diet.
Following are the top five antioxidants you need to give your cells a fighting chance against these bullies.
Carotenoids, natural pigments found in both plants and animals, are the backbone of the antioxidant kingdom. These hardworking compounds help boost your cell’s defenses. Experts say they help strengthen our immune system. And they’re considered anti-aging wizards.
Beta-carotene, lycopene and zeaxanthin are all part of the carotenoid family. Deeply colored fruits and veggies—especially the orange and dark green ones—are often overflowing with these powerful antioxidants.
Found in: carrots, cantaloupe and spinach
Chronic diseases such as arthritis, heart disease and dementia all have something in common. They’re all driven by inflammation.
Controlling that inflammation BEFORE it does damage is vital for protecting and maintaining your health. And it turns out antioxidant polyphenols fit the bill.
Polyphenols are naturally occurring phytochemicals. They provide plants with colors or help protect them from natural dangers.
A study out of Zurich found that folks with higher levels of polyphenols had significantly fewer signs of inflammation in their bodies. And a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Nutrition found that higher levels of the polyphenols found in cocoa were associated with…
- lower blood pressure
- decreased insulin resistance
- reduced LDL “bad” cholesterol
- higher HDL “good” cholesterol
Experts say getting plenty of polyphenols through our diet could help protect us against a variety of diseases including heart disease and cancer.
Found in: asparagus, blueberries, extra virgin olive oil, coffee and dark chocolate.
Flavonoids, such as quercetin and luteolin, are part of the polyphenol family of antioxidants. These plant pigments, found in nearly all fruits and vegetables, are responsible for their vivid colors.
Research has found flavonoids help boost brain cells, support heart health and stabilize blood sugar.
Found in: apricots, green and black teas, whole wheat, pinto beans and cabbage
Certain plants produce the polyphenol resveratrol when they’re injured or under attack from bacteria or other bugs. Folks began to referring to it as the “red wine antioxidant” after a Cornell University study pinpointed it as the heart healthy nutrient in red wine.
Experts say resveratrol is also associated with lower rates of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Found in: red grapes, peanuts, and blueberries
Isothiocyanates could use a PR department. Because despite offering potent protection against cancer, most folks have never heard of this powerful class of phytochemicals.
Isothiocyanates can block carcinogens from being activated in the first place. But they also fight the effects of those which already have been triggered, helping to remove them from your body.
Studies have found that these powerful antioxidants have the potential to detoxify cells, removing the carcinogens from your body and slowing the growth of any cancer cells still left behind.
In other words, they can both help prevent and fight cancer.
Found in: cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and kale
Don’t let free radical overload make you sick. Feed your body the antioxidant fuel it needs to defend itself against these damaging bullies.