What are antioxidants, and why are they good for you?

Antioxidants are an important part of our diet and they play a key role in helping protect our healthy cells. Every day our body is assaulted with substances called free radicals that attack healthy cells. Free radicals can occur due to: excess sun exposure, pollution, increased stress, and certain foods. When the healthy cells in our system are weakened, they are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancers. Antioxidants — such as vitamins C and E and carotenoids, which include beta-carotene, lycopene and lutein — help protect healthy cells from damage caused by free radicals.

It is best to obtain antioxidants from whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Many of my patients say to me, “Amy, I don’t like eating fruits or vegetables so I will just take a vitamin pill to get my antioxidants.” The majority of the research tells us that supplement pills do not have the same disease fighting benefit from antioxidants and we absolutely need to try to get them from healthy foods and beverages. If you feel you are not getting enough antioxidants, I would recommend reaching out to a registered dietitian. She can review simple but delicious ways to sneak foods with disease fighting capability into your diet. For example, blueberries and strawberries are very high in vitamin C. You can mix them into a healthy yogurt-based smoothie or incorporate them into whole grain pancakes. Carrots are a fantastic source of beta carotene. I love matchstick carrots and I mix them daily into my salads and add them into spaghetti sauce for a great crunch. Vitamin E is another antioxidant and can be found in a variety of foods like: whole grains, wheat germ, seeds, nuts, and peanut butter. A healthy afternoon snack could be a handful of almonds or some peanut butter on top of whole grain crackers. Finally, if you are looking for a way to unwind and de-stress at night, enjoy a warm glass of green tea! Not only is it filled with healthy antioxidants, but also it can help you relax and get rid of a lot of unhealthy free radicals!

Login to Favorite