We’ve all heard about antioxidants and how great they are for our health.
But what exactly are antioxidants and how do they function in the body?
Antioxidants serve to neutralize free radicals.
Free radicals are produced by the body’s metabolism – as well as occasionally by exposure to radiation and environmental toxins.
Highly reactive, free radicals can cause damage at a cellular level, and are implicated in the development and onset of many diseases, especially age-related ones.
Fortunately, antioxidants can neutralize these destructive free radicals, protecting us from the damage they can cause.
“In healthy individuals, a delicate balance exists between free radicals and antoxidants,” one paper explains(1).
“In some pathologic conditions such as diabetes, and in critically ill patients, oxidative stress causes the level of antioxidants to fall below normal… as a preventative measure against certain diseases, the best approach for healthy individuals is to regularly consume adequate amounts of antioxidant-rich foods.”
But how can you be sure you’re getting enough antioxidants in your daily diet? Here are a number of known antioxidants and foods that they’re commonly found in:
1. Beta Carotene
Beta carotene is found in carrots (of course), sweet potatoes, pumkins, squash, mangoes, pommegranates, and parsley. It’s an antioxidant that belongs to the carotenoids group – our bodies convert it into vitamin A.
Found in fruits like watermelon, red grapefruit, and tomatoes, lycopene is another antioxidant from the carotenoid group. It is known to protect against prostate cancer(4), and serve to promote healthy heart function(5).
Like many antioxidants, it’s also great for your skin.
4. Vitamin C
You probably already know where to find vitamin C – citrus fruits like oranges are an excellent source, but so are strawberries, peppers, and various berries.
This antioxidant is known for being great for the immune system, but it also has anti-cancer properties(8).
Apples, onions, green tea, and citrus fruits are where you’ll find these antioxidants – and if you’re thinking that there’s some overlap in foods that are high in vitamin C, you’re correct. Bioflavonoids are often found alongside vitamin C and have many of the same benefits(9).
6. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is found in many foods – here’s a quick list: whole wheat foods, eggs, fish, avocados, various nuts and seeds, and vegetable oils like olive oil.
Selenium has many health benefits, but it can be hard to get – it’s found in large concentrations in Brazil nuts but many foods only have minor concentrations of this antioxidant. A known anti-inflammatory, selenium can help protect against mercury poisoning(12) – but don’t overdo it on the Brazil nuts; too much selenium can be toxic.
8. Coenzyme Q10
Available as a dietary supplement, coenzyme Q10 is also produced naturally by our bodies. Unfortunately, this production tends to drop off as we age, so getting it from our diets is increasingly important the older we get.
Much research has yet to be done on the effects of coenzyme Q10 but it seems to have an important role to play in heart health(13).
9. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Look to yeast, broccoli, spinach and potatoes for this antioxidant. It’s not as well-known as some of the others on this list but that doesn’t make it any less important! This acid can help with weight management(14) and is particularly useful for people living with diabetes(15).
A Diverse Diet Is Key
How to be sure you’re getting everything you need from your diet? Eat a diverse amount of foods and you’ll be well covered, most experts say.
Eating too much processed food or too much of the same kind of food isn’t great for you, but if you make sure you get plenty of fresh produce, including the foods mentioned in this article, you’ll be on your way to a diet that supplies you with all the antioxidants you need.[mks_toggle title=”Sources” state=”close “]