Antioxidants seem to be a buzzword there days. But, what exactly are they? And what do they do for our health?
Time to get a little scientific… In our bodies, we sometimes have molecules called oxidizing agents that actually damage certain cells, like DNA. If you are thinking, “well, that doesn’t sound too good,” you’re rights. Luckily, there are molecules called antioxidants that help to prevent the oxidizing agents from damaging the cells in our bodies.
Good news! Antioxidants can be consumed through our diets. Fruits and vegetables are VERY rich in these substances. Each different color fruit/vegetable have a different kind of antioxidant. Here are some examples of antioxidants and their source:
Beta-carotene (*precursor to Vitamin A)
Color: Red, orange, yellow. Sources: carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato, red peppers, cantaloupe, and dried apricot. The main role of beta-carotene (which can be converted to vitamin A) is to promote normal cell growth. Some research suggests that this antioxidant may prevent cancer cell growth as well.
red, orange, yellow Sources: tomatoes! (part of the carotenoid family) some studies, but not all, suggest that lycopene may prevent certain types of cancer.
This one is a mineral. Sources: Chicken, fish, and Brazilian nuts (a large amount may be toxic, so supplementation is usually not needed). Selenium is important to promote tissue elasticity, slow the aging process, and improve oxygen flow throughout the body.
Some examples of food sources of vitamin C are… citrus fruits, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, kiwi, and strawberries.
Also called alpha tocopherol. This is a fat soluble vitamin that is found in mostly nuts, seeds, whole grains, and oils.
Although there are no studies that prove antioxidants can prevent certain diseases, like cancer, and effects of aging, there are definitely studies that suggest this relationship. The overall message? Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, and whole grains! They are filled with different kinds of vitamins and minerals that will benefit your body. Make sure you eat different colors of these fruits and vegetables because each of them will provide you with a different vitamin and mineral. Most importantly, enjoy your food!
Have more questions about vitamins and minerals? Make an appointment with one of our RDs.
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Rebecca Bitzer loves to empower Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) and their clients. Co-author of Welcome to the Rebelution: Seven steps to the nutrition counseling practice of your dreams and Taste the Sweet Rebellion: Rebel against dieting.