You may have heard a lot recently about the benefits of antioxidants. If you’re not quite sure what they are, antioxidants are molecules found in vitamins, minerals, food and phytochemicals that protect our bodies from unstable cells known as free radicals. When our bodies oxidize, one chemical by-product is known as the free radical, which can wreak havoc on the body’s cell structures. Thus, free radicals are a primary culprit to cell death and premature aging.
Antioxidants act against free radicals in a “break and prevent” manner. They break the chain reactions of the free radicals, then produce enzymes to eliminate chain formation. Free radicals are enabled by our every-day exposure to toxins, such as those from air pollution, processed food, cleaning products, paint, and skin products. This in turn can lead to muscle degeneration, heart disease, cancer, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.
Fortunately, antioxidants are abundant in a variety of foods with a wide spectrum of benefits. Common antioxidants include Vitamin A, C, E, selenium, and beta-carotene, which can be found in foods such as broccoli, onions, garlic, berries, red grapes, mangoes, green tea, whole grains, walnuts, cloves and corn. Strengthening the heart, brain and immune system are just a few of their benefits. Be sure to eat a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds – this is key to ensuring you will get enough antioxidants as well as balanced nutrition.