Constant talk and discussion in the media, health magazines and blogs about the effect of antioxidants on the body interests many people. But what are antioxidants and what do they actually do?
Your body’s cells face threats from many things like bacteria and viruses, but another threat to the body is free radicals. Free radicals are natural occurrences that happens when your body turns food to energy. They have been linked to damaging cells which can cause aging and diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. However, do not fear, we are not completely helpless against free radicals!
Antioxidants can counteract free radicals and prevent cell damage in your body. Your body can produce some antioxidants, but you get the majority from the food you eat. Some of the best sources of antioxidants are fruit and vegetables, although they can also be found in milk, eggs, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. Antioxidants are also found in vitamins including vitamin A, C and E.
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is a great way to make sure you are getting enough of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals your body needs. In other words, make your plate colorful! Incorporate dark leafy greens, red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables in your diet every day. Fruits and vegetables taste the best and are cheaper when they are in season.
Eating in season is a popular phrase meaning harvesting produce that is native to the area at its peak time of flavor. Some seasonal produce available this summer in Ohio rich in antioxidants include blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, and spinach. A great resource to find out what is in season in your area anytime of the year is www.seasonalfoodguide.org.
There is not a suggested daily amount for antioxidants; you can receive most of these antioxidants just by eating a healthy and balanced diet. Which means there is really no need to buy and consume expensive supplements.
Research has shown no advantage of taking supplements over just eating antioxidant rich foods. Supplements can potentially be dangerous and you can overdo it, whereas with food it can be hard to eat an excessive amount of antioxidants. A nutrition tool called MyPlate encourages making half your plate fruit and vegetables for meals. Doing this daily can ensure proper antioxidant intake.
The release of free radicals is a natural body process, but over time can be harmful and damaging to your body. Antioxidants are not a cure all for diseases but they can balance out the effect of these harmful free radicals and potentially prevent further damage to our cells. Eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables daily is key to leading and living a healthy lifestyle. Try to eat at least five servings a day.
Halle Koneval is a student from Ohio University studying to become a dietitian.