The Power of Antioxidants and Your Health

Antioxidants are a class of nutrients found in foods that are known to prevent or slow the effects of oxidative damage in our bodies. Processes within our bodies that use oxygen cause oxidative damage. While oxygen is required for life when our cells use oxygen free radicals are created. Free radicals are a molecule that is lacking one or more electrons. Free radicals are highly unstable and can cause many problems within our bodies.
Antioxidants actually come in and donate the missing electron to the free radical thereby stabilizing it and preventing further damage. Antioxidants are rich in many of the foods found in nature and including these highly nutritious foods can help us prevent many of the problems of aging including diseases such as heart and cardiovascular disease and cancers by enhancing our own immune system.
Some of the highest antioxidant foods are the berries. Blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and even grapes and cherries are all high in antioxidants. The ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity is how antioxidant activity in food is measured. All berries have a high ORAC level but the food with the highest ORAC level is actually the acai berry. There are a few things with a higher ORAC level including ground cinnamon and ground cloves but as far as actual food the acai berry surpasses all.
Other fruits that have a high level of antioxidants include the citrus family, orange, grapefruit and lemons and many of the more tropical fruits such as kiwi, mango and papaya. Apples, pears, plums, apricots and peaches are also excellent.
Other foods that are high in antioxidants include many common vegetables. Greens such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard and dandelion greens are extremely high in antioxidants as are the cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower.
Pumpkins are very high in beta-carotene, which is a substance that converts to vitamin A in our bodies. Beta-carotene is a very important nutrient but it can be dangerous, especially for smokers, to take beta-carotene in supplement form. The best way to get this vital nutrient is through the diet. Most orange foods, like pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash provide an ample amount.
The best way to get your antioxidants is through eating a colorful diet. It is the deeply colored foods from nature that provide the most nutrition and vital antioxidants. Deep purples and reds from the berries, oranges from the pumpkins and carrots, and greens from the spinach, kale and cruciferous vegetables and reds from tomatoes and watermelon. Any whole food that is a deep color is likely loaded with vital antioxidants.
Research being conducted on antioxidants is proving a benefit for many of the things that ail us. Improved immune function can help stave off disease such as cardiovascular disease and cancers and even many conditions commonly associated with aging such as macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease.

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