If you have ever been to a grocery store, I am confident you have seen the word “Antioxidant,” and are familiar with the idea of antioxidant fruits and other foods that get the label–antioxidant tea, chocolate bars, cereals and granolas, or even some flavored sodas. But, what are antioxidants and why are they so important that food corporations feel the need to advertise their products that contain these so-called antioxidants?
Before we get into antioxidants, what they are and what they do, their sources, and their importance, there are 3 other terms we must define to understand what an antioxidant truly is. These terms are free radicals, oxidation, and inflammation.
First, what is inflammation?
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Inflammation is the cornerstone of most diseases (arthritis, asthma, coronary heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders, digestive disorders, allergies, and virtually every other chronic disease), the redness that quickly appears after an insect bite, swelling of a sprained ankle, or the chronic sorriness of an arthritic joint. It is the indication that the body is trying to defend against something it believes to be potentially harmful. Modern day diets can cause inflammation and our lifestyle habits further exacerbate the condition..
Whether to neutralize the insects toxin, or, to reduce movement in a sprained ankle; inflammation is a very natural and important role in our survival. Inflammation only becomes harmful to the body when it is lingering around the body in large, unnecessary amounts. They key negative effect of inflammation is its activation of chemical pathways that increase free radical production in the body. Here are anti-inflimmation diet tips to counteract the body’s free radical production.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are molecules that have lost an electron, which are normally found in pairs. Stress, pollution, chemicals, toxic dietary triggers (gluten, diary, eggs, etc.), UV sunlight, and ordinary bodily functions (metabolism) can “free” an electron from a molecule.
This free radical then start trying to steal electrons from other molecules. This disorder is the oxidation process, which is a chain of events that creates more free radicals and stirs up more inflammation.
What is oxidation?
Oxidation is a type of “biological rusting” that is at the center of inflammation. This gradual corrosion is a normal part of life and happens on all tissues.
As mentioned previously, this process occurs when the body convert calories from food and oxygen into usable energy in the body. Although the word oxidation implies oxygen, its not the kind of oxygen we breath into the lungs because oxidation isn’t paired with another oxygen molecule.
It is when we have high levels of oxidative stress in the bodies that we start to create this long list of health challenges and symptoms we see in modern times.
Now, what is an antioxidant and why are they needed?
An antioxidant, such as vitamins A, C, and E, donates an electron to these free radicals, which in return interrupts the chain reaction of oxidative stress; reducing oxidative stress to help prevent further damage by lowering inflammation.
Antioxidant-rich foods have been a large part of our diet until the food industry came along and introduced processed foods, which eliminates a lot, if not all, of the nutrients out of our diets needed for optimal health and energy metabolism.
Antioxidants can be found predominantly in berries, nuts, and dark leafy green vegetables, and some animal products, as well as quality supplements on the market today. Just be wary of marketing schemes and synthetic versions, which have been found to cause even more damage than not taking them. Brands like Garden of Life produce quality, organic, non-gmo, whole food supplements containing raw living antioxidants.
Our genes are programmed for the production of enzymes and other chemicals that’s main focus are breaking down and eliminating various toxins to which we are exposed.
Even before the industrial era, we have been exposed to toxins throughout history. Things like environmental toxins, such as lead, arsenic, and aluminum, stress, metabolism (as mentioned previously), and even plants and animals have their own powerful toxins as a form of protection.
These genes, important now more than ever, have been with us for a very long time. Some antioxidants are produced by the body while we must also obtain some from our diets.
In addition, as we age our antioxidant production begins to decline. While sleep, meditation, and exercise help in the reduction of free radical damage through the change in the expression of our genes, food also plays a crucial, if not the most powerful, role in how we detox our bodies from these toxins.
Eating a balanced diet, rich in these foods listed below, can help boost your antioxidant levels and reduce the levels of oxidative stress and inflammation in your body. Ultimately helping int he prevention and sometimes reversal of negative health concerns.
Top 8 antioxidants and their dietary sources:
(Vitamin A) Beef liver, carrots, spinach, kale, butternut squash, cantaloupe, mangoes, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes
(Vitamin C) Chili peppers, red/green bell peppers, kale, broccoli, papaya, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, oranges, kiwis, pineapple, and mango
(Vitamin D) Sunlight, egg yolks, salmon, tuna, raw dairy, beef liver, cod liver oil
(Vitamin E) Vegetable oils, avocados, spinach, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, nuts, and wholegrains
Fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, grass-fed beef, edamame, flaxseed oil, non grain-fed eggs labeled “omega-3 rich”
Meat, poultry, fish, soy beans, nuts, eggs, fruit and veggies, and dairy
Curucumin, raw dairy, eggs, and grass-fed meat are the top sources
Grapes, cacao, and red wine
Although our bodies naturally produce some ALA, ALA can be found in animal kidneys, heart, liver, and in spinach and broccoli.
Dr. David Pelmutter book “Grain Brain”