I know I already did a post about antioxidants (that can be found here ->; Antioxidants and Free Radicals)BUT I was scanning through some of my old notes on facebook and I came across this one about antioxidants and phytochemicals. Plus, I have written quite a few posts in the short time my blog has been active so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add another post about antioxidants for those who may have missed my first post about them.The more I read about this stuff, the more I retain so I’m partly doing this for myself as well (I’m quite selfish like that :p )
I always hear the words “antioxidants” and “phytochemicals” thrown around and while I am pretty well versed with what antioxidants are, I often get confused with what phytochemicals are so I decided to look it up and share my findings.
Basically, phytochemicals are made in plants to protect themselves from the photosynthesis they carry out, UV radiation, and pests. The damage inflicted on plants is similar to the damage humans experience from free radicals which are produced when oxygen interacts with our cells. the damage that occurs is known as being oxidative and antioxidants are known to counter this damage. these antioxidants are the same phytochemicals that plants produce to protect themselves. to get a bit more into detail, free radicals are substances with an unpaired electron. substances are more stable when all of their electrons are paired so these unpaired electron wielding free radicals end up wreaking havoc on the body. antioxidants basically inactivate free radicals by donating an electron so that the unpaired electron on the free radical has a partner.
the unfortunate thing is that free radicals are made everyday in the body by UV light and metals so in order to fight them off, it is important to have a diet that contains a variety of antioxidants. if your diet doesn’t contain antioxidants, then free radicals can cause cancer, aging, cardiovascular diseases, eye disorders such as cataracts, and many other problems. free radicals can be especially damaging in cardiovascular disease because free radicals oxidize LDL and oxidized LDL is the most damaging form of LDL in the body. it can increase your risk for atherosclerosis by causing inflammation in the arteries that supply the heart and other tissues in the body thereby increasing your risk for heart disease and stroke.
So having said all of that, where are antioxidants found? Below are various sources of antioxidants that we could all benefit from.
Fruits and vegetables
* Winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots
* Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots
* Citrus, including the peel
* Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
* Spinach, kale, collards
* black beans
* pinto beans
* kidney beans
* black lentils
* blue corn
* purple rice
* red quinoa
* olive oil
* red palm oil
* sesame oil
Herbs and Spices
* fennel greens
* lemon balm
* herbal and green tea
* fruit juices
And last but not least, here are a few tips to help maximize the amounts of antioxidants you consume:
* Keep some fresh herbs on hand (or grow them yourself) and use wherever possible: fresh herbs in salads, mint in yogurt, chopped cilantro in soups, a couple leaves of basil or oregano on a sandwich. As well as adding special flavor, this is one of the simplest ways to increase the antioxidant content of your diet.
* Season your foods with dried herbs and spices. Remember that a small teaspoon of flavor also adds nutritional benefits. Experiment and have fun! And what could be easier?
* Fruits and vegetables do not have to be fresh in order to obtain the benefits from their antioxidants: dried and frozen fruits and veggies, fruit and vegetable juices, and fruit jams all count. These options also give you the benefits of certain fruits and veggies all year round.
* Some antioxidants actually increase in potency when cooked for extended periods of time. These include the lycopene found in tomatoes and beta carotene in carrots and winter squash. Imagine the scent of tomato sauce simmered for hours on a stovetop or the vibrant color of baked winter squash.
* If edible, eat the peels of organic fruit, such as apples, which often contain high quantities of antioxidants.
* Ripe fruits — in particular berries — contain higher quantities of antioxidants than fruits that are not ripe. Again, follow your taste buds to choose foods highest in antioxidants.
* Buy or make your own pesto. Basil pesto is a traditional favorite, but also try cilantro, parsley, arugula, mint or mixtures of the above. Use as a spread for bread, on sandwiches or on pasta.
* Experiment with salsas and sauces. Think spicy and colorful-tomato salsa, mango salsa and chili sauce all pack an antioxidant punch and is perfect for snacking. In general, turn to spicy, ethnic foods for added antioxidant benefit.
* Use honey as a sweetener. Studies have shown that people who eat honey on a daily basis have increased levels of antioxidants in the body. Antioxidant activity of honey is variable, dependent on flower source, In general, look for color. Darker varieties, like buckwheat honey, contain more antioxidants.
* Drink herbal tea. Warm or iced, herbal teas are a pleasurable way to add to your daily antioxidant intake. For an added antioxidant bonus, add a little honey or a splash of juice. A reminder to not overlook the health benefits of non-caloric beverages.
* At restaurants, order the most colorful plate possible. Here is your chance to taste and see how an expert mixes colors and flavors. Use these ideas for examples in your own home. If you feel comfortable, eat the garnish.
- Antioxidants and free radicals (f00dventures.wordpress.com)
- Feeling Fruity (pipandwillow.wordpress.com)
- Red Wine: To Your Health! (everydayhealth.com)
- When Life Gives You Lemons … (toxicfoodie.org)
- Definition: Antioxidant (bellasugar.com)