Antioxidants: Why You Need Them and How to Get Them
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and other nutrients found in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that protect and repair our body’s cells. Free radicals from environmental toxins and our body’s breakdown of processed foods can cause damage to our arteries, immune system and overall health, leading to chronic diseases that many Americans suffer from today. Antioxidants help eliminate these free radicals, boost immunity, and prevent any damage done to our body’s tissues.
Where do they come from?
Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is a great way to incorporate antioxidants into a healthy lifestyle! The three main vitamin antioxidants are beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E found in deeply colored fruits and vegetables. It is best to eat most fruits and vegetables raw or lightly steamed to avoid the loss of these beneficial nutrients from heat during cooking.
Great sources of beta-carotene and carotenoids include:
Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Great sources of vitamin C include:
Berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Great sources of vitamin E include:
Broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
Let’s add prunes, apples, raisins, plums, red grapes, alfalfa sprouts, onions, eggplants and beans, which also provide an antioxidant boost!
In addition to vitamins found in these mentioned foods, minerals such as zinc and selenium also prove highly beneficial in antioxidant abilities. Red meat, poultry, seafood, oysters, nuts, beans and dairy products are foods high in zinc. Some great sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry and fortified grain products.
Delicious and easy ways to add antioxidants to your daily routine:
• Grab an apricot, nectarine, peach, grapefruit or tangerine as a snack to go with your sandwich lunch instead of a bag of chips.
• Sprinkle pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts or your nut of choice on some yogurt or a wholesome spinach-based salad.
• Rinse and throw baby tomatoes on a spinach-based salad with some balsamic dressing and mozzarella cheese.
• Bake a sweet potato with your dinner instead of a regular or mashed potato.
• Top your whole wheat waffles or pancakes with berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries), or mix berries into yogurt.
• Take advantage of the BBQ weather and grill some asparagus, broccoli, or green, yellow and red peppers.
• Cut up a melon salad with watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew; throw in berries and kiwi.
• Bake your own at-home kale and collard green chips with olive-oil, garlic, basil and parmesan cheese on a baking pan and pop in the oven for a healthy snack or appetizer.
How else would you get your daily dose of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables? Please share your great ideas for healthy eating!