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Maybe you've heard of antioxidant foods, but you're not quite sure what they are.
How good are antioxidant foods for you?
What kind of foods gives you the most antioxidants?
Is it possible to consume too many antioxidants?
With all of the information on the internet, answering these questions can be difficult.
To make things easier, let's take a look at what antioxidants are, how they work, and how you can incorporate more of them into your daily diet.
What are the Benefits of Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are tiny powerhouses that work to keep you healthy. At a molecular level, they work against free radicals.
Free radicals can be released into your body for various reasons.
While free radicals are sometimes released to help fight infections, they can also be released when the body is subjected to an unhealthy environment or situation. For example, smoking, air pollution, and an unhealthy diet can all contribute to increased free radical counts.
Free radicals also naturally occur in the body. During exercise, free radicals are released when we burn calories. Hitting the gym for a good sweat session requires energy to power muscles throughout the workout. Free radicals make life possible. They help convert energy for us to live and oxygen for us to breathe.
Not all free radicals are bad. In order to survive, we need free radicals. A healthy body depends on a good balance between antioxidants and free radicals.
So what are some of the benefits of antioxidants?
Antioxidants work to balance out the bad free radicals in your body. If free radicals are left unchecked, they start to cause oxidative stress. While free radicals aren't necessarily a cause for concern, oxidative stress is.
Oxidative stress has been linked to many health conditions. A consistent state of oxidative stress is related to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. It also increases your chance for cancer, immune deficiency, and respiratory diseases. Antioxidants can also help reduce the loss of vision due to macular degeneration.
That's why antioxidants are so important to your body; they work to combat all of these diseases.
Top Antioxidant Foods
Antioxidants naturally occur in both plant and animal based foods. You can also complement an antioxidant-rich diet with over-the-counter supplements.
Meats and other animal products, like eggs, can provide some antioxidants. But fruits and veggies usually have higher levels of antioxidants.
Typically, the color of food is an indicator of how rich it is in antioxidants. Foods that are more vibrantly colored, such as beets and cranberries, will usually have higher levels of antioxidants. More processed tan, cream, and brown colored foods aren't usually a good source of antioxidants. If you're looking to boost your antioxidant intake, stick to fresh, unprocessed fruits and veggies.
External antioxidants come in many forms. Foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E are all good sources of antioxidants. You can also opt for foods with high levels of beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and selenium.
To increase your daily dose of antioxidants, start by incorporating more beta-carotene into your diet. Opt for colorful fruits and veggies, like mangoes and carrots.
Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. This workhorse can be found in most fruits in vegetables. However, blueberries and citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C.
You can also choose fruits with high levels of lycopene. Tomatoes, watermelons, and other pink and red fruits are fantastic, lycopene-dense choices.
Don't forget about your lutein. This antioxidant can be found in your favorite green, leafy vegetables. Think spinach, kale, and broccoli. You can also find lutein in yellow and orange fruits and veggies like corn, papaya, and oranges.
Increasing your vitamin E and selenium intake will also do the trick. Nuts and seeds, like almonds, are a good source of vitamin E. Grains like corn and wheat provide plenty of selenium. Just make sure you are opting for whole grains, not the processed kind.
How Much Antioxidants You Need Daily
Antioxidants are used to balance out the free radicals in your body. When the free radicals begin to outnumber the antioxidants, your cells go in to a state of oxidative stress. To maintain a healthy balance, it is essential to get enough antioxidants on a daily basis.
But how many antioxidants do you need on a daily basis?
The average person needs between 8,000 and 11,000 antioxidant units per day. While this may seem unattainable, this goal is easily achieved with a balanced diet. Simply incorporating a serving of fruits, nuts, or veggies into each of your meals can provide you with the daily recommended amount of antioxidants. In fact, many fruits offer your daily antioxidant needs with one, simple serving.
Or you can also incorporate more antioxidant-rich snacks into your day. Between meals, try recipes like fruit and yogurt parfaits with nuts. One, 8-ounce cup of blueberries contains about 9,000 units of antioxidants. Swap out unhealthy, processed snacks like chips and crackers for whole fruits and veggies. This is an easy way to get your daily dose of antioxidants.
Getting enough antioxidants daily is as simple as leading a balanced diet. This is something that everyone can easily achieve.
Can Too Many Antioxidants be Harmful?
So now you understand how many antioxidants you need each day. You're planning your meals for the week and then you start to think about all the fruits and veggies you've chosen.
But then you start to wonder: is there such thing as too many antioxidants?
When it comes to dieting and nutrition, too much of a good thing can quickly turn into a bad thing. Antioxidants are no exception.
In the health industry, there are claims that antioxidants are a miracle cure or an aging preventative. This hype led to the development of supplements.
These high-dosage supplements don't typically help. In fact, in many cases, they can have many nasty side effects.
High doses of antioxidants can actually decrease physical performance. During exercise, free radicals are generated as a natural byproduct of energy metabolism. As you sweat away the calories on the treadmill, free radicals are generated. However, a higher intake of antioxidants can reduce your body's ability to adapt to exercise. Without free radicals, our body becomes less adept at converting energy. An excess of antioxidants may lead to feeling sluggish during workouts.
Excessive intake of antioxidants can also increase the risk of some cancers. Too many antioxidants create an imbalance. This can put the cells in your body in a state of oxidative stress. Prolonged states of oxidative stress within cells is believed to cause a significant increase in the risk of cancer.
The negative effects of a surplus of antioxidants aren't just limited to you. Taking high doses of antioxidants – particularly vitamin A – can cause birth defects. Doctors recommend that pregnant women avoid taking antioxidant supplements during their pregnancy.
These supplements can also interfere with medication that you may already be taking. You should consult a healthcare professional before you start incorporating antioxidant supplements into your diet.
Do Antioxidants Help You Lose Weight?
Now that you understand the role that antioxidants play in your health, you're probably wondering if they can help you with your weight loss journey.
The goods news is that preliminary studies show that antioxidants might help you lose weight.
While antioxidants don't necessarily kill fat cells or reduce the number of fat cells, they do alter the way that fat cells function.
Antioxidants make fat cells reduce their triglyceride output. Triglycerides store unused calories. A high level of triglycerides doesn't just slow your weight loss journey; it also increases your risk of stroke.
While further studies are needed to determine the role that antioxidants play in weight loss, the future looks promising.
If you're turning to fruits and veggies for antioxidants, this may also contribute to weight loss.
An antioxidant-rich diet is full of whole foods and unprocessed fruits and veggies. Decreased consumption of processed foods and increased consumption of healthy foods will boost your antioxidant levels and help you lose weight. This healthy diet will also help provide the energy you need to get through your day without turning to quick, unhealthy meals when hunger strikes.
That wasn't so bad, was it? The basics of antioxidants are simple. Getting your daily dose of antioxidants is essential to your health. They help balance out the free radicals in your body and combat diseases. While many free radicals naturally occur, antioxidants also help counteract those that are caused by environmental stressors, such as pollution and smoking. Getting enough antioxidants on a daily basis is easy to do. There are many healthy foods that provide more than enough antioxidants to satisfy your daily need. And remember – more is not always better. The high dosages of antioxidant supplements can actually harm your health. If you are looking to shed a few pounds, antioxidants can also help you lose weight. They change the way your fat cells store calories. Antioxidant-rich diets are also good for your waistline because they are filled with healthy, unprocessed foods.
What's your favorite antioxidant rich food? Let us know down below!