Nearly every day you can read a news article with facts about antioxidants, usually these articles are about what foods have high levels of antioxidants. However, there are some pretty interesting facts about antioxidants that can be quite useful to know when you are trying to make your diet healthier. Antioxidants should definitely be included in your diet as much as possible. They prevent cellular damage by removing free radicals in your body that are formed during digestion, stress, when you come into contact with cigarette smoke, and when you eat food with pesticides. Antioxidants are found in many foods and include flavonoids, polyphenols, and vitamins A, C, and E. Beyond this basic information, there is much more you can learn about why you need antioxidants, what foods to find them in, and how to get the most possible into your diet.
1. Protect against Carbohydrate Oxidation
One of the more interesting facts about antioxidants is that they protect the body from the oxidation that occurs when carbohydrates are digested. Carbohydrates are essentially hydrated carbon atoms, and when they are broken apart during digestion they create free radicals. Researchers have proven that when people drink sugar water, which has no antioxidants, oxidation levels increase. However, when people drink orange juice the oxidation levels do not spike because orange juice naturally has antioxidants to protect against oxidation. This is a good reason to drink 100% juice instead of sugary energy drinks when you need a quick boost.
2. Antioxidant Rich Foods Should Be Eaten at Every Meal
Because digestion produces free radicals, you need to eat antioxidant rich foods at every meal. In fact, you need more antioxidants than you may think just to counteract harmful substances created by digestion. A person who averages 2,500 calories a day needs 11,000 millimoles of antioxidants, and a person who eats on average 1,800 calories a day needs 8,000 millimoles of antioxidants. Most people don’t even eat half this amount! However, without enough antioxidants to counteract digestion, oxidation following digestion can eventually lead to chronic diseases. Therefore, it is important to eat antioxidant rich foods at every meal.
3. Good Food Choices Are Important
You might be wondering how you can get plenty of antioxidants into your diet. It actually is very easy when you make the right choices. For instance, 1 banana has around 1,000 millimoles of antioxidants, but a serving of blueberries has around 8,000 millimoles of antioxidants. One simple switch, and, depending on how many calories you eat a day, you may have already reached the minimum amount needed to counteract digestion! However, you should still eat plenty of antioxidants throughout the day because factors other than digestion cause oxidation. Stressful situations, pollution, and illness produce free radicals, which means you need to eat plenty of foods like berries, black beans, and pomegranates that are high in antioxidants.
4. Antioxidants Can Be Found in Surprising Places
I have no doubt that you know acai berries, Goji berries, and pomegranates are all great sources of antioxidants. These foods can’t be found in every grocery store, but there are more common foods that are high in antioxidants. For example, certain beans have are great sources. Black beans, kidney beans, and lentils all have high levels of antioxidants. Pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds are also antioxidant rich. Even red delicious apples have over 7,000 millimoles of antioxidants! Clearly, you can find antioxidant rich foods in any grocery store, and some of these foods are very inexpensive. This makes it relatively easy for you to get all the antioxidants you need, especially if you eat a lot of plant based foods. There are after all 64 times more antioxidants in plant foods than animal foods.
5. Spices and Herbs Are Great Sources
Ounce for ounce, spices and herbs have some of the highest levels of antioxidants of any food. Adding just a small amount of spices and herbs to your meals can provide a significant boost to the antioxidant content. For instance, adding oregano to a pasta dish with whole wheat noodles, tomato sauce, and broccoli doubles the antioxidant content of the meal! There are other herbs and spices just as powerful. Cinnamon, marjoram, allspice, dried lemon balm, dried peppermint, and cloves have the highest amounts of antioxidants. Having a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon will not only taste good, it will also help you get in all of the antioxidants you need.
6. Antioxidants Can Be Affected by Cooking
Certain cooking methods can deplete antioxidants in foods. Boiling and pressure cooking will result in the most loss, which means you might want to stick to gentler cooking methods. Both steaming and baking are great options for preserving antioxidants. In addition to considering cooking methods, you also want to consider what you are cooking when you are thinking about antioxidants. Bell peppers, for example, lose their antioxidants easily when cooked and are best eaten raw. However, the antioxidant levels in carrots and celery actually increases when they are cooked, which is all the more reason to enjoy a healthy carrot soup for lunch!
7. Antioxidant Activity Increases with Exercise
In 2005, an article was published in the Journal of Exercise Science stating exercise increases oxidation; however, the recovery process actually increases antioxidant levels! If you needed another reason to start exercising, now you know exercise recovery is good for antioxidant levels. To get even more benefit, eating antioxidant rich foods like berries, chocolate, and green leafy vegetables will further increase your antioxidant activity. They will also prevent or greatly diminish any post exercise pain you may experience.
Getting your daily antioxidants should be just as important as getting your daily vitamins and minerals. Fortunately, most foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals are also rich in antioxidants. Blueberries, black beans, and pomegranates are just a few examples of healthy foods that are great sources of antioxidants. What is your favorite food that is high in antioxidants?