Friday, October 4, 2013

Antioxidants: What Are They?

Our body’s cells are involved in an ceaseless fight against the damaging effects of free radicals.  These unstable molecules can cause damage to cells and DNA, leading to the development of chronic diseases. Free radicals naturally occur in the body from the breakdown of food and antioxidants can play an important role in protecting our healthy cells from these hazardous effects. Research suggests that increased intake of antioxidants can decrease risk of cancer, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration.

The body has a unique ability to make antioxidants in times of need and stress. These specific types of antioxidants aren't as effective at protecting our cells as those found in dietary sources, which makes a healthy lifestyle so important (National Cancer Institute, 2013). Plant foods are rich in a variety of these powerful compounds, including: fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Dietary antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A and C. There are tons of articles and blogs reaping the benefits associated with flavonoids in green tea and resveratrol in red wine. In fact, it is the pigments in antioxidants that provide fruits and vegetables with their beautiful, vibrant colors. Current recommendations made by the American Heart Association include 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 

There is conflicting evidence on the effect of antioxidants on decreased risk of chronic disease. This topic of interest is something to be investigated further to conclude the relationship; however, several studies encourage the intake of antioxidants as protection against destructive free radicals in the body. It is evident that a diet filled with whole, plant foods- fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain numerous beneficial nutrients that act synergistically to protect our bodies from diseases such as, cancer, heart disease, and age-related macular degeneration. Those at risk for these conditions should follow a diet that is aligned with the current recommendations and Dietary Guidelines

 Try my recipe for a Citrus Edamame Salad that's bursting with colorful antioxidants!

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