What are antioxidants? What does they do? Our body converts oxygen to carbon dioxide. This is the basic metabolic process of human body. Oxidant substances, or free radicals, are produced in this process. These oxidants cause cell damage and lead to chronic diseases. Free radicals also result from stress, exposure to the sun or pollution, alcoholic beverages, unhealthy foods, and cigarette smoking. Antioxidants are the soldiers of our body that fight off the free radicals damages. Although body has its own defense against oxidative substances, they become lesser efficient with age. A diet rich in antioxidants can help in fighting body toxins and free radicals.
What are the Sources of Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are found in abundance in beans, grains, fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables with bright colors are the rich sources of antioxidants. Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day can fulfill our needs of antioxidants.
Strawberry: Red plump strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, flavonoids and ellagic acid. They protect against diseases like cancers, cataracts and heart diseases. Strawberry also helps in combating colon cancer cells and inhibiting prostate and breast cancer cells. Vitamin C fights the free radicals. Flavonoids protect the nerve cells from inflammation and thus reduces decline in cognitive functions. Eat them in raw form rather than taking their juice.
Carrot: Carrots have antioxidant beta-carotene that belong to the family of carotenoids. Carotenoids are also present in other yellow and orange foods like mangoes, corn, yellow pepper, apricots, spinach, pumpkin and sweet potato. Beta-carotene in carrots prevents eye degeneration and improves vision, particularly night vision. They also protect cells from free radicals as well as from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Cooked carrots are better than raw ones as the heat breaks down the active compounds in them to be used freely by body.
Tomato: The vine riped tomato have antioxidant lycopene that prevents macular degeneration, cataracts and certain cancers such as that of prostate. Tomatoes also have Vitamin C that boosts the immune system of our body. Body doesn’t produce lycopene and therefore, tomato is its good source. Cooked and raw tomatoes- both are equally beneficial. In fact, raw tomatoes also contain Vitamin A that is destroyed when cooked.
Spinach: Spinach is rich in lutein which protects the eyes from macular degeneration and the retina from sun damage. It also protects against osteoporosis, heart disease, colon cancer, arthritis and many other diseases. Spinach is best when steamed or sauted with olive oil.
Whole Grains: Whole grains like oats and barley have beta glucan that inhibits cholesterol absorption. They also have Vitamin E that prevents cancer. However, white foods made from grains like white flour and white bread are devoid of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Have multi grain bread instead and a bowl of cereals for breakfast with fresh fruits, nuts and raisins.
These were the Top five foods that are the best and the richest sources of antioxidants for ageless beauty and health. To get the list of next top foods rich in antioxidants, read FoodsRich in Antioxidants- Part II. Eat good food and stay healthy.