What are Antioxidants and Why Are They Important?

We all have heard of antioxidants, but what exactly are they and why are they so important to good health? In today’s blog, Dr. Trupti Patel clears up any confusion about antioxidants and their influence on your overall health.

Antioxidants are substances that your body makes and that are found in certain foods. They help defend your cells from damage caused by harmful substances called free radicals.  When free radicals accumulate, they may cause a state known as oxidative stress. This may damage your DNA and other important structures in your cells. And when this happens chronically, your risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes goes up.

Fortunately, eating foods rich in antioxidants can help reduce this risk.  There are many foods that are rich in antioxidants. One way to assess which food has more antioxidants than another is by looking at something called the FRAP (ferric reducing ability of plasma). The higher the FRAP, the more antioxidants the food contains.

So, where specifically do you find these antioxidants – meaning which foods? In general, most antioxidants come from fruits and vegetables, some from nuts and whole grain.  In fact, there is increasing evidence that antioxidants are more effective when you get them from whole foods, rather than as a supplement in a tablet form.

Among the vegetables, there are so many, but some of the highest sources of antioxidants are spinach, artichokes, kale, cauliflower, beets, and red cabbage.

Among the fruits, berries are the best options with blackberries having the most antioxidants followed by blueberries, gogi berries, raspberries, and strawberries. Other fruits that can be included are plums and pomegranates. And interestingly, dried fruits are higher in antioxidants, but keep in mind that they also have more calories so eat them in moderation.

And don’t forget about nuts and seeds. In this category, walnuts and pecans have the highest antioxidants, followed by pistachios and chestnuts. Some of the seeds include sesame seeds and ground flaxseed.

And how about spices and herbs?  They are full of health benefits and have essential ingredients that elevate the taste and flavors or so many foods.  So, use plenty of mint, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, oregano, and basil to reap the benefits of antioxidants in these foods.

And last, but not least, don’t forget about dark chocolate, green tea, and even coffee.

So, the bottom line is antioxidants are essential for good health.  Get them by eating a variety of foods. Eat the rainbow – meaning include different colors of fruits and vegetables. Use those wonderful herbs and spices to flavor up foods. Have a cup of green tea in the afternoon. And add some nuts and seed to your salad or morning oatmeal or yogurt.

At Physicians Premier Weight Loss and Wellness, we love helping you navigate healthy eating with foods the nourish your entire body while promoting weight loss.  If you are ready to get started on your journey to a healthier you, reach out to us.  My team and I look forward to meeting you soon!

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