Why You Should Be Consuming More Antioxidants


April 20, 2017

Every day, harmful molecules, called free radicals, are produced in the body as a result of normal metabolic processes. When you digest food, or when you contract a muscle or burn energy, your body produces free radicals and the build-up of those molecules in the body is believed to increase your risk of cancer and chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Free radicals can also be produced by the breakdown of medicine and the ingestion of pollutants. Hopefully, there is a way to diminish the damage from those compounds and the solution is to eat antioxidants.

What Are Antioxidants?

An antioxidant is a molecule that lowers or eliminates the oxidation capacity of those chemical compounds. Antioxidants help to get rid of free radicals via urine and feces and possess health-protection benefits. Those non-nutritive compounds are found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts.

Why Are Antioxidants Important?

Antioxidants are helpful for the general population as they are beneficial for the overall health.

  • They help maintain a healthy weight
  • Better cardiovascular health
  • Optimal blood glucose control
  • Improve gastro-intestinal health
  • Decrease symptoms of fatigue and tiredness

Why Should Athletes Consume Antioxidants?

Antioxidants have many benefits for athletes and will improve performance on the long term. They also:

  • Have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Boost immunity
  • Shorten recovery process
  • Increase blood flow
  • Increase oxygenation capacity

Sources of Antioxidants:

These are the most common antioxidants found in foods. They hold different antioxidant capacities (prevention of cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood glucose stabilizer, etc.) that is why a variety should be consumed in order to perceive different functional benefits. 

  • Betalains: found in purple-red foods (eg. Beet, red cabbage, Swiss chard)
  • Lycopene: found in red-orange foods (eg. Tomato, red pepper, watermelon)
  • Anthocyanins: found in red-purple foods (eg. Eggplant, radish, red potato)
  • Carotene: found in yellow-orange foods (eg. Carrot, squash)
  • Xanthophylls: found in yellow foods (eg. Pineapple, yellow potato, lemon)
  • Flavonoids: can be found in some plants, namely in green tea and dark chocolate
  • Vitamin C: found in strawberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, etc.
  • Vitamin E: found in avocado, sunflower seed, almond, wheat germ, etc.

How to Get More Antioxidants?

There is not a recommended daily allowance for all antioxidants. Some of them have a recommended daily intake (such as vitamin E and C), but the other antioxidants need to be more researched to be able to precisely determine the ideal intake.

The best way to get antioxidants is from your diet, not from supplements. Supplements often have very high amounts of vitamins and minerals that are too high for you, some can accumulate in your body and become harmful. The amounts commonly found in foods, however, are always safe.

It is quite easy for plant lovers to have enough antioxidants in their diets, however here are a few tips for the others:

  • Have a colorful plate at every meal (incorporate yellow, orange, purple and green foods at most meals)
  • Eat between 7 and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and 8-10 portions of whole grains everyday
  • Fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies at lunch and dinner
  • Include nuts and seeds at snack
  • Try having vegetarian meals 3 times a week or more

 

Marina Parent

Dietitian-nutritionist, dtp.

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