Superfood Spotlight: Antioxidants
We often hear that a healthy element of most superfoods is strong antioxidant content. But what are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are compounds that can inhibit oxidation. Oxidation is the chemical process whereby free radicals are created in the human body. Prolonged imbalance of the ratio of free radicals to antioxidants leads to oxidative stress which can cause damage to human DNA thereby resulting in premature aging, cardiovascular damage, and an increase in cancer risk.
Free-radicals are unstable atoms and can be created in the body via prolonged sun exposure, air pollution, cigarette smoke, and poor diet. If we recall high school chemistry, an unstable atom is one that is missing an electron and therefore behaves erratically as it searches for another electron to bond with and stabilize its outer shell.
Powerful dietary antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and flavonoids are best absorbed from a healthy diet rather than supplements. Fruits and vegetables are currently regarded as the best way to take in beneficial antioxidants. In fact, evidence shows that excessive supplement use can actually cause our bodies to create more free radicals.
Some examples of antioxidant superfoods are the curcuminoids in turmeric and the oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil. Other antioxidant rich foods that we can incorporate into our diets on a daily basis are dark chocolate, berries, pecans, spinach, beets and kale – amongst others! In short, you can eat your medicine by consuming a rich array of rainbow-colored foods!
On the other end of the spectrum, foods which can create free-radicals and disease in the body are processed foods such as processed meats, excessive intake of red meats and fried foods. Alcohol and sugar are also culprits.