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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Antioxidants

Today I am thinking about terms that you hear so much that you think you know what they are but perhaps if you think about it you are not sure.

What Is an Antioxidant?

Since I am not a doctor nor a dietician,  I have turned to the internet for the answer.  This is a dicey proposition (a bit of a reliability issue...) but since the sources I found all agree, I think I am on safe ground here. 

An antioxidant is a substance (vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient) that seems to protect your cells against free radicals.

A Free Radical?  Is that some kind of dirty hippy? 

When your body breaks down food or even oxygen, there is an internal by-product which is called a free radical.  They are like the Styrofoam peanuts that come with your new plates.  They are great when they are part of the package but when you have the plates out, they are all over making a mess. Free radicals are blamed for lowering your immune system and can play a part in chronic diseases like diabetes, arteriosclerosis, cancer and arthritis. 

So these free radicals are wandering through your body looking to be loved and feeling sorry for themselves.  They are like a 3 year old throwing a tantrum.  Along come antioxidants and they envelop the free radical in love so it doesn't have to be alone any more.  Ahhhhh...

Where do I find Antioxidants?

The most commonly known antioxidants are Vitamin A and Carotenoids, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium and Zinc.  Which is easy to follow if you are up on your vitamins and minerals.  (Which shockingly enough, I am not)  To find the foods that contain these vitamins and minerals, your first stop is in the produce aisle of the grocery store.  Think color.  Think reds, yellows, greens, purple, and orange.  Go with apples, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, squash, broccoli, berries, red grapes, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and peaches.  Then you can move to the whole grains, nuts and seeds, and dairy products.  Finally, you can visit the meat aisle and check out beef, chicken, and seafood. 

Gee, this is beginning to look like eating a balanced diet....  Remember the idea of dinner plate division?  The concept of 1/4 protein (beef, chicken, seafood), 1/4 starch (whole grains), and half vegetables?  Add a glass of skim milk and you are hugging those free radicals and improving your immune system. 

Ahhh...

Can I just take a pill?

Really?  What are you eating?  The answer is that you can take a pill but it is not as effective for your overall health.  You also have to be careful taking individual supplements.  For example, Vitamin A is stored in your body so if you take too much in a pill form, it can be toxic.  The foods mentioned have other nutrients that help your body so it is best to follow what your Mother always told you - eat your fruits and vegetables.

Thanks for reading!