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5 Impressive Health Benefits of Antioxidants You Should Know


written by Dr. Christine Bishara, MD - Sep 6, 2021

Photo Credit: by Chen Mizrach, Unsplash.com
Photo Credit: by Chen Mizrach, Unsplash.com

Antioxidants are frequently spoken about in health and wellness, but what exactly are they and why do they play such a vital role in our overall health?

To simplify, we will need a quick refresher course of simple chemistry. Our body is constantly processing different cell functions throughout the day. This includes the detoxification process required to remove certain harmful substances or infections that cause damage to cells, leading to “oxidative stress.” The byproduct of oxidative stress leads to the release of free radicals.

Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that circulate in our bodies with an uneven number of electrons. This uneven number makes free radicals more easily react and hence, interfere with chemical reactions that are going on in our bodies--leading to damage to our cells.

Free radicals are inevitable and we all have them to a certain degree, but it’s important to have as little as possible to avoid damage to our cells.

Free radicals are increased in:

1-Diets high in sugar

2-Fried and highly processed foods

3-Alcohol consumption

4-Smoking

5-Environmental toxins

What can we do to help limit this inevitable damage? Enter antioxidants...Since free radicals are unstable because of the uneven number of electrons they carry, antioxidants act as “stable donors” , donating electrons to the free radicals floating around making them “even'' and less reactive.

What happens if we don’t have enough antioxidants? The unstable reactions from the free radicals lead to more damage to cells. Free radicals have also been implicated as leading causes of cancer.

By far, the best way to obtain antioxidants is to get them from the foods we eat. This helps us make antioxidants, while also providing antioxidants from the actual food sources.

There are two types of antioxidants:

Endogenous antioxidants - Those made by your body. They include Glutathione, Alpha lipoic acid, Coenzyme Q, among others.

Exogenous antioxidants - these are the antioxidants we obtain from our diet and certain supplements. These include Vitamins C, E and A, among others.

Plant based foods are rich in antioxidants. The best known plant based antioxidants are carotenoids and polyphenols.

Foods rich in Polyphenols include berries and the rule of thumb is that the richer the color, the higher the content. Blueberries are known to be quite antioxidant-rich . Other foods include spinach, broccoli, and olives.

Foods rich in carotenoids include asparagus, peppers, oranges and sweet potatoes.

An easy way to increase your antioxidant levels is to aim to have at least 70% of your meals plant based. Making a fruit smoothie is also a great way to not only get your recommended fiber allowance but to get that rainbow of polyphenols and carotenoids. Smoothies don’t have to be complicated. It's always best to have frozen organic fruits on hand along with fresh fruit in season. Adding a handful of spinach and celery makes it even more robust.

There are also a few ways you can decrease the free radical load in your body. Here are my top 5 ways to decrease circulating free radicals:

1-Start Intermittent Fasting.

If you’re new at this, start by eating during a 14 hour period and then limiting the time slowly over subsequent weeks. Always check with your doctor before you start your fasting journey.

2-Eliminate processed foods from your diet.

These have preservatives that disturb your gut microbiome, not only leading to disturbance in the gut lining but can, over time, lead to gut inflammation.

3-Limit alcohol intake.

Another big gut disruptor as it kills beneficial bacteria, but it also depletes your liver of many antioxidants involved in the detoxification process including Glutathione--the mother of all antioxidants.

4-FIBER FIBER FIBER

Fiber rich foods not only increase your antioxidant levels, but they also serve as prebiotics- the food your gut microbes need to keep your gut healthy.

5-Hydrate

The faster your blood flows, the faster your body can eliminate toxins. Drink at least 6 glasses of water daily. This makes a huge difference and you will see it in your skin and in the amount of energy you have.

If You want to assure you're getting enough antioxidants, you can also supplement.

Here are a few good supplements I recommend to help get more antioxidants

Emergen C

Coenzyme Q10

Nutrazul

While taking modest doses of antioxidant supplements has been shown to be beneficial, high dose supplementation has not. You're always better off getting your antioxidants by eating the rainbow- by consuming a variety of plant-based foods that are diverse and colorful.

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