The Radical Powers of Natural Antioxidants

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Last week, we talked about the best ways to perfect your summertime routine. As mentioned, sometimes we can overdo it, whether that be through drinking or simply having too much fun in the sun! Not only does that wear us out, it harms our cells too.

Getting too much sun exposure, consuming fried or processed foods and smoking tobacco all lead to an accumulation of what are known as free radicals. Free radicals are the unpaired electrons floating around in our body. While freely floating, they begin to damage other cells. Having an abundance of these in our bodies can lead to oxidative stress. This term essentially means that there is an imbalance of free radicals in the body. This imbalance and damage can ultimately play a role in the development of chronic diseases and autoimmune conditions. Luckily, there is a way to prevent this from happening: antioxidants.

Who and what are they exactly? You can think of it this way: anti means against and oxidation refers to the chemical processes damaging cells. Antioxidants help our bodies fight against the everyday stressors our bodies endure. How amazing!

Antioxidants are found in so many foods, especially plants (thank you Mother Nature!). Luckily, the warm weather is the perfect time for heading to the local farmers market, grabbing some fresh produce and trying out new recipes.

Here’s my go-to list of the most powerful antioxidants and where to find them:

Vitamin A & Beta-Carotene

  • Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for skin and eye health and has anti-cancer properties. Beta-carotene, another antioxidant, is a precursor to Vitamin A. That means it gets converted to Vitamin A once it is in our systems.

    • Think any fruits or veggies that are orange, red and yellow / or brightly colored! Carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash… even the dark leafy greens. A kale or spinach salad with roasted veggies would be a wonderful dinner option to get a boost of Vitamin A.

Vitamin E

  • Healing is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of this antioxidant. You’ll notice that many skincare products incorporate this, and with good reason! It is anti-inflammatory and supports the immune system.

    • Sunflower seeds, almonds and avocados are great sources of this antioxidant. You can snack on them as is, or toss them into your salad! These are a wonderful source of healthy omegas as well.

Selenium

  • This nutrient is essential for thyroid and cognitive function, as well as fertility!

    • Brazil nuts are one of the best foods to eat when looking for selenium. Grab a few as a snack on the go! Yellowfin tuna and shrimp are also high in this antioxidant. Looking for another protein source other than fish? Organic turkey and chicken can give you a nice boost in selenium, too!

Vitamin C

  • We all know about this one - immunity, immunity, immunity!

    • Yes, oranges are a pretty good source. But did you know that red bell peppers, broccoli and strawberries are all comparable (even higher!) in terms of Vitamin C content? Who knew! Start your day off with a fruit salad of sliced berries and citrus, then end it with some veggie fajitas to get your daily dose.

Resveratrol

  • This powerful compound is wonderful for anti-aging and even heart health.

    • You can find resveratrol in dark berries and, wait for it… red wine! Just make sure that you choose an organic, clean brand and of course, drink in moderation. That means about two 5 oz. glasses for men and one 5 oz. glass for women in one sitting. Aim for no more than 7 drinks per week!

Glutathione

  • This potent antioxidant is a game-changer, and is known as the Master Antioxidant. It is excellent for the immune system and has even been shown to improve symptoms of both Parkinson’s and liver disease. 

    • Look for foods like avocados, spinach and okra, which are rich in glutathione. Additionally, Vitamin C and selenium both play a role in the production of this compound. So make sure to get those in, too!

Lycopene, zinc and polyphenols are just a few more antioxidants to add to the list! Although there are many, when in doubt, you can reach for fruits and veggies of the darkest and most varied colors (eat the rainbow!) to increase your daily intake. Not only will you be getting that punch of antioxidants, it will give you a greater variety of nutrients and help diversify your gut microbiome - all of which are essential for optimal health and wellness.

Lana Butner