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Wellness - Oct 20, 2022

Antioxidants: More Than Just Blueberries, Red Wine, and Dark Chocolate (Sorry, Everyone!)

Christian Luera

What is an antioxidant?

In order to better understand what an antioxidant is, it helps to know the definition of oxidation. Oxidation is the loss of electrons. Loss of electrons causes the production of free radicals. Free radicals can cause damage to the body’s cells and tissues. Free radicals are generally thought to be the underlying cause of such diseases as diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and others. So, an “antioxidant” slows down oxidation. Antioxidants help to bring the body back to balance.

What causes oxidation to your body?

Oxidation is a natural part of the body’s normal processes. It is part of what happens when we digest, exercise, get too much sun, and age. But, just like anything else, it should be monitored and not excessive. This means how your body responds to oxidation and what you do about it are important. Food is not just about calories, carbs, protein, and fat. There are many other benefits of choosing the right foods for your health and lifestyle. Antioxidants make sure that we age well, resist disease, and recover from things like sun burns, injuries, infections, and exercise. In order to best manage oxidation, be sure to make antioxidant foods a regular part of your daily eating habits.

So, how many foods that contain antioxidants can you name? Two, three? Read on to learn more and discover a vast variety of foods that contain significant levels of antioxidants, along with some healthy recipes you can try at home.

The main categories of antioxidants are vitamins, A, C, and E, carotenoids, and phenols. Here are some examples of foods within these categories:

Vitamin A:

  • Animal liver and cod liver oil
  • Dark green, yellow, orange, or coral-colored plants (e.g. kale, collard greens, carrots, squash, mangoes, oranges, goji berries, apricots and watermelon)

Vitamin C:

These are very heat sensitive, so eat them raw or very lightly cooked.

  • Red peppers
  • Citrus fruits
  • Leafy greens
  • Berries

Vitamin E:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Whole grains (particularly in the germ portion, like wheat germ)
  • Leafy greens

Carotenoids:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Spirulina
  • Tomatoes
  • Guava
  • Goji berries
  • Salmon
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes

Phenols:

  • Green tea
  • Black tea
  • Cocoa
  • Red wine
  • Berries
  • Herbs and spices (e.g. turmeric, clove, oregano)
  • Vegetables
  • Coffee
  • Olives
  • Extra virgin olive oil

How do you get enough?

To make sure you are getting enough antioxidant-rich foods, include a colorful array of veggies in your eating plan. For the best variety, try to use as any of the items listed above as you can. You may find some new flavors that you like.

What are some good recipes? After clicking on the link, scroll down to find the recipe

As with any new foods, start slow and introduce new things into your eating plan. Make sure your body responds well, then gradually introduce more. Not all foods are appropriate for those wanting to reduce oxidative stress due to other properties of certain foods. Pay attention to your eating habits and needs as a whole and gradually make small adjustments to make them stick. Good luck and happy eating!

Christian Luera is a Master Trainer/Group Exercise Instructor at the PJCC. He has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is a NSCA-certified Personal Trainer. Additionally, he is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach and a Human Kinetics Certified Lifestyle and Wellness Coach. Read Christian Luera’s full PJCC trainer bio here.

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