A key ingredient to improving your fitness and living a healthy life is antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are produced by the process of oxidation. Oxidation is a normal part of your body’s processes but can also damage your body.
Antioxidants can prevent damage to your cells and repair the damage already done. They can also improve your immune functions and reduce your risk of infection. Antioxidants also have been shown to reduce the damage done by exposure to certain harmful chemicals such as cigarette smoke and pesticides.
It’s important to make sure you’re getting enough antioxidants through diet or supplements. Even though our bodies naturally produce antioxidants and are quite effective at fighting free radicals this production generally slows down with age so as we get older it’s doubly important to make sure that we’re eating a healthy diet.
Foods that are rich in nutrients such as beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium are excellent sources of antioxidants. Some great sources of antioxidants are:
- Berries – Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries are among the best sources of antioxidants.
- Nuts – Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and pecans are known for being packed with antioxidant content.
- Fruits – Apples are high in antioxidants along with pineapple, avocados and cherries.
- Dark chocolate – As high or higher than almost any other food, dark chocolate is a great source of antioxidants.
Eating foods high in antioxidants also provide many other health benefits. In addition to their antioxidant content, these foods are often high in fiber and protein as well as other important vitamins and minerals.
If you’re not always eating a healthy diet you can get antioxidant supplements in herbal or natural form. Keep in mind that even though you may be taking vitamins that contain antioxidants, your focus should be to remain on a healthy diet.
Eating foods that are high in antioxidants is preferable to taking supplements because supplements generally contain only a few specific types of antioxidants while foods can contain hundreds or even thousands of different types. We know the value of many of these antioxidants but we don’t know all of them.
If you’re concerned about boosting your intake of antioxidants, the smart money bet seems to be to pass on the supplements and to start adding more foods that are known to be rich in antioxidants to your diet.
As always, talk to your doctor about a healthier diet and whether antioxidant supplements are right for you.