Beware of the Free Radical
The reason the body needs antioxidants is because of a tiny molecule called a free radical. Free radicals are created in our systems when our life brings us in contact with dangerous particles, these particles cause something called oxidative stress. They can come from anywhere (and everywhere), but they generally get introduced into the body by way of pesticides sprayed on food, chemical additives in processed food, pollution/smoking and chemicals in cleaners and body care products. Free radicals can also be made within the body as a result of inflammation, stress or normal metabolism. Because they are ever present, your options are to go live in a bubble OR increase your antioxidant intake.
Balancing oxidative stress with antioxidants can improve your health on many different levels; including fighting diseases like cancer, protecting brain and memory integrity, as well as playing a part in slowing the aging process. Sounds pretty good – and it is pretty easy too – start by increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Then include nuts. Lastly, try some chocolate…oh, doing that already? Great! Now for the Top 10 Best Antioxidant Rich Foods.
Antioxidants themselves are either a nutrient (vitamin or mineral) or an enzyme that aids in the chemical reactions within the body. Foods that are the best antioxidants usually contain unique compounds such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and tannins.
ORAC stands for “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” and refers to how powerful an antioxidant food is. Cooking will lower the ORAC score, so it is important to eat the items listed fresh or lightly cooked, as the longer you cook it the lower the score will go.
Describes how the unique compounds have added benefit to specific systems or parts of the body. The foods listed here are not all the highest on the ORAC scale, but are considered the “best” because they are easiest to include in your diet.
- Acai Fruit/102,700 - aids in weight loss, high in omega 3's, more protein than an egg
- Cocoa powder/55,653 - heart health, positive mood, regulates blood pressure
- Pecans/17,940 - promotes healthy cell growth and reduces inflammation, increases immunity
- Lentils/7,282 - boosts metabolism which aids in weight loss, reduces inflammation, high in iron
- Artichokes/6,552 - lowers cholesterol, balances blood sugar, improves liver function and is a digestive aid
- Raspberry/5,065 - high in fibre, helps control blood pressure
- Red wine/4,523 - reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, improves brain function
- Granny smith apple/3,898 - resistance against infections (cold and flu), good for digestion and weight loss
- Collard greens/3.145 - controls cholesterol, immune modulator, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties
- Beets/1,776 - reduces risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease
Cheryl Wahl, RHN, CPCC, Personal Trainer