There seems to be a lot of confusion around antioxidant benefits, antioxidant rich foods and antioxidant supplements. So what are antioxidants? And what do antioxidants do?
Antioxidants are naturally occurring, anti-aging nutrients found in all plants. But the best sources for antioxidant rich foods, by far, are organically grown fresh fruits and vegetables.
The benefits of antioxidants from food, or a good quality natural antioxidant supplement, give you anti-aging protection from degenerative diseases and help to slow down the aging process of your skin, cells, tissues and organs. This means staying younger longer with better health.
Antioxidant benefits include protecting your cells from oxidative damage. They provide
• Anti-aging of cells and overall body,
• Greatly reduced incidence of all cancers,
• Glaucoma and macular degeneration prevention,
• Reduced risk of cholesterol-oxidation and heart disease,
• Stronger immunity and resistance to flues, viruses and infections.
The main anti-aging antioxidants found in antioxidant rich foods include vitamins A, C and E, the minerals selenium and zinc and the complete family of carotenoid phytonutrient.
What Do Antioxidants Do & How Do they Work
Although breathing oxygen is essential to life, oxygen can also be your worst enemy. It starts a process in your body called oxidation, which is the formation of free radicals.
The oxidation of metal is a good example. Iron gets old and rusty, old aluminum is bleached an ugly white and copper turns an "aged" green. Something similar happens when your body is exposed to light, air and poor nutrition.
Free radical oxidation damage is the primary cause of aging (rust and corrosion). It's as harmful and destructive to your body and brain as corrosion is to your car.
Just think of antioxidants as human “Rust-Oleum.”
So antioxidants keep free radicals from ravaging your body and stealing the life from your cells. The carotenoid phytonutrients actually sacrifice themselves for your well-being.
The more phytonutrients in your bloodstream, the healthier you'll be.
What are the Best Antioxidant Rich Foods?
Since antioxidant benefits are so important to your health, the Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University measured the total antioxidant phytonutrient protection power of various foods. Colorful carotenoid rich vegetables and fruits came out at the top of the list.
The highest-ranking, healthiest vegetables from the list of vegetables are broccoli, kale, spinach and other dark greens, Brussels sprouts, beets, red peppers, carrots and tomatoes.
And the highest-ranking, healthiest fruits from the list of fruit are blueberries, raspberries and other berries, oranges, pink grapefruit, apricots, plums, peaches, red grapes and papaya.
But here's the main problem. Hardly anyone gets enough fresh fruits and vegetables today.
The most "popular" are bananas, iceberg lettuce and French-fried potatoes, all of which contain very little antioxidant activity. And none of these are on the Tufts antioxidant list.
How to Choose the Best Antioxidant Supplement
Antioxidant supplements are equally problematic. The most commonly used ingredients in the most aggressively marketed phytonutrient antioxidant supplements are pine bark (pycnogenol), sea algae, milk thistle, gingo biloba, quercetin, grape seed extract and alpha lipoic acid.
Plus, there are many high-sugar fruit drinks that make outrageous antioxidant claims.
And you won’t find any of these aggressively hype-marketed ingredients on the list of recommended antioxidants from the Human Nutrition Research Center, Tufts or the USDA.
When shopping for a natural antioxidant supplement, ask yourself one simple question, “Can I find these ingredients at a salad bar, the grocery store or at a fruit and vegetable stand?” If your answer is “no,” then keep on looking for a natural, human food, safe and effective source.
And while you’re at it, eat more healthy antioxidant rich organic fruits and vegetables.
For my highest recommendation of the best natural antioxidant supplement, be sure to check out the in-depth scientific research studies found at the carotenoid website.
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Note: The information contained on this website is not intended to be prescriptive. Any attempt to diagnose or treat an illness should come under the direction of a physician who is familiar with nutritional therapy.