Antioxidants have multiple roles in the body and one of the most studied is the ability to reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a natural process and a result of cells doing their jobs, whether that is creating energy, detoxifying the body, digesting food, breathing, thinking, or exercising. If the balance of oxidative stress gets too high it can cause damage to cells. This is where antioxidants come in; they protect your cells, preventing and repairing damage caused by oxidative stress. This balance is what keeps cells healthy and prevents damage that comes along naturally with living and aging.
The best way to increase antioxidants is to eat a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans/lentils, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. These foods include special compounds including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (healthy chemicals found in plants) to support the body. Eating lots of these foods will help you get a balance of different forms of antioxidants.
If you’re deciding between taking antioxidant supplements and focusing on food, there’s a lot to consider. Antioxidant supplements with high concentrations can seem appealing because of the “more is better” mentality. Keep in mind that even though there are proven benefits from consuming antioxidants, many studies that focus on antioxidant supplements have found no benefit to humans, and some have even found worse outcomes. It appears that getting your antioxidants from foods may be the best approach.
When you eat antioxidant rich foods there are many beneficial aspects combined. For example, a blueberry has many nutrients including flavonoids, vitamin C, anthocyanin, vitamin K, and fiber. These compounds work together in a “food matrix” that the body knows how to utilize for health. The whole food approach provides more benefits than a supplement ever could, and often the forms found in foods are often better absorbed than supplements are. My advice is: eat the food! And before you consider supplementing with an individual antioxidant, be sure to speak with your doctor and registered dietitian nutritionist for safety.
Antioxidants are a great way to look younger, stay healthier, and eat delicious, fresh foods. Isn’t it great to find foods to add to your diet that will benefit your health rather than removing them?