It is hard to walk through the grocery store without seeing something that says, “high in antioxidants” on the packaging. We all assume that must be a great thing since it is on the front of the box, bag or label… but what *really* are antioxidants? And better yet… Why are antioxidants important?

To understand antioxidants, it is important to understand free radicals and free radical damage, known as oxidative stress.  


Free Radicals: 

Every day our bodies/ cells face threats from many things. One constant threat are substances called free radicals. These come in many different shapes and sizes. While some free radicals are produced by our bodies when we are turning food into energy, they can also be formed after working out or after exposure to sunlight, pollution, cigarette smoke, or other environmental irritants. 

When we have too many free radicals, they cause oxidative stress, which can damage cells or lead to chronic diseases. These high levels of free radicals have been associated with things like diabetes, lung disease, cognitive decline and heart disease. 

Maintaining a healthy balance of free radicals and antioxidants is important for overall health and healthy aging.



This is where antioxidants come into play. Our bodies do have built-in defenses against free radicals, but we can also get antioxidants from the food we eat. 

Antioxidant-rich foods feed the free radicals electrons, instead of them searching for electrons in our bodies. The antioxidants also repair DNA and help maintain the health of our cells. 

Of the many substances that act as antioxidants, the most common are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene and manganese. 

The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods. Things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are often high in antioxidants, as well as other things like fiber, vitamins and minerals.  

To boost your antioxidant intake try including a fruit or vegetable every time you eat, snack on unsalted nuts throughout the day and try making your plate colorful! A plate that is mostly beige is more than likely low in antioxidants. 


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