Antioxidants help protect our cells from oxidative stress. Think of it as putting lemon juice on apple slices to keep them from turning brown.
Here we are in the last days of Heart Month and there's one more thing we should all be incorporating into our diets to support a healthy heart—antioxidants.
Antioxidants help to reduce internal inflammation, which is key to creating optimal health as inflammation is the root cause of nearly all disease. Both Dr. Roger Rinn and Dr. Nicholas Perricone address this in their books, “Harnessing the Healing Power of Fruit” and “The Perricone Promise” respectively.
So what are antioxidants really? Antioxidants are molecules that help protect cells from free radical damage. Free radicals, or oxidants, are molecules that have unpaired electrons (electrons are better in pairs) and often come from a variety of sources, including environmental toxins, processed foods, tissue trauma, chronic stress, excess weight gain, disease, etc.
Left unchecked, they cause damage to other cells, effectively speeding up the aging process. Which, in turn speeds up the things-are-not-working-so-good-anymore process. There are however, things we can do to reduce the inflammation and oxidative stress and help slow down this process.
Here’s a simple analogy. Think of your cells like an apple. When you cut the apple in half and it’s exposed to the air, it oxidizes, starts to slowly decompose and turn brown. But if you were to take that same apple and put some lemon juice on the exposed parts, the process is dramatically slowed down and the apple stays fresher longer. Think of antioxidants as the lemon juice for your cells.
Antioxidants are found primarily in deep richly coloured fruits and vegetables. And because antioxidant-rich foods have been associated with improved heart health, it’s important we take in enough on a regular basis. The more times you can get colours on your plate, the better off you are.
In fact, experts are now saying we should be eating close to 15 servings of fruits and veggies per day in order to take all the enough vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients our bodies need.
I can't speak for any of you out there, but even my vegan daughter and vegetarian daughter don't eat that many servings on a daily basis. Fortunately, antioxidants can also be supplemented. I take mine daily as part of my health regimen and I recommend my clients do the same.
If you're in the market to bolster up your antioxidant levels, here's what I look for when choosing a supplement:
1. Whenever possible, liquid form is the best choice. It's less processed than powder or pills and is more readily available to be absorbed and used by your body. The faster and more efficient something can be absorbed and used by the body, the greater its bio-availability.
2. The product is sourced from quality ingredients – wild, organic and non-gmo is would be optimal.
3. Products should be free from refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, fillers and things you can't pronounce. Unless, of course, it's something like ashwaganda root for example. Difficult to say but a potent natural anti-inflammatory. The sugars and artificial sweeteners are easy to say, but end up creating a bunch of complications with the massive amounts of inflammation they bring into the body.
If you're not already consuming them, incorporating foods like wild blueberries (up to 10 times higher antioxidant levels than the common blueberry), grapes, including the skin and seeds, red berries, especially raspberries and strawberries, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes, carrots, nuts, green tea (especially Japanese matcha), beans, and fish all contain antioxidant properties and help to lower your body's internal inflammation.
They also help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and manage weight, all of which reduce your risk for heart disease.
For more heart-healthy tips, recipes and supplement recommendations, join the 8 Weeks is All it Takes group on Facebook.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.