Antioxidants: Buzzword or Buzz-worthy?
BY ABBY PRATT, CHOP5 NUTRITION BLOGGER
You may see products advertised that they are “high in antioxidants” but what does that really mean? Is it just a marketing buzz word or something we should be trying to get into our diet?
First, let’s go over what they actually are. Antioxidants are substances that slow or prevent damage to cells by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that are results of chemical reactions inside the body. When they build up, they can cause damage to cells. Excessive free radicals contribute to chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease, cognitive issues and vision loss. A certain amount of free radicals can be healthy for your immune system but antioxidants help to keep them in check.
Research suggests that natural sources of antioxidants, such as berries and dark greens, are much more effective than supplemental antioxidant products that are on the market. The reason for this is because antioxidants work best in combination with other nutrients, plant chemicals and other antioxidants. So, if a product is claiming to be high in antioxidants it may not be worth the hype or money. What is worth it, is eating a balanced diet and getting your antioxidants from a variety of natural sources.
Antioxidant is kind of a blanket term. It mainly refers to the substances’ chemical ability to act as an electron donor. Why would we want substances in our body that can act as electron donors? These helpful substances give up one of their own electrons to help neutralize unstable free radicals in your body. Some well-known antioxidants include:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- And many more!
Okay, I don’t know about you, but those “sciencey” words above do not mean much to me. So, what foods can we eat to get those antioxidants into our life? Here is a list of 13 antioxidant rich foods (in no particular order).
- Dark chocolate
- Berries (blueberries, blackberries raspberries, strawberries, cranberries)
- Red Cabbage
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)
So, what is the verdict? Do you need to go out and purchase seven pomegranates on this week’s grocery trip? Probably not. A more likely course of action would be to add in one or two of these foods above to your balanced diet. The key to keeping your body working to its fullest potential is to fuel it with variety and nutrients. Head to CHOP5 Salad Kitchen to build an antioxidant packed chopped salad this week, either in person or online! Might I suggest kale, spinach, dried cranberries, strawberries, artichoke hearts, pecans and strawberry balsamic dressing.
Live well, Eat well, Chop well!