We are always talking about how important it is to eat our fruits and vegetables. The higher in antioxidants it claims to have, the more include that food into our diet. But do we stop to think about what an “antioxidant” is and how it actually helps protect our body? Here is a short list of some of the most used terms connected with the power of particular foods.
Antioxidant: A molecule that prevents free radicals from damaging healthy cells
Free Radicals: Atoms with at least one unpaired electron that may cause cancer, heart disease, DNA damage and aging.
Anthocyanin: A red-blue flavonoid that varies in color by pH; there are at least 550
Flavonoid: Usually colorful plant chemicals with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects; there are over five thousand of them. Flavonoids belong to the polyphenol family.
Catechin: A flavonoid in tea and chocolate
Phenols: A class of plant chemicals that includes polyphenols, flavonoids, and capsaicin
Polyphenols: Chemicals such as flavonoids and tannins, responsible for the coloring and protection of some plants and that fight heart disease and cancer.
Phytonutrient: A nutrient found in a plant.
Phytochemical: A chemical found in a plant.
Quercetin: A flavonoid with anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects.
Antioxidants come in several forms, including the vitamins A, C, and E; plant-derived polyphenols, found in colorful fruits and vegetables; and also the element selenium, found in nuts and broccoli.
So where do free radicals come from? According to K. Sandeep Prabhu, of Penn State, “Some are created as a natural by-product of reactions in our cells. Other sources of free radicals include cigarette smoke, air pollution, and exposure to UV light or radiation. And once free radicals are formed, they can make more free radicals by scavenging electrons from other molecules, “creating a domino effect,” he adds.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals either by providing the extra electron needed to make the pair, or by breaking down the free radical molecule to render it harmless. “Antioxidants stop the chain reaction of free radical formation and benefit our health by boosting our immune system ,” explains Prabhu. (http://www.rps.psu.edu/probing/antioxidants.html)
Makes a little more sense now when you read something like this: Apples are loaded with the powerful antioxidants quercetin and catechin, which protect cells from damage - that means a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease, especially if you eat the skin. Research shows that the apple peel contains five times more polyphenols than the flesh.
Make an Antioxidant Berry Smoothie for breakfast
¾ cup berries of choice
½ c. yogurt
½ c. water
1 tab. Ground flaxseed
1 scoop organic whey protein powder
Small handful of spinach leaves
Put all ingredients in blender, pulse until smooth, and enjoy!