Antioxidants: Things You May Already Know And Some Things You Probably Don’t!
Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by free radicals. What’s a free radical you ask? A free radical is a harmful molecule that causes damage to the body’s cells and may contribute to aging. Some experts believe that this damage also plays a role in the development of some diseases including atherosclerosis and cancer. Free radicals come from a variety of sources. They come about naturally as by-products of normal body processes or when certain medications are metabolized. You are also exposed to free radicals through pollutants in the air. A useful metaphor to understand antioxidants and free radical damage is to think of the paint on an old car. As the paint is exposed to the elements, it slowly breaks down or becomes oxidized and you can see the effects of the oxidation in the way the finish looks faded and dull. Think of free radical damage as having a similar oxidative effect on your cells, and antioxidants as protection from that damage which happens on a continuous basis through daily living. Vitamin C and vitamin E are considered antioxidants as is the mineral selenium and plant based nutrients known as flavonoids. Of course, eating lots of fruits and vegetables are a good source of these antioxidants. Berries in particular are high in antioxidants (especially blackberries and blueberries). Also notably high in antioxidants are apples, plums, prunes, grapes, raisins, oranges, peaches, mangoes, melons, and artichoke hearts. Walnuts and pecans are also high in antioxidants and of course dark chocolate is famously high in antioxidants. But there are also many culinary herbs that are incredibly potent antioxidants, so the more of these herbs you add to your food the better! Many of them have other added benefits as well. Some examples of antioxidant herbs that do double duty…
- Cloves have antimicrobial properties and are the strongest of all the antioxidant culinary herbs
- Cinnamon is a potent antioxidant and also helps metabolize sugar
- Oregano has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and can speed up the production of white blood cells
- Turmeric and ginger are potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herbs