By Lauren Scott, Arizona Farm Bureau Intern
We’ve all heard about antioxidants, but just to refresh your memory: according to familydoctor.org, “Antioxidants are natural substances that may stop or limit the damage caused by free radicals.” Free radicals, we’re told, are created by oxidation in the body. They are created naturally, but can also be caused by things like cigarette smoke, alcohol, and pollution. If left over a long period of time, free radicals can eventually, but not always, lead to DNA damage, cell damage, and damage to chemicals in the body.
This is where antioxidants come in. They’re designed to protect and defend your body against bad stuff. And, the best way to absorb these awesome little defenders is to eat right.
Antioxidants can be natural or man-made, but most people are used to, or more familiar with, the ones found in certain foods. Many fresh fruits and vegetables carry antioxidants like beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A and C; and dark fruits and veggies are a little more likely to have antioxidants in them than their lighter counterparts. The antioxidants in the fruits and vegetables are actually what cause them to have a darker pigment. Fruits like blackberries, blueberries, dark grapes, and red berries a super-duper rich in antioxidants. (And they are all very tasty too!) If you are looking to find veggies that are antioxidant packed, try any that are dark green or dark in color.
Different fruits and vegetables have different types of antioxidants in them, and some contain two, three, or even four antioxidants. Kale, pumpkins, beets, carrots, spinach, and apricots all contain beta-carotene. Berries, watermelons, strawberries, cauliflower, and kiwis all contain vitamin C. Broccoli, cantaloupe, tomatoes, nectarines, and sweet potatoes contain both!
Antioxidants are beneficial to everything in the body from skin health to keeping the immune system healthy and supported. According to WebMD: “Many dermatologists believe that the major antioxidants can help decrease the risk of sun and other environmental damage by disarming wrinkle-causing “free radicals.” In the end, all this antioxidant stuff goes right back to the whole ‘free radical’ thing.
Regardless, Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Whether or not you are particularly concerned with free radicals and antioxidants, keeping your body healthy should be your number-one priority. It’s always a good idea to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables no matter the reason because they provide the nutrients and hydration your body needs to keep running. Fighting free radicals is just a plus.