What exactly are anti-oxidants?

September 30, 2018

 

You’ve heard about antioxidants and phytochemicals, but what are they really?

Phytochemicals are dietary antioxidants that protect against inflammation, which can lead to diseases such as heart disease and cancer¹. Inflammation is actually a protective process our body uses to help us get rid of infection or to heal. However, chronic inflammation can lead to autoimmune disease (disease where the immune system attacks itself) and can also be the underlying cause of disease such as Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes². You’re probably thinking, “I’m young! I don’t have to worry about these diseases yet. I’M INVINCIBLE”. News flash: No, you’re not. Chronic diseases don’t happen overnight. They take a while to form (key word-chronic). Phytochemicals protect against oxidative damage by self-sacrificing themselves to protect living tissue¹. How sweet, huh? The most abundant types of phytochemicals contained in fruits and vegetables are vitamin C, carotenoids, and phenolic compounds. Vitamin C containing foods include papaya, guava, cantaloupe, strawberries, honeydew melon and kiwi. Carotenoids are found in foods that are orange or yellow such as mango, plantain, and apricots. Phenolic compounds are in highly colored fruit like blueberries and cherries¹. Moral of the story: eat your colors.

This featured smoothie is chock full of antioxidants as it contains blueberries and cherries. I like to add a little protein powder to my smoothies to make them a little more filling. And why not throw in some greens for extra nutrients?? Easy way to get your veggies in. Here’s my recipe:

Chocolate Tart Smoothie

  • 1/2 cup frozen berries (I blended blueberries and cherries)

  • 1/2 cup almond milk

  • 1 cup chopped greens (I prefer to use kale or spinach)

  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (you can use unsweetened cocoa powder instead)

Blend all ingredients in a blender and enjoy!

References

¹Brown, A. (2008). Understanding Food: Principles and Preparation (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson HIgher Education.

²Moore, M. Inflammation and Diet. September, 2014. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/wellness/preventing-illness/inflammation-and-diet

 

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