We’ve all been down the path where we struggle to eat clean, have a relapse, feel the guilt, and then go back to starting over trying to eat healthier. While this happens to the best of us, it is wise to choose which foods in particular you’re adding to your diet when trying to eat cleaner. Some foods have natural properties that act as “cleansers” for the body, and this in turn can prove very beneficial to improve heart health. One such property or compound, found most commonly in fruits and vegetables, is known as “antioxidants”.
Here, we lay out a brief introduction to what antioxidants are and highlight some of the health benefits that come with it.
What are Antioxidants?
An antioxidant can be defined as substances occurring naturally or artificially, present in low concentrations compared to that of an oxidisable substrate and is able to significantly delay or inhibits the oxidation of that substrate. The physiological role of antioxidants is to prevent damage to cellular components arising due to chemical reactions involving free radicals.
A free radical can be defined as any molecular species capable of independent existence that contains an unpaired electron. These are highly reactive and can either donate an electron to or extract an electron from other molecules, therefore behaving as oxidants or reductants, and might cause potential harm to cellular functions. The sources of free radicals in our body are environmental pollutants, UV rays, smoke, stress etc.
These free radicals can then lead to “oxidative stress”, an excess of which can alter and cause damage to your cells, subsequently creating more serious health problems such as cardiovascular diseases. Oxidative stress is when the number of free radicals are more than the number of antioxidants and the free radicals react with other molecules in the body, leading to cell damage. This is where antioxidants come in. Their benefits are many, the most significant of them being that they counter oxidative stress and reduce the risk of heart diseases.
What are the Benefits of Antioxidants?
There are several antioxidants benefits that include protecting the body against factors that contribute to cardiovascular diseases. Let’s learn a little more about each of these factors:
- Cholesterol and Oxidative Stress: Free radicals can impact cholesterol levels through oxidation and this can result in the formation of what is known as “Cholesterol Oxidation Product” or COPs. COPs are very harmful for the body and can lead to serious, chronic health issues, including that of the heart. Natural antioxidant foods can help inhibit cholesterol oxidation.
- Diabetes and Oxidative Stress: People with diabetes can experience more complications when combined with oxidative stress that interferes with insulin production. Consuming antioxidant foods can minimise these complications.
- Premature Ageing of Heart and Oxidative Stress: A consequence of oxidative stress is that it progressively degenerates functions/structure of the tissues and organs, and this becomes a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. Antioxidants can combat or slow down generation.
What are the Best Sources of Antioxidants?
Now, to incorporate these little powerhouses in our diet, here’s a list of antioxidant fruits and vegetables to consider:
- Antioxidant Fruits: Fruits such as apples, orange, kiwi, blackcurrants, and mangoes contain Vitamin C are rich in antioxidants.
- Antioxidant Vegetables: Vegetables such as soybeans and tofu that contain isoflavones and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, lentils are great sources of antioxidants.
- Other Antioxidant Foods: Foods such as nuts (almonds, cashews) and seeds (flax, chia) are rich in Vitamin E, and foods rich in Vitamin A (carrots, sweet potato) also have antioxidant properties. Another easy way to make your diet rich in antioxidants is through the oil you use for cooking. Saffola Gold is a blended cooking oil that contains natural antioxidants to help build immunity. Learn more about Why Blended Cooking Oils are Good For You.
So, if you’re looking for a way to cleanse your body from the inside, antioxidants are the way to go. The health benefits of antioxidants means a happy heart and therefore, a guilt-free and happy life!