Every day our bodies produce molecules called “free radicals,” which bounce around and constantly collide with our cells, tissues and organs. Every time a collision occurs it causes damage. Most experts agree that, in the long run, this damage adds up and is likely a contributor to the aging process and the development of various chronic diseases, such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes and cancers.
Free radical production is a normal body function. The amount of free radicals circulating in our bodies is directly related to our diet, lifestyle and living environment. It’s not possible to completely stop the production of free radicals, but research shows that certain vitamins (like vitamins A, C and E), minerals (such as selenium) and other non-nutritive components of foods (like carotenoids) can play a part in neutralizing their effects, and thus reducing the amount of long-term damage. Collectively, the components of foods that neutralize free radicals are called antioxidants.
Fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants. Choose Earthbound Farm organic produce with vibrant colors; these will likely have a higher antioxidant content. It’s also important to eat a variety of antioxidant rich foods — each type has a unique function.
Remember, though, that too much of a good thing can backfire. Antioxidant pills and supplements can contain much higher levels than what’s naturally found in foods, and this type of supplementation may actually lead to more free radical production. Talk to your health care professional if you’re going to use antioxidant pills or supplements — or just stick with natural food sources of antioxidants, like organic fruits and vegetables.
Types of Antioxidants and Food Sources
|Antioxidant||Benefit||Earthbound Farm Products||Earthbound Farm Recipes|
|Vitamin A||Helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, and mucus membranes; helps to protect against infections||Spinach, Carrots, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Romaine, Cantaloupe, Peaches, Mangos|
|Vitamin C||Major antioxidant that supports the immune system, helps heal wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy; needed for absorption of plant-based iron||Oranges, Lemons, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Strawberries, Peaches, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Mangos||Oranges, Grapefruit, Kiwi, Strawberries, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Tomatoes, Mangos|
|Vitamin E||Protects cells from the damaging effects of free radicals; helps boost the immune system; crucial in interactions between cells||Red Peppers, Leafy Greens, Nuts/Seeds, Vegetable Oils, Whole Grains||Kale, Chard|
|Selenium||Mushrooms, Brazil nuts, Fish/Shellfish, Poultry, Meat||Mushrooms|
|Carotenoids (i.e., lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene)||Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids — plant pigments — that are also found in the retina of the eye; research suggests that intakes of 6 mg or more per day may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts (eye diseases that can lead to visual impairment and/or blindness)||Spinach, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Leafy Greens, Kiwi, Carrots, Avocados, Blueberries, Pears, Watermelon||Spinach, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Kale, Chard, Kiwi, Carrots, Avocados, Blueberries, Pears, Watermelon|
|Flavonoids||Some studies have found that diets rich in fruits and vegetables containing high levels of flavonoids may help people avoid some chronic diseases||Apples, Berries, Citrus Fruits, Grapes, Broccoli, Tea, Red Wine, Dark Chocolate, Soy||Apples, Berries, Grapes, Broccoli, Oranges|