We hear more and more about foods that are high in antioxidants, and their help in fighting disease and losing weight. But what exactly are antioxidants and what do they do?
Antioxidants protect healthy cells from damaged molecules. The damaged molecules, called free radicals, come from the things we encounter everyday – such as air pollution, pesticides and chemicals in the environment.
The Problem With Free Radicals
A free radical is a molecule with a missing part. One or more electrons are gone, causing a tiny negative charge. The unstable molecule takes electrons from whatever is nearby – such as your healthy cells. This creates a second free radical in your body. The electron stealing continues in a chain reaction that damages cells.
Our bodies produce free radicals naturally. They occur when our body breaks down food or fights infection. Mental, emotional and intense physical stress can also produce free radicals.
Free radicals affect the immune system, harden arteries, and play a role in many chronic diseases.
Antioxidants Make Stable Molecules
Fortunately, our bodies also make antioxidants. These are molecules that can lose an electron or two without becoming unstable. They can stop the chain reaction started by free radicals.
A regular, balanced exercise routine, healthy food choices, and stress management help the body make antioxidants to reduce cell damage from unstable molecules. However, the body makes antioxidants only in limited amounts. The good news is, we can add more by what we eat.
The Benefits of Antioxidants for Weight Loss
More research needs to be done to explore the role of antioxidants in losing weight. But they have many known benefits that can help. Antioxidants promote a healthy immune system. They help your organs work efficiently and properly, which keeps your metabolism running well. They clean damaging molecules out of your body.
The amount of fiber in antioxidant rich food helps you feel full longer. Some spices like turmeric and ginger help the body fight inflammation too, helping prevent cancers and cardiovascular disease.
The health-boosting role of antioxidants enables you to lose weight by staying well and active, exercising and burning calories more easily and naturally.
Foods High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants come in a wide variety of foods. Brightly colored berries, fruit, and vegetables are among the best sources. Colorful plates are healthier plates!
Fruits and vegetables aren’t the only foods that have antioxidants. Meats such as poultry, seafood and nuts contain zinc and selenium, which help immunity.
Even some beverages are a healthier for you than you might think! Coffee, natural grape juice, and pomegranate juice have antioxidants in them. But the best choice by far is green tea. One cup gives you more antioxidants than a cup of coffee, and less caffeine.
Eating to increase antioxidants in your body leads to better food choices. You choose more leafy greens, vegetables, fruits and whole foods when you choose foods to help prevent cell damage and disease. You may find yourself spicing up your plate with ginger, black pepper, red pepper and oregano – all good sources of antioxidants.
Most experts agree that the best way to benefit from antioxidants is by adding them to your diet. Supplements can help, but they don’t benefit the body as well as antioxidants from food sources.
Antioxidant Foods Promote Health and Good Eating for Weight Loss
Antioxidants have many benefits and are worth checking out. Not only do they help you fight disease and inflammation. Choosing high antioxidant foods means getting more nutrition in the right proportions. This helps extra weight come off more easily, while satisfying your taste buds and your appetite.
About Dr. Betty Keller:
Dr. Betty Keller practices integrative medicine at the Optimal Wellness Center in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey. She is a board certified doctor specializing in weight loss, chronic pain treatment, medical acupuncture and disease prevention, serving Franklin Lakes, Wyckoff, NJ, and nearby areas.