We need a constant (daily) supply of antioxidants from our foods to combat the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress. Free radicals are produced in our bodies as a natural metabolic process, but we also introduce them into our bodies by eating poorly (i.e. bad fats from processed foods, charred meats or vegetables from the bar-b-q), excessive sun exposure, stress, environmental pollution (that can be anything from the polluted air we breathe to toxic cleaning products, hairspray etc.), trauma, smoking and more.
Antioxidants supply the missing electron that created the free radical in the first place.
There is something called the ORAC value of foods. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity and is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances. Apparently the USDA recommends we consume 3,000-5,000 daily units. (I would suggest that as a minimum!) Bear in mind that since this is a test tube analysis, we are assuming that the same thing happens in our bodies. While that is unlikely to be completely true, this certainly gives us a good guide as the foods that we should be consuming in abundance.
The table below is from http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/1999/990208.htm and shows the ORAC value in some common foods.
|Top-Scoring Fruits & Vegetables|
|ORAC units per 100 grams (about 3 ½ ounces)|
|Plums||949||Red bell pepper||710|
The category of super foods is one in which we gives us a much larger dose of antioxidants than in some of the more common foods above. ORAC values below are listed per 100 grams.
Cloves, ground – 314,446
Cinnamon – 267,536
Turmeric – 159,277
Cacao powder – 95,500
Acai berry powder – 102,700
Maqui berry powder – 75,000
Goji berries – 25,300
Free radical damage leads to health breakdown. It can take the form of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases etc. Our busy, hectic, fast paced lives make it more difficult than ever to avoid the free radical damage from stress, never mind all the other areas that contribute to our load. This is why it is so important to eat a diet rich in antioxidants. The foods (note I am not talking about supplements in capsules) that supply us with high levels of antioxidants typically supply us with many other nutrients that all combine synergistically to give us a wide variety of health benefits.
The bottom line is that we need to change our mind set from eating for recreational purposes to eating for health. So, go out there and get loaded up on antioxidants today, tomorrow and every day!