Making Healthier Choices Everyday: Why it Matters

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

May 7th, 2013

What do brown apple slices, rusty nails, tarnished silver and cells in your body all have in common? If you answered oxidation, you are correct! That may be a bit alarming. Who wants cells in their body to be in any way likened to a rusty nail or unappetizing apple slices? Unfortunately, it’s true. When our bodies metabolize and use oxygen for all of our daily metabolic functions, oxidation occurs. Luckily, the body is prepared and produces natural ANTI-oxidants that neutralize the oxidants (think of lemon juice for those apple slices) fairly well. However, the system is not perfect and some cells get damaged, forming free radical particles. When these particles combine with external oxidizing toxins from our environment, the result is too many “radicals” or unstable molecules wreaking havoc on numerous body cells. The damage can alter cellular DNA resulting in chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, to name a few.

Since we live in a modern world full of air pollution, pesticides, fast food and plenty of stressors, we need to alter what we can control in order to protect our cells from being oxidized and looking like those brown apple slices! Enter dietary antioxidants. By consuming foods rich in antioxidants, we are armed and ready to neutralize free radicals that attack and damage cells.

Here’s how to best arm yourself against these radical “characters” each day:

  1. Eat a wide variety (think a rainbow of colors) of fruits and vegetables throughout the day – antioxidant effects only last a few hours.
  2. Emphasize food high in vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E. Carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, peppers, oranges, strawberries, almonds, wheat germ, and cruciferous vegetables all pack a huge antioxidant punch!
  3. Include a mix of antioxidant-rich foods daily, especially beans, nuts, whole grains and legumes – each food contains unique antioxidants that attack free radicals differently.
  4. Avoid smoking, excessive alcohol, and sun-tanning – all are free-radical generating machines!
  5. Manage stress – too much of the stress-producing hormone cortisol increases oxidation and free radical production.
  6. Don’t count on supplements – studies show consuming whole, unprocessed foods is best.

Lastly, calculate how many fruits and vegetable servings you need a day to protect your cells. Then find easy recipes here to help you get started today!

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here.

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