What Are Antioxidants and Why Are They Important?

By Dianna Yanchis BSc (Nutrition)

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

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Antioxidants: The superheroes in our body! Antioxidants include Vitamins A, C and E, plant chemicals like flavonoids and minerals such as selenium. Antioxidants act to protect many of the cells in the body and to ensure they are working properly. Cell damage occurs naturally with increasing age and with exposure to pollution or cigarette smoke. Cell damage can lead to chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A diet rich in antioxidant nutrients can help lower the risk of these diseases.

Antioxidants are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, garlic, green tea, vegetable oils and whole grains.  Eating a variety of these healthy foods can help ensure you are getting amounts of these protective nutrients. Choosing whole foods over nutrient supplements is always the preferred method of meeting nutrient requirements. Antioxidants supplements often contain higher amounts of nutrients, than recommended.  The amount of antioxidants found naturally in foods is safe and in the presence of a healthy, well-balanced diet,  can provide health benefits.

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Here are some tips on how you can include more antioxidants in your diet:

  1. Enjoy a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables each day. Eat at least one dark green and one orange vegetable every day.
  2. Ensure at least one half of your servings of grain products are whole grains.
  3. Include nuts and seeds, peas, and lentils often- at least a few times/week.
  4. Choose fish at least twice a week. Salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel and herring are excellent sources of vitamin E!
  5. Add berries to yogurt, smoothies or mix them into a fruit salad.
  6. Choose green tea instead of coffee. Green tea is a source of flavonoids.
  7. Try a mixed bean salad as a side with lunch or dinner.
  8. Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 tablespoons of unsaturated fat each day (canola, olive, and soybean oils). Try to use small amounts of vegetable oil when preparing meals. Vegetable oils are a source of antioxidants!
  9. Sprinkle almonds and sunflower seeds on salads for a source of vitamin E.
  10. Eat a variety of antioxidant rich foods each day!

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Read more at: http://www.eatrightontario.ca/en/articles/antioxidants/what-you-need-to-know-about-antioxidants.aspx#.V2AUbSMrJ1M

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