What’s so special about antioxidants?

Without antioxidants, we would die very young. Antioxidants stop and block free-radical damage to our body’s DNA, repairing our tissues and organs and to resist aging. Free radicals are normal byproducts of our body’s metabolism of environmental toxins and chemicals, radiation, some pharmaceutical drugs, and even inflammation from exercise. Oxidative damage from free radicals is like what rust does to an iron rod, except in your body. In response, your body circulates a variety of nutrients for their antioxidant properties and manufactures antioxidant enzymes in order to control oxidative damage/stress. For example, vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenes, and lipoic acid are well-known and well-researched antioxidant nutrients. Your body can manufacture some of these antioxidants, but not others, and your body’s natural antioxidant production tends to decline with age.

What are the best sources of antioxidants?

The best sources of antioxidants are in the fruits and vegetables from your organic garden. Don’t have one? Neither do I. Here’s the next best thing. Buy fresh, local, organic produce. The closer you eat your food from the time of harvesting the food, the higher the antioxidant value. Eating foods raw and lightly steamed brings out the best in antioxidant potential. The foods highest in antioxidants are spices (rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, sumac, cloves, cinnamon, etc), berries and fruits, raw nuts, artichokes, and spinach (cooked). I tell my patients to eat the colors of the rainbow; brightly colored fruits and veggies every day. Also, make it a point to find friends and neighbors who have massive green thumbs and are willing to share their bounty. Better yet, start a neighborhood garden!

Can you get enough antioxidants just from food?

You should be able to get enough antioxidants from just food. However, life happens and you throw in fast food here, junk food there, and gulping down diet soda on the run. The best way to supplement your source of antioxidants is to get a variety of antioxidants. Wisely selected targeted nutrients in the form of mixed antioxidants are more balanced than large doses of only one or two antioxidants. So instead of staring wide-eyed at the isles of supplements, ask your holistic pharmacist or holistic doctor for their knowledgeable advice.

Answers provided by Dr. Sonja Fung, ND at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. If you would like more information or have any health related question, please call 760-771-5970, email info@livewellclinic.org or visit www.livewellclinic.org

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