What Are They and How to Get Enough!
Have you ever taken an apple, sliced it in half and left it to sit on the counter? What did it look like an hour later when you came back to it? Probably brown on the cut side and a little whithered around the edges. This 'browning' effect is called 'oxidization'. It's the stress caused to the cells of an apple directly by oxygen that causes the cells to weaken and die.
However, if you cut that apple and rubbed lemon juice on the cut side of the apple, it will take a much longer time for the oxidation to take place and the apple will stay crisp and white for a significantly longer period of time than without the lemon juice. This is because the acidity in the lemon juice forms a protective barrier on the apple, preventing oxygen to get at the flesh and cause damage/stress.
Believe it or not, the cells in our body actually work the SAME way as the inside of an apple! Every day, our bodies are strongly attacked by toxins in our food, soil, drinking water, environment, cleaning and hygiene products, and air. This 'attack' on our cells is what contributes to cell and DNA damage. However, some of this process is natural for our bodies to experience, as even regular healthy exercising causes oxidative stress to our cells!
Therefore, anti-oxidants, are essentially the 'lemon juice' for our body! They are a nutrient that provides a protective barrier around our cells to reduce, prevent further damage, and heal our body from oxidative stress.
If we allowed our cells and our DNA to become 'damaged' and continue to be attacked, then our immune system spends more time trying to fight off the attackers than trying to run your body efficiently and effectively.
But I don't feel like I'm under attack, so why do I need them?
Our bodies are designed to work perfectly in sync within themselves. Each organ, muscle, bone, hormone, nerve, and cell has a function and a task to complete. When our bodies are working at 100% of their ability, everything works in harmony and we experience health and wellness. However, when parts of our system are under attack, the body focuses energy on fighting off the attack, thereby distracting each part of our body from their designated healthy task.
As a result, we end up with more illnesses, injuries, diseases, symptomatic responses, and inflammation within our bodies. Since illness and disease is often a compounding effect of unbalance within our body, many illnesses and diseases can go unnoticed for quite some time. And often, the symptoms that we do end up experiencing (such as muscular pain, joint stiffness, fatigue, anxiety, stomach aches, and headaches) are just passed off as a normal part of 'aging and daily life'.
While we do all age, and there is no avoiding that, we can provide our body with the best set of defenses to slow the aging process and the progression of illnesses and diseases. In fact, having a healthy store and continuous source of antioxidants has been shown to improve cardiovascular wellness, support our immune system, reduce inflammation, protect our DNA (meaning our future children's health is also strengthened), improve the tissues on and within our body and increase the quality of our life!
Okay, now I understand WHY I need them, so how do I GET them?
Well, the best way to get antioxidants into your body is by eating lots of fruits and vegetables! They, along with nearly all plant-based foods, contain varying levels of antioxidants! These include beans and lentils, grains, green tea and spices! Plants have been found to have 64 times MORE antioxidants than animal-based foods!, and in fact, many of the toxins found in these products will actually contribute to oxidative stress - so be mindful of your purchases. That's not to say that all fruits and veggies are safe, either though! Most produce that has been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals will contain harmful properties that attack our bodies at a cellular level. So being an informed consumer and washing your produce extremely well before consuming will help reduce the toxic load on our bodies.
So how much do we need every day?
Dr. Gregor recommends that we consume a daily minimum of 8 000 - 11 000 units of antioxidants to balance with the oxidative stress we experience daily. So for 'good health' aim for the 8-11 000, but for optimal health, we want to aim to have MORE than the daily minimum so our bodies are prepared for a heavier toxic load that could hit us at any time.
He mentions a study in which the antioxidant level within our blood was measured and it showed that antioxidants can drop in a matter of 2 hours after a stressful event (which includes regular daily stress, illness, and fatigue) and yet it can take up to 3 days to build our antioxidant levels back up to safe limits! Therefore, it's recommended that not only are we eating a minimum of 11 000 units per day, but we're doing so by spacing it out equally throughout the day to avoid any significant drops in our levels.
I know what you're thinking right now - "this sounds all fine and dandy, but those 11 000 units mean NOTHING to me"! Yup, me too! That's why I've put together this list of 10 foods high in antioxidants to help you meet the minimum of 11 000 units daily! If you wanted an incredibly in-depth list, I recommend checking out Dr. Gregor's video called "Anti up on the Veggies"
Here is just a quick sample of how to reach that minimum!
1 serving of blueberries = 9019 units!
4 leaves of red leaf lettuce = 1213 units!
1 serving of kidney beans = 6864 units!
1 tsp of dried oregano = 1831 units!
1 apple = 5900 units!
1 serving of dates = 3467 units!
These foods have been shown, by a study completed by Cornell University, to not only contain the highest amounts of antioxidants but to also have the highest level of antioxidant activity WITHIN human liver cells!
- Red peppers
- Brussel Sprouts
- Cabbage (especially red cabbage)
- Green Pepper
So load up on these veggies and be sure to include lots of berries and citrus fruits to boost that antioxidant power in your body!