Antioxidants - What are they and why are they important?

Antioxidants - What are they and why are they important?

The lingo

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how this all works, let me clarify some of the pertinent lingo.

free radicals. (sometimes the bad guys) -- free radicals are oxygen containing molecules. Because they have an uneven number of electrons, they react easily with other molecules. Their reaction is called oxidation (like rust forming on an old bike or an apple turning brown after you bite into it). Oxidation can be beneficial or it can be harmful (leading to illness and diseases).

antioxidants (the good guys) -- an antioxidant is a molecule that can stabilize a free radical by donating an electron to it. This stabilization of the free radical helps to prevent it  from causing harm, illnesses, or diseases.

the goal -- to keep enough antioxidants in your system so free radicals don't cause damage -- illness or disease. 

Where do we get free radicals?

Our bodies produce some free radicals, but some come from pollution, ozone, pesticides, cleaners, radiation, effects of the sun, and a diet high in sugar, fat, and alcohol.  By avoiding as many of these causes as possible, we increase our chances of keeping a balance between free radicals and antioxidants. Another way to keep free radicals working for us is to eat more food rich in antioxidants.

Consequences of too many free radicals

Why worry about too many free radicals? Here some of the consequences of having more free radicals than antioxidants.  In general, free radicals damage proteins, fatty tissue, and DNA causing... 

  • aging
  • atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels)
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • inflammation
  • neurogenerative diseases (Parkinson's, alzheimers)

What to do

Eat foods rich in antioxidants to keep a balance of antioxidants to free radicals and to minimize or prevent free-radical damage. Here are some of the best. Please note as you study this list how colorful most of these food items are. This is why Eating a Rainbow of  fruits and vegetables, including all colors and a variety of foods, is your best protection.

Here are some of the foods richest in antioxidants ...

  • artichoke hearts
  • beets
  • bell peppers (all colors)
  • berries of all types
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • cherries 
  • cilantro
  • citrus fruit
  • dark chocolate
  • dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
  • garlic
  • grapes
  • green tea
  • kidney beans
  • nuts
  • olives
  • onion
  • pecans
  • prunes
  • pumpkins
  • raisins
  • red wine
  • seeds
  • squash
  • sweet potatoes
  • tomatoes

Herbs and spices rich in antioxidants

It is suggested to include 2 to 3 or more of these in your diet daily.

  • basil
  • cayenne pepper
  • cloves
  • cinnamon
  • cocoa
  • cumin
  • ginger
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • thyme
  • turmeric
“...the American Heart Association and the American Institute for Cancer Research recommend getting antioxidants from food instead of supplements until research determines whether supplements are safe and provide the same benefits as antioxidants found naturally in food.” ~The Atlantic

Benefits of antioxidants.


  • slow aging
  • help you maintain healthy and glowing skin
  • reduce the risk of cancer
  • increase your chances for a longer life
  • protect against stroke and heart disease
  • prevents against dementia
  • decreases risk of macular degeneration and cataracts

What to do...

There's nothing to count here.  No notes to keep.  Just ensure you eat enough foods with antioxidants. To do that, it is recommended that you eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables from a variety of colors of the rainbow and use a couple herbs/spices high in antioxidants per day.  By doing that, you will make your body very happy.


be kind - be the change

be the healthiest version of yourself

Oh Yum: Green Superfood Smoothie

Oh Yum: Green Superfood Smoothie

Superfoods: SEEDS

Superfoods: SEEDS