Antioxidant-rich foods are a great addition to your diet because they fight disease, boost your immune system, and dial up your energy. You read about antioxidants everywhere, but you may not understand exactly what they do for the body. To put it plainly, antioxidants are a group of chemicals found in nature that prevent the damage of cells. Antioxidants are found naturally in fruits and vegetables and can be extracted for use in dietary supplements. Even if you don't have the healthiest of eating habits, here are a few ways to get an antioxidant boost without ditching your favorite foods.
Although coffee has had a bad name in the past, over the last several years studies have been bringing to light the wonderful benefits of this age-old drink. The powerful antioxidants in coffee give it the potential to reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, colon cancer and cirrhosis of the liver. Research has shown that drinking 2 cups a day can also reduce the likelihood of type 2 diabetes. You can still receive these antioxidant benefits with decaffeinated coffee if you are worried about the side effects of caffeine.
Now you may think you know everything there is to know about wine, but do you know the health benefits? That's right, your favorite red wine is working wonders on your body. The key antioxidant found in red wine is called resveratrol and is the key to strengthening blood vessels and decreasing the low-density lipoprotein, or "bad," cholesterol. Although resveratrol can provide great benefits to your heart health, you should still avoid overconsumption of alcohol, to prevent negative health effects. If you are avoiding alcohol, you can receive the same benefits you get with resveratrol by eating grapes, pistachios, cranberries and blueberries.
If sweets are more your guilty pleasure, try incorporating dark chocolate into your diet. Dark chocolate is packed with flavonoids, a similar antioxidant to that found in red wine, which reduces "bad" cholesterol and can improve blood pressure. Dark chocolate is known for its bitter and sometimes semisweet taste, but eating it can boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. The higher the concentration of cocoa in the chocolate, the more antioxidants. Although chocolate is tempting, try to avoid eating too much, because that could lead to other health setbacks.
Remember that antioxidants occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, which makes them easy to add to your diet. Lean meats, seafood, berries, garlic, apples and milk all contain antioxidant chemicals, and you probably already consume these multiple times per week. Add them to your everyday meals in things like smoothies and salads, or snack on them throughout the day.
Many of us struggle between eating what we want and having the healthy body that we desire. It is a tough battle that involves a lot of willpower. But staying healthy doesn't always mean sacrificing the delicious foods we enjoy; it's as simple as picking the tasty foods that are packed with beneficial ingredients and creating a balanced diet.