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Eating for Good Health: Antioxidants

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In the summertime, my kids and I love eating Popsicles as a refreshing escape from the afternoon heat. A few days ago I went to buy some frozen pops at our local grocery store, and I was surprised to see a box of all-natural, antioxidant frozen fruit bars. Who ever heard of Popsicles flavored with açai, goji berries, white grapes, pomegranate and blueberries? How could I resist?

I have to admit, I love the flavors of açai and pomegranate, but even beyond that, the promise of antioxidants sold me on the ice pops. I knew antioxidants were good for me, though I couldn’t have explained to someone else in the grocery aisle exactly why. Somehow these pops just sounded healthier.

What is it that draws us to products that tout themselves as healthy, even if we aren’t entirely sure what their health benefits really mean? Is this just a marketing ploy, or is there something behind these purportedly healthful ingredients?

While I knew about some of the benefits of antioxidants—better immunity and a decreased risk of cancer—I felt I should better understand the reason I picked this product over the standard Popsicle box.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, antioxidants protect our bodies’ tissues from being destroyed by oxidation and its resulting chemical reactions. Antioxidants also protect our bodies from free radicals, which can also cause damage through oxidation. Why is it beneficial to prevent oxidative damage? This damage can lead to different age-related diseases and degeneration, which none of us really welcome with open arms! Preventing degeneration is much simpler than trying to reverse the damage.

Weil stressed the need for daily dietary antioxidants, and he even goes so far as to recommend daily supplements to ensure a steady supply. Taking supplements with food can help reduce stomach irritation. Key antioxidants include vitamin C (250 mg/day), vitamin E (400 IU/day of mixed natural tocopherols), Selenium (200 micrograms/day, best taken in conjunction with vitamin E to aid absorption), and vitamin A or mixed carotenoids (15,000 IUs/day).

Of course, many antioxidants can be ingested through food sources. These fruits and vegetables are examples of good sources of antioxidants:

  • prunes
  • raisins
  • blackberries
  • cranberries
  • watermelon
  • papaya
  • pink grapefruit
  • blueberries
  • carrots
  • kale
  • spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • alfalfa sprouts

Other foods and beverages that contain antioxidants include green tea, red wine and chocolate. And, of course, my new favorite: açai blueberry, pomegranate, and goji berry white grape frozen fruit bars! We all enjoy a treat now and then; why not choose one that offers extra health benefits?


“What’s So Special About Antioxidants?”

Antioxidant Chart

Reviewed June 23, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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