Antioxidants are nutrients and other substances in foods that can prevent or slow oxidative damage in cells.
Antioxidants also boost immune system by protecting cells and stimulating natural defense systems. Oxidative damage is caused by free radicals. They are unstable molecules that are a result of normal body processes as well as pollution, sun exposure, tobacco smoke and other harmful environment exposures. Unchecked oxidative damage leads to diseases such as heart disease, cancer, cataracts, Alzheimer's disease and many others.
Antioxidants include Vitamin A,C and E the mineral selenium as well as plant pigments (colors), beta-carotene (orange) lutein, (yellow and green), lycopene (red) and anthocyanin (blue, purple). Eating high antioxidant foods will also contribute many other necessary vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that contribute to optimal health and wellbeing.
Foods with low or no antioxidants are highly processed foods like soda, cakes, cookies, most crackers and chips, instant entrees cheese, hot dogs and cold cuts
Antioxidants are found in many foods. These include fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Generally they are plant foods. Unfortunately, the average diet in Nigeria skips the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains and focuses on meat, fried foods, sweets and sugary drinks.
The secret to eating well and insuring a healthy family is to serve delicious nutrient rich foods at every meal and snack, you don't have to be perfect, but wholesome foods needs to be front and center on your plates.
Some quick rules to live by
- Fruit and/ vegetable (think color at every meal and snack)
- Milk or 100% juice for children , 75% of the time
- Half of starch/ bread, grains/ servings need to be whole grain
- Lean sources of protein most of the time- Sweets as treats ONCE IN A WHILE