You hear about them all the time.
You can’t see them, you can’t touch them, you can’t taste them, you can’t smell them. But they are there. Inside so many of the sources provided to us by nature. And they just might save your life.
Paying attention yet?
They’re called antioxidants, and you need them. Now.
Antioxidants are basically substances found in fruits and vegetables, and these substances can actually inhibit (and reverse) the effects of oxidative stress in the body.
So, what the hell is oxidative stress?
Oxidative stress is basically what happens when your cells get altered or killed. While oxidation is a natural process that keeps the body healthy, it also has a downside:
“While the body metabolizes oxygen very efficiently, 1% or 2% of cells will get damaged in the process and turn into free radicals,” explains Jeffrey Blumberg, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University in Boston.
Free radicals are responsible for most of the horribleness that happens to our wonderful bodies, like cancer and disease. They’re little assholes and must be stopped. Enter antioxidants.
A pomegranate a day?
These days, every other word seems to be antioxidant, so much so that we have probably become desensitized. We are taking true health and nutrients for granted because products and their accolades are being shoved down our throats.
Antioxidants, however, are the real deal. Or at least they can be. But know this (and I know you know this, but you really need to know this): just having a salad at lunch doesn’t make you healthy. And chances are, the salad you are eating doesn’t even have many nutrients in it. Are you honestly choosing the right foods? Don’t lie to me, because I will find you and smack some sense into you if I have to. And no, eating the pineapple off the rim of your Pina Coloda doesn’t count either. You really do have to eat the true goods of the earth to maintain proper health, stop the effects of eating poorly and undo bad decisions like smoking and getting too much sun.
Antioxidants are measured in food as Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, or ORAC. I know you don’t care, but I have to put in at least some important-sounding facts for you to take me seriously. ORAC values are measured per every 3.5 ounces. Now comes the best part: you don’t even have to spend too much money – it isn’t a gimmick. Simply drag your ass out of bed on a Saturday or Sunday morning, go to a farmer’s market, and buy real food! Here’s all you need to get antioxidants into your body and fight off the shitty free radicals that are wreaking havoc inside of you.
These foods are high in ORAC:
Fruits and berries: DUH. You’ve heard that you should be choosing foods with bright colors, right? It’s true. The brighter, the better. Goji and Acai berries are right at the top with Goji berries at an ORAC level of 25,000 and Acai at 18,000. Then come all the others: pomegranate, blueberries, blackberries – you know what they are. Just pick them and buy them. Eat them, eat them, eat them.
Veggies: Again, DUH. Spinach, broccoli, kale. And don’t be such a pussy about it – there are a million and one ways to eat them. Raw is best, but there are still many ways to eat them. And if you quit your bitching for long enough to try a few new things, you’ll see that they aren’t so bad.
Nuts and grains: Focus on walnuts, almonds and quinoa.
Other: Here’s your reward: chocolate and coffee! But again, focus on real, whole food choices here. You need to eat the darkest chocolate you can find with the highest cacao content. Cacao actually has an ORAC rating of over 50,000! But not fucking Cadbury Crème Eggs, so just put it down and go talk to someone at Trader Joe’s.
Ladies, this isn’t rocket science. There is a reason we are always told to eat our fruits and veggies. They can actually save us. No shit. And here’s a little tip: dead food will never, ever save you from anything, except maybe glowing skin, more energy and a healthy life. Your choice.
-Emily Harrison, Contributing Writer