If you’ve ever wondered wtf antioxidants actually do (*slowly raises hand*), this one’s for you. Like, obviously we know they’re important, but why? So we’re going back to basics for a moment and breaking down important antioxidants for overall health and wellness.
Free radicals attack healthy cells and damage them; antioxidants come in and help prevent or slow that damage. A balance between them is crucial—if there’s not a balance, then oxidative stress happens, which can cause chronic inflammation, premature aging, and diseases.
Not to freak anyone out, but free radicals are everywhere—our bodies produce them through natural processes, and lifestyle factors like stress, pollution, and fried foods accelerate their production. Cool cool cool cool cool cool cool cool cool. That’s why it’s important to eat foods rich in antioxidants and to use topical products that contain antioxidants.
Ready to get schooled? Learn the mind, body, and beauty benefits of common antioxidants below.
Mind: protects neurons and improves cognitive function; helps convert dopamine into serotonin; may help with stress by reducing cortisol production
Body: boosts immune system to help defend against infection and disease
Beauty: necessary for the synthesis of collagen; helps firm and brighten skin; defends against pollution, environmental damage, and free radicals
Brussels sprouts, broccoli, citrus, white potatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes
Tip: eat it with foods rich in iron—it boosts your body’s ability to absorb and use vitamin C, while vitamin C itself helps you absorb the iron.
Mind: may help prevent or delay cognitive decline
Body: may reduce markers of oxidative stress; can help improve fertility; may help reduce heart disease risk factors
Beauty: may reduce sun damage from UVB rays; helps reduce redness and irritation; helps moisturizers work better
Almonds, spinach, sunflower seeds, mango
Tip: apply it topically with vitamin C to get the most out of both antioxidants.
Mind: helps improve learning and memory
Body: shown to help autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis; may help lower chances of getting skin cancer; helps preserve eyesight; boosts immune function; crucial to the function of organs like heart and kidneys
Beauty: helps prevent acne
Preformed vitamin A: fish, organ meat, eggs, dairy
Tip: there are two sources for vitamin A—preformed vitamin A, like the above, and provitamin A, which is found in some carotenoids and converted into an active form of vitamin A in the body.
Mind: may help keep the brain young and improve cognitive function; has been shown to boost memory
Body: helps improve cardiovascular health; important for eye health
Beauty: improves skin health and glow; helps prevent UV-induced sun damage
Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkins, peppers, cantaloupe, spinach
Tip: our bodies can’t make carotenoids, so we have to get them from food or supplements.
Mind: may help protect protect the brain
Body: has been shown to prevent and reverse cardiovascular disease; boosts the immune system; has antibacterial properties; may help reduce pain
Beauty: can help prevent UV damage and photo-aging caused by the sun; helps improve blood circulation; helps increase collagen production
Papaya, watermelon, tomato, grapefruit
Tip: cook tomatoes and serve with some healthy oil to get the most benefits.
Mind: has been shown to help the brain make new neurons; may help slow cognitive decline and improve memory
Body: helps increase the number of infection-fighting white blood cells; helps produce DNA; protects our cells against damage and infections; helps the reproduction of thyroid hormones, which directly affects our metabolism
Beauty: helps promote hair growth and reduce dandruff; helps protect against UV damage and inflammation
Brazil nuts, oysters, halibut, eggs, shiitake mushrooms
Mind: helps improve short and long term memory; may help with symptoms of anxiety and depression
Body: improves immune system; helps maintain eye health
Beauty: topical application has been shown to have photoprotective and soothing agents; helps treat inflammatory conditions like dermatitis, acne, warts, and rosacea.
Beef, shrimp, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, lentils, cashews
Mind: helps protect brain cells from free radicals; helps improve brain function
Body: can help boost energy; helps protect bones; may help reduce symptoms of PMS; aids metabolism
Beauty: helps protect skin from UV-related damage; plays a role in collagen production
Dates, oats, pineapple, seeds, nuts
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