Antioxidants 101

I had a couple recipes lined up this week and they both ended up as big ol’ fails. I didn’t have time to retry them so I accepted that I just needed to move on. It happens! I am hoping to get some more cooking done this weekend though.

So let’s take a different approach and have a nutrition lesson. Lets talk about antioxidants. The word gets thrown around a lot in the world of nutrition, but how many people really know what they are and what they do in the body?

Antioxidants 101

Our bodies produce free radicals both through natural processes such as breathing and exercising as well as lifestyle habits such as smoking or exposure to environmental pollution. What are free radicals? They are molecules with unpaired electrons that make their way through the body searching for that missing part . Those free radicals attack healthy cells and over time weaken them which can make us more susceptible to heart disease and certain types of cancer. This type of damage is called oxidative stress. I know what you’re thinking…does that mean exercise is harmful to our cells?

More on that in a minute…..

What are antioxidants? Substances or nutrients found in certain foods that prevent or slow cell damage caused by those free radicals.

Where can I find them? Your body actual produces some antioxidants, but we also consume them in our diet. They are mainly found in fruits, vegetables, grain products & beans. There are SO many antioxidants out there but the most common ones come from Vitamins C, E and Vitamin A & Carotenoids (beta-cartotene, lycopene and lutein).


So back to that question about exercise, I mentioned exercise produces free radicals (which can damage healthy cells; that’s called oxidative stress). From what I’ve read, oxidative stress is good in small amounts because it prompts your cells to become stronger over time and causes your body to produce more antioxidants….also a good thing. When you exercise to the point of producing a lot of free radicals, your body is slightly weakened but becomes stronger over time and is more resistant to that oxidative stress in the next workout. Make sense?

There is some debate regarding the optimal level of exercise and if extreme training can do more damage than good, but it appears to be relative to the person. For example, an extreme athlete would produce little oxidative stress from a 2 hour workout because it would be somewhat easy for them. For someone who hasn’t exercised in years that 2 hour workout would cause more damage to their cells.

Most long term studies found that extreme training can increase the body’s antioxidant levels which will help repair the oxidative damage. Of course there are inconsistencies in research- aren’t there always?

So since eating foods high in antioxidants can help prevent damage caused by those free radicals, lets find out what foods are high in antioxidants….

Like I mentioned before there are so many, but these are some of the top ones:



If you’re a visual learner, I thought this was nice guide from this site.

Roll Over Blueberry - A Guide To Antioxidants - Infographic


Not sure how to enjoy those veggies high in Vitamin A, C or E? From roasting to salads to soups there are many ways to enjoy them!

Roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Parmesan 

Roasted Cauliflower-0134

Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing

Kale Salad-2

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil


Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potato and Cabbage Salad

Chipotle Roasted Sweet Potato & Cabbage Salad-FG-1

Hope that all makes sense and helps you better understand antioxidants!

Questions: What is your favorite high antioxidant food?!



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