Most everybody knows the importance of a healthy diet for maintaining good health. And most people realize they should be exercising on a daily basis – or at the very least adding some more activity to their daily routine. Getting a good night’s sleep is also important – without it, your immune system starts to weaken slightly and you put yourself at a greater risk for catching a cold or coming down with the flu.
Most of us know what we should be doing to live healthier lives, but let’s face it: not too many of us eat a healthy diet all of the time. Instead of using the stairs, we decide it’s much easier to take the elevator and who hasn’t tried to find a parking place that’s as close as possible to the front door instead of taking that prime opportunity to walk a little further. We also tend to let the amount of sleep that we get each night be interfered with by stress, work, social gatherings, etc.
Sometimes when we don’t take the small extra steps to take care of ourselves, our immune systems may start to falter because of it, but we might not feel it right away. Eventually you can begin to feel sluggish and not only does it slow us down, but it also ages us prematurely.
Fortunately, there’s something that we can do to help counteract some of these effects. We can help maintain our energy and reduce the risk of disease simply by adding antioxidants to our diet.
What are antioxidants? The simplest answer is that antioxidants are plant-derived compounds that help prevent and repair cellular damage. Vitamin C, Vitamin E, selenium, lycopene and resveratrol are all examples of antioxidants that are found in fruits and vegetables. By making an effort to add some of these antioxidants to our diet, we can slow the cellular damage that leads to disease.
Antioxidants are, in effect, sponges that soak up the free radicals in our systems and diminish their effect on our bodies. Excess free radicals can be generated by the less healthy foods that we eat, alcohol that we drink, smoke that we’re exposed to, and stress that we endure.
They damage our DNA and other cellular structures at the molecular level. Antioxidants roam around the body inactivating the free radicals and assisting in damage repair. Damage that isn’t repaired can cause a cell to die, malfunction or replicate uncontrollably (such as in a tumor).
You can fight back against free radicals by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet.
Note that free radicals are a natural by-product of metabolism and cannot be eliminated completely. The key is to keep them in check with an adequate supply of dietary antioxidants. Look for brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Without getting too scientific about it, the different colors (blue, purple, red, orange) in fruits and vegetables often come from the different antioxidants they contain. To get a broad range of antioxidants, eat a rainbow of different plants.