ANTI-OXIDANTS AND WHY THEY’RE SO IMPORTANT
Originally published on April 2, 2020. If you had told me one month ago that the city that never sleeps would be turned into a viral war zone amidst a ghost town of empty streets, I would not have believed it. But here we all are…
Oddly enough, although the feeling of doom and gloom abounds, I have remained relatively calm and at peace, despite the fact that my husband, a Pulmonologist/Intensivist has been thrust into the front lines covering the ICU daily.
While my wellness medical practice has temporarily been converted into a telemedicine one, the silver lining is that I am finally able to reinforce all my prevention and wellness strategies with my three teens who had previously been reluctant to implement lifestyle changes. It seems if you throw the words “money” and “competition” into anything you want a teen to do, they’re more willing to participate. The incentive of a monetary reward to the one with the highest anti-oxidant levels sealed the deal. The competition was on!
Let me explain… As a practicing Internist for many years, time and time again I saw my share of chronic medical conditions. Nutrition and dietary factors were not considered the forefront of medicine, despite strong scientific evidence suggesting otherwise. Knowing how lifestyle modifications had helped me feel my best and keep my family healthy, I wanted to take it a step further by providing tangible measures. Enter the anti-oxidant skin scanner.
Who would have thought that a 20 second non invasive scan of your skin could reveal your body’s carotenoid levels (fancy word for the good stuff in your fruits and vegetables). Well, all it took was for my kids who are relatively healthy by all standards to see that their levels were below normal. My son, now munching on celery sticks and requesting my spinach/fruit smoothies every morning is definitely an eye opener.
Why are antioxidants so vital to our immunity and accurate indicators of our overall health?
To fully understand why food rich in anti- oxidants is so important, we first have to understand the mechanism of oxidative damage caused by free radicals.
Free radicals are oxygen containing molecules that circulate in our bodies with an uneven number of electrons.They are produced from diets high in sugar, fried foods, alcohol and smoking, as well as environmental toxins.
Simply put, the uneven number of electrons created makes free radicals more easily react with other molecules and interfere with chemical reactions that are constantly going on in our bodies.
Enter anti-oxidants.They act as donors and ultimately donate electrons to the free radicals floating around to make them “even’ and less reactive. What happens if we don’t have enough anti-oxidants? The unstable reactions from the free radicals lead to damage of cells.
The higher your anti-oxidant level, the less free radicals are present to interfere with the reactions.This is why it’s so important to arm yourself with foods rich in anti-oxidants such as fruits and vegetables.
Here are a few easy tricks to get you (and your kids) loading up on anti oxidants and making your body the first line of defense.
- Make a smoothie daily. We throw in whatever fruits we have, but bananas and oranges are usually a staple and since most berries are part of the dirty dozen list of fruits, whatever organic ones we happen to have. A handful of organic spinach, ice and half a cup of water are also thrown in to the mix. (PS- You don’t have to have a fancy blender. I use a Cuisinart, which I think I got on Amazon for $50.)
- Try to incorporate vegetables and legumes into every meal. They are filling, and again, also help to increase anti-oxidant levels. They also work as prebiotics for your gut to feed on. We will cover the gut in another blog post.
- Limit time of eating during the day to a maximum of 10 hours. Ideally 6-8 hours is best, but if you’re not used to it, start with 10. Giving your body that time to rest will do wonders.
Most importantly, do not eat anything 4 hours before you sleep.
Why? Your body’s cells go through a recycling and renewal phase during times of fasting. Simply put, this is their time of fighting free radicals and cleaning house so to speak. If you run a machine all day, it will break down pretty quickly. Same thing with your body.
And voila! Starting with these three simple steps will get you on your way to anti-oxidant bliss. Enjoy!