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Well and Good: Amazing Antioxidants

The word “antioxidant” is one of those healthy buzzwords that you hear all the time – but do you really know what it means? Or what you need to eat to make sure you’re getting them?

Simply put, an antioxidant is any substance that retards oxidation, or deterioration. In terms of your health, it’s usually meant as a substance – like Vitamin E, Vitamin C or polyphenols –that protects your body from oxidation and deterioration on the cellular level. Researchers say they work by combatting the harmful effects of byproducts called “free radicals,” which can lead to cancer, heart disease and other age-related illnesses.

Regular, long-term consumption of foods and beverages containing antioxidants is considered a great natural way to slow down the aging process and stay healthier, longer. Unfortunately, the typical American diet lacks the nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables that contain all the antioxidants necessary for great health. Some experts, including wellness expert Dr. Mehmet Oz, even advocate the use of antioxidant supplements.

However, it’s also a great idea to simply consider the list of foods and beverages that supply these much-needed compounds. Though the list of antioxidant-rich foods seems to grow every week, here are some that you ought to consider adding to your routine. You might be surprised at how many you already consume:

Green tea: The polyphenols in green tea show potent anti-cancer activity.

Tomatoes: Lycopene from tomatoes is beneficial for the prostate. Quercetin helps with allergies, and when taken long-term, also helps to kill the herpes virus that causes cold sores.

Pomegranate: This “superfruit” has lots of polyphenols – maybe even more than the much-touted green tea! You can enjoy pomegranate juice or eat the juicy little seeds themselves!

Blueberries: Who doesn’t love fresh blueberries? And these sweet little fruits have been named the No. 1 fruit in terms of antioxidant content, higher than cranberries, strawberries or plums.

Cocoa: Yes, I’ve saved the best for last. The cocoa pod, which produces chocolate, has an impressive list of over 700 known compounds. Harvard medical researchers have linked  consumption of cocoa and a diminished risk of cardiovascular disease. The benefits are believed to be associated with the high levels of flavanols, or antioxidants, found in cocoa. To get the most benefits, consume 1-2 ounces of a 70% or more dark chocolate bar on a daily basis.

See, science can not only help you protect your health – it can taste great!