Antioxidants are everywhere. They’re in our food and in our beauty products. They’re in the headlines and on the news. Everywhere you turn it seems, someone is talking about antioxidants. Most of us know that antioxidants are good for us and that we should aim to get more in our diets but what you may not know is what antioxidants actually are and how they work in your body.
Antioxidants are substances that protect your body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are atoms that are especially reactive to cells and may interfere with their function.
How exactly do free radicals accumulate in the body, you ask?
- Exposure to air pollutants and cigarette smoke
- Consuming unhealthy foods like highly processed and fried foods
- Exposure to pesticides
- Taking medications
- Exposure to radiation
If your body has too many free radicals floating around, it can lead to cell damage (a process known as oxidation). That oxidative stress may play a role in unhealthy aging and the development of chronic diseases like cancer, autoimmune disorders, and heart disease.
The good news is we have the antidote – all we have to do is eat healthy foods rich in antioxidants. These “free radical fighters” are abundant in fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices. Antioxidants can reduce the formation of free radicals or neutralize their effects, potentially helping to lower the risk of chronic disease and slow down the effects of aging.
Looking for a simple way to include more antioxidants into your diet? Use smoothies as your antioxidant vehicle! Smoothies make it easy to incorporate antioxidant-rich foods into your day. Wondering which ingredients to start with to add an antioxidant punch to your smoothie? Try my top five antioxidant smoothie boosters listed below:
- Spinach: Popeye was onto something. Spinach contains a variety of antioxidants, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (known especially for their role in eye health) and vitamins A, C and E. Plus, spinach is an excellent source of vitamin K, folate, magnesium, iron, B vitamins and calcium. Spinach is the perfect antioxidant-rich ingredient to make a mean green smoothie!
- Walnuts: You’re gonna go nuts over this one. DYK that nuts contain antioxidants too? Some researchers report that walnuts contain almost 2x the amount of antioxidants compared to other nuts. While the verdict on that is still out, we do know that walnuts are a good source of protein, fiber, copper, magnesium and phosphorous. They’re also the only nut that’s significantly high in omega 3-s. Unfortunately, Americans aren’t getting too nutty. Nuts only account for less than 8% of Americans’ daily antioxidant intake. Embrace your inner nuttiness and start adding walnuts to your smoothies!
- Wild Blueberries: Wild Blueberries contain 2x the antioxidants of regular, cultivated blueberries. That’s not all; these tiny little berries pack a powerful nutrition punch. This antioxidant-rich fruit is an excellent source of fiber (25% DV) and manganese (200% DV), which is important for bone health. Add a cup of frozen Wild Blueberries to your next smoothie to add sweetness, antioxidants and to help keep your smoothie cold. I love using frozen fruit over fresh because it helps keep the smoothie cold without needing to add ice, which can dilute the flavor. Good thing 99% of the Wild Blueberry crop is frozen! They’re the ultimate ingredient to start any smoothie!
- Cinnamon: Spices do more than just enhance flavor. Spices like cinnamon contain antioxidants that have just as much potency (if not more) as fruits and vegetables. One study found that cinnamon had the most potent antioxidant effects compared to several vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, Jerusalem artichoke and red cabbage. Sprinkle cinnamon into your next smoothie to add sweetness without the added sugar.
- Avocados: This beautiful green fruit is a nutrition powerhouse containing vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, folate and monounsaturated fat. They also boast antioxidants like beta-carotene, lutein and vitamins C and E. Throw some avocado into your next smoothie to add creaminess and fight off free radicals.
If you’re looking to up your antioxidant game, try my Energy-Boosting Wild Blueberry Smoothie on for starters. It’s loaded with antioxidant-rich foods like frozen fresh Wild Blueberries, strawberries, spinach, avocado and walnuts. Plus, many of these ingredients are natural energy-boosters, containing the right balance of protein, fiber and good-for-you fats for long-lasting fuel. The sweet berries and dates do a nice job of masking the savory taste of the spinach, avocado, nuts and seeds because every healthy smoothie deserves to be delicious, too! And for all my vegan friends this recipe will work for you. Sip on this smoothie in the morning or mid-afternoon for natural energy that lasts.