Last time, we talked about what antioxidants are and how they work to eliminate free radicals and strengthen your resistance to disease. We made clear the importance of having a variety of antioxidant sources in your diet. It turns out that eating a healthy diet (and providing good nutrition for family and group members) is the best way to keep it together, even when everything else is falling apart.
Antioxidant Food Sources
You can buy antioxidants by the bottle at the store but, to tell the truth, you should get most of your antioxidants not from supplements, but from your diet. A diet of fresh, raw, unprocessed foods (especially fruits and vegetables) is loaded with them. You should eat fresh, organically-produced food whenever possible, which underscores the importance of learning how to produce food on your own property or by “guerrilla gardening“. Check out resources through your state’s agricultural extension office, such as The Master Gardener Program. Even in survival scenarios, the ability to access fresh food will supplement stored non-perishables and, certainly, provide more antioxidant support.
Foods that are high in antioxidants include:
• Vegetables. Most of the vegetables you eat, especially green leafy ones, are loaded with plant compounds that act as antioxidants. Kale, mustard greens, and spinach, for example, are good sources of vitamin E and other antioxidants. Remember that to maximize the antioxidants in vegetables, you have to eat them in a raw, unprocessed, and fresh state.
• Fruit. Fresh berries like raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries are good antioxidant sources. They contain lots of vitamin C and carotenoids, as well as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
• Nuts. Raw Pecans, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts have antioxidants that can boost your heart and overall health. It should be noted that some grocery store nuts are irradiated to prevent germination and should be avoided. Also, you should know that peanuts aren’t on this list. They aren’t even really a nut! They’re legumes, and related more to beans and peas.
•Green tea. Green tea has compounds that lower your risk for heart attack and stroke, plus much more.
• Herbs and spices. Consider putting together a herb garden to go along with those veggies. Herbs and spices are an abundant source of antioxidants. Some options are ginger, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and turmeric,. Look for fresh products, as they are have higher antioxidant levels than processed and powdered versions. The antioxidant activity of fresh garlic is stronger than dry garlic powder, for example.
• Sprouts are great sources of antioxidants. Live in a high-rise and can’t grow a garden? Well, if you have about a little spare counter space in your kitchen, you can be a successful sprout farmer. You can even grow them in jars.
What about all those supplements you’ll find online and at the store? The name (“supplement”) is the key, they’re there only to add to a diet and shouldn’t be a sole source. Certainly, it isn’t easy to eat healthily due to today’s hustle and bustle lifestyle. If you choose to take supplements, consider CoQ10, moderate, not high, levels of Vitamin C and E, and acai berry as some options.
Antioxidant-Friendly Lifestyle Changes
And, speaking of lifestyle, change yours to decrease the number of free radicals that your body has to deal with.
• Decrease the amount of sugar in your diet. Less sugar in your diet can help the antioxidants you have to work better and last longer. Food items with high-fructose corn syrup like many sodas are especially bad.
• Exercise. Exercise in moderation can boost your body’s antioxidant production.
• Manage your stress. Stress can worsen inflammation caused by free radicals. Studies have found links between psychological stress and numerous health issues. Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that most diseases have a psychological component.
• Avoid smoking. Smoking forms free radicals in your body, which accelerates the aging process, especially in your skin. Oh, by the way, it also has more carcinogens than you can shake a stick at.
• Get some sleep! Sleep deficits can cause severe health problems. Seven to eight hours of sleep per night is the recommended amount for most adults, maybe a little less for oldsters.
Although antioxidants are considered to be part of the alternative philosophy of healthcare, many Western practitioners believe they have an important role (especially via diet) in keeping your body functioning at 100% efficiency. In a survival setting, that’s where you’ll have to be to stay healthy.
Joe Alton, MD
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