In honor of National Women’s History Month, I came up with my quick and dirty guide to the top 5 nutrients women should pay special attention to.
You’ve heard the term a million times in the media, but what exactly is an antioxidant? Antioxidants are naturally-occurring or man-made substances that help delay (or prevent) damage done to cells within the body. Research again and again proves that a diet high in antioxidants helps prevent cell damage from substances called free radicals, which naturally occur in the body as part of normal metabolism and body function. Think of antioxidants as defense and free radicals as offense. Many specific things are considered antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, minerals like selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
In the US, 1 in 4 women dies of heart disease. That’s 25%, and that’s scary! Narrowing or complete blockage of the major arteries is generally the cause, and a healthy diet plays a critical role. In addition to ensuring intake of whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy, you can help your body’s arteries by consuming adequate antioxidants. And the best way to ensure you’re getting enough is to focus on variety, rather that specific foods.
Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, seasonal whenever possible. The fresher the food, the higher its nutritional bioavailability. But if seasonal produce isn’t readily available to you or the budget won’t allow for it, don’t despair! Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables offer the same nutritional benefits as fresh. Your body prefers antioxidants wrapped up nice and tidy in their food package, so skip the antioxidant supplements available on the market. Also, some antioxidants (like beta-carotene) are fat-soluble, which means your body stores them in fat and liver tissue, which can truly lead to a case of “too much of a good thing.”
Want to know what others made my list? Check out the whole list here.