There are some BIG words in the nutrition world that get thrown around all the time. I'm one to retain the essence of things... so I'm the kind of gal who remembers antioxidants = good. My partner on the other hand is a details guy to the max so he could prattle off why they're bad and a whole history on the subject. So whether you're like me or like Cliff this post has something for you! Here is the low-down on five of my favorite big words:
Phytochemical is a broad term that includes a wide variety of chemical categories including antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols and carotenoids. There are thousands of these beneficial chemical compounds occurring naturally in virtually all fruits veggies, beans and whole grains, so it is pretty easy to get your intake of them if you are eating real + whole foods. Phytochemicals give plants their color + smell and protect them against bacteria, viruses + fungi. In turn, when we consume those plants, the phytochemicals greatly reduce our risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Total score!
These are bad. Also known as oxidants, these are produced during the normal processes of digestion and by environmental exposure to toxins like cigarette smoke and radiation. To get all scientific-y, free radicals carry an unpaired (free) electron which creates a negative charge. Our body is happy when the negative charges pair with positive charges to become neutral (which happens via antioxidants). While we need some free radicals to fight off invaders, too many will damage the healthy tissues of our body interfering with our immune system functioning. These interferences contribute to the aging process and increase our risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, liver damage, and arthritis.
These are good! Antioxidants are vitamins, minerals and nutrients (beta-carotene, selenium, Vitamins A,C + E, zinc) that boost our immune system. They both neutralize free radicals + repair damage done by them. Our body produces them + we get them from food: fruits (especially berries), colorful veggies, nuts, spices and grains.
Such a fun word to say! These are specific types of antioxidants that go above and beyond! They help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes. You can find them in raw honey, most legumes, fruits, veggies, white + green teas, olive oil, most grains and CHOCOLATE + RED WINE (oh yeah, baby).
Amino acids make up 75% of our body and control virtually all cellular processes in our body (digestion, growth, repair) so they are SUPER important. They provide nourishment and protection to our tissues, cells + brain. You may have heard “essential’ or “nonessential” associated with amino acids-- well they are ALL essential to our body. Nonessential refers to the ones that our body can produce on its own, while essential refers to those that we must get from our food. Our body is unable to store them for very long, so we need to take in amino acids on a daily basis. The best sources are meat, eggs, dairy and soy, so it can be hard for vegans and vegetarians to get as much as they need. Best bet in that case is to vary + combine vegetable proteins like beans, nuts + seeds, and consider taking a supplement.
Raising my glass of polyphenols to you! To your health, Lacy
P.S. I am over at Kelly Rae's blog today with a new series called Food Changed Everything. Come say hello!