Antioxidants and Cancer: Are They Related?

What do fruits, vegetables, whole grains and some dietary supplements all have in common?

They are also sources of antioxidants.

Antioxidants are beneficial chemicals that help prevent damage to cells in our body caused by free radicals. These free radicals are naturally produced in the body and are a healthy part of normal cellular production, but in excess, can cause damage to our cells, cell membranes and our DNA structure and even lead to cancer.

Things that can cause excessive amounts of free radicals include ionizing radiation, and environmental toxins; like cigarette smoke, heavy metals, and over-cooked/blackened foods and oils, as an example.

One of the most prevalent forms of cancer is breast cancer; yet, there are many factors that contribute to cancer (all forms, not just breast cancer), including nutrition, lifestyle (sleep, alcohol, smoking), stress management, and genetics, to name a few.

How Can Antioxidant Intake Help?

As mentioned, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are dense sources of cancer fighting antioxidants. Therefore, it’s important to include these nutrient dense foods in every meal throughout the day.

Here are a few tips to increase your intake of antioxidants from whole food sources:

1) Choose colorful Foods: Choose a variety of colorful foods, not only fruits and veggies, but also bright proteins, like salmon and eggs with orange yolks, which are high in astaxanthin, an important anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Aim for two or three different colors each of fruits and veggies each day. Juicing fruit and veggies is a great way to increase your intake.

2) Drink ‘em Up: Green tea, cranberry juice, cherry juice, and even coffee and red wine are good sources of antioxidants. Again the keys are variety, moderation and balance.

3) Add Herbs and Spices: Increase your antioxidant intake and make your meals more tasty by adding herbs and spices instead of salt. Turmeric in particular, is high in antioxidants, but most herbs and spices are good sources. Think outside the box and sprinkle herbs and spices on vegetables, mix with yogurt for a tasty dip, or add to salad dressings.

4) Snack Smartly: Not only are nuts and seeds a healthy snack which will keep you going between meals, they are also rich in antioxidants. Brazil nuts are a key source of selenium, which is important for brain health, while almonds and sunflower seeds are great sources of vitamin E.


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