Why You Need Antioxidants

The reason that fruits (and vegetables) are so important to your overall health is that they are major purveyors of antioxidants.

The reason that fruits (and vegetables) are so
important to your overall health is that they are major
purveyors of antioxidants. Antioxidant molecules are like
the missile-defense system of your body, preventing damage
from molecular bombs called free radicals. It works like this:
in order to breathe, move or eat, your body’s cells convert
food and oxygen into energy. This chemical reaction releases
harmful by-products, the free radicals. Basically, they are
highly reactive forms of oxygen that are missing an electron.
Desperate for that missing electron, they steal them from
normal cells, damaging the healthy cell and its DNA in the
process. This damage eventually contributes to any number
of major health problems, including heart disease, memory
loss and cancer.

Antioxidants, however, interfere with this process by
giving free radicals one of their own electrons to stabilize
them. Or they combine with free radicals to form different,
more stable compounds. There are also antioxidant enzymes
that help free radicals to react with other chemicals to
produce safe, instead of toxic, substances. Antioxidants,
for instance, help to prevent ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol from
becoming stickier and forming artery-clogging plaque.
This is why the health establishment is so insistent on
people eating more fresh produce: it provides round-the-clock
defenses against free-radical damage to your arteries.

Of the hundreds of fruits out there, which ones are
the best for you? The answer: the ones with the highest
ORAC scores. ORAC stands for oxygen radical absorbance
capacity, a fancy way of saying, ‘Which fruits and vegetables
pack the greatest antioxidant punch?’ The rating system was
developed by US scientists.

Top 10 Antioxidant-Rich Fruits
1. Prunes
2. Raisins
3. Blueberries
4. Blackberries
5. Strawberries
6. Raspberries
7. Plums
8. Oranges
9. Red Grapes
10. Cherries

Plus:
25 Vitamin-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating
9 Ways to Get 9 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest