A healthy intake of antioxidants is one of the guiding principles of the Atkins program for robust good health. Antioxidants help protect cells and DNA from damage which not only ages us but also makes us more susceptible to disease. For that reason, maintaining high levels of protective antioxidants in your blood is an important goal of the program.
Many people aren’t aware of the fact that the very act of eating – just like the very act of exercising – increases what’s come to be known as oxidative stress. That’s the attack on your cells from rogue molecules called free radicals that can damage your very DNA, as well as contribute to every major degenerative disease. Antioxidants help neutralize those free radicals, protecting your cells, your DNA and your health.
Research from the Agricultural Research Service investigated the effects of antioxidants on after-meal “oxidative stress.” In it, volunteers first drank a shake containing carbohydrates, protein, and fat – but no antioxidants. Sure enough, they produced blood samples with a reduced ability to counter noxious free radicals.
But volunteers who consumed the same meal with grapes preserved their antioxidant levels just fine.
“We’re learning that antioxidants should be consumed with every meal,” says Ronald Prior, a chemist who was the lead researcher on the study. “And if you routinely skip antioxidants in your diet, over time, the excess number of free radicals being produced may begin damaging cellular components, ultimately leading to atherosclerosis, cancer, and other diseases.”
Of course, it’s not just grapes, though they’re very high in antioxidants and were used in this research. It can be any antioxidant rich food – vegetables and fruits being the most obvious. In other research, Prior found that grapes, kiwi, cherries, strawberries and wild blueberries were high performers when it came to raising blood levels of important antioxidants.
Getting a ton of antioxidants in your daily diet – either in supplement form, or by eating foods rich in vitamins C, E, zinc, selenium, vitamin A and the many plant chemicals like flavonoids found in the fruit and vegetable kingdom – definitely qualifies as one of the top ways to improve (and probably extend) your life.
And if you’re not interested in memorizing the names of the thousands of flavonoids, phytochemicals, polyphenols, catechins, minerals, vitamins and other wonderful things found in food, there’s an easy way to get as many of them as possible in your grocery shopping bag: Shop for color. Those colorful pigments – what makes blueberries blue, raspberries red, peppers orange – contain chemicals that nature put into plants to protect them from both the sun and from predators. Those pigments are antioxidant rich and will protect you in the same way they do the plant.
Atkins Advantage shakes are formulated with antioxidants, including the big five: Vitamins A, C and E, plus the minerals zinc and selenium.
Reference: Prior RL, Gu L, Wu X, et al. Plasma antioxidant capacity changes following a meal as a measure of the ability of a food to alter in vivo antioxidant status J. Am Coll Nutr 2007 Apr; 26(2): 170-81