The Role of Antioxidant Rich Food in Recovery Nutrition
Intense exercise puts stress on the body, which can lead to an increase in free radicals and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Besides exercise, other factors, including chronic disease, stress, aging, and environmental exposure to pollution, can increase oxidative stress. Over time, consistent oxidative stress can lead to DNA damage, premature aging, and increase the likelihood of cancer. Eating foods rich in antioxidants supports the body’s natural defense system and suppresses free radicals to combat the oxidative stress that occurs naturally and during exercise.
Plants are a rich source of antioxidants for humans. The antioxidants found naturally in plants serve to protect them from environmental stressors and have a similar effect on humans. Essential antioxidants, especially for optimal recovery, include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and beta-carotene. I recommend you consume these nutrients from a whole food source rather than as supplements. There is a synergistic effect when we consume a plant as a whole food rather than an isolated nutrient. Additionally, we reduce the possibility of over ingesting of any individual nutrient and risking toxicity when we consume whole plants. I recommend athletes and non-athletes alike include vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables in every meal.
Try getting creative this week and have at least one fruit or vegetable during every meal this week. For bonus points, Google some recipes for the power-packed antioxidant-rich foods below and share the recipes with me. I love trying out new recipes and sharing them with our community.
4 Antioxidants Essential for Recovery
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is found throughout the plant kingdom. Citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi, and strawberries are particularly rich fruit sources as are broccoli and peppers.
2. Vitamin E
Vitamin E is found in almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, spinach, and avocados.
Selenium is most concentrated in Brazil nuts and 100% of our daily needs can be met in 1-2 Brazil nuts every day.
Beta-carotene is found in orange colored fruits and vegetables. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, apricots, and even some dark green leafy vegetables are good sources.
About the Author
Lauren has been a registered dietitian for 6 years and helps others develop practical and enjoyable lifelong nutrition habits to improve health, well-being, energy levels, confidence, and digestion. She focuses largely on a whole food, plant-based nutrition approach to health.