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Antioxidant Diet

Friday April 04, 2014

j0437209Oxygen. We need it to live and breathe. Oxygen is used by cells to create energy and drive many metabolic and chemical reactions. So what is oxidative stress and why is it harmful?  Oxidation occurs all around us. It is what creates rust, turns apples brown or oils rancid when exposed to air. Oxidation is a metabolic process that also occurs in our bodies. When left unchecked and out of balance these chemical reactions can cause cell damage, a process called oxidative stress.

Nerve cells have a high need for energy to sustain the many chemical processes that occur in the brain. Mitochondria are cell structures that produce energy for nerve calls. In doing so, mitochondria are a significant source of free radicals, the toxic byproducts of oxygen reactions. These chemically reactive and toxic compounds are neutralized by antioxidants, but if anti-oxidants are in low supply, these free radicals incite toxic chemical reactions that damage DNA, cell membranes and ultimately mitochondrial energy production and ultimately leading to cell death.

Parkinson’s disease is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress is thought to play a role in mitochondrial damage, altered energy production and dopamine nerve cell damage in this disease.  Antioxidants serve to neutralize oxidative stress and can be a potentially powerful therapeutic tool for cell health.

A healthy diet is one way to support and enhance our body’s ability to combat oxidative stress. A variety of antioxidants is the best defense to oxidative stress. Plant based foods are especially high in anti-oxidants. Antioxidants give foods their rich color.

Antioxidant Super Food
  • Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries were ranked highest among the fruits studied.
  • Dark green veggies, beans, artichokes, and russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables.
  • Pecans, walnuts, flax and hazelnuts were the winners in the nut and seed category.
  • Salmon and soy are high protein sources and red wine and green tea in the beverage category.
Increase antioxidants in your diet
  • Eat a colorful and varied diet with a focus on plant based fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • The next time you sit down to a meal, take a look at your plat. Is it filled with bright and contrasting colors such as red, green and blue or simply ‘beige and white colored foods?

Whether you are planning your shopping list or sowing the first seeds in your garden, think about how you can add antioxidants to your diet.  The following ideas can help you

  • Aim for 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily
  • Grab fruits or nuts for a snack rather than a cookie or chips
  • Substitute colorful bean or salmon for protein in the place of meet
  • Drink decaffeinated green tea, coffee  
Boost your antioxidant abilities with the following challenge.
  1. Print the antioxidant worksheet here.
  2. Intentionally add one extra serving of ‘anti-oxidants’ to your daily diet.
  3. Increase variety of antioxidants in your diet by adding one new food item per week
  4. Circle the food each time you add a new antioxidant food to your diet and aim to include each category this season!

Monique L. Giroux, MDMonique L. Giroux, MD
Medical Director, Northwest Parkinson's Foundation

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