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cranberriesThough cranberries are a Thanksgiving staple, they often go uneaten. This year, you might try some, though – not the hopped up sugarific kind, but more gently and naturally sweetened (like this, for instance). Not only are they tasty; they’re an excellent source of antioxidants.

Research has shown that the polyphenols in cranberries – phytonutrients that play a role in combatting oxidative stress – may help prevent both caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease. By the same token, a study published just last month in the Journal of Periodontology found oxidative stress to be an excellent biomarker for evaluating perio problems.

And as we noted last time, increasing antioxidant intake is key to combatting oxidative stress.

Antioxidants come in all shapes and sizes. Some are vitamins. Some are vitamin co-factors and minerals. Some are hormones. Some are phenols. The list goes on. A few of the biggies:

Vitamin A
Your body can synthesize this vitamin from beta carotene, but it’s also found in many foods. Especially good sources include carrots, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, squash and red peppers. As one of the fat-soluble vitamins, your body can store it in its tissues.

Vitamin C
C, on the other hand, cannot be stored by the body. You must get it regularly through food. And citrus is far from the only good source. Peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, dark leafy greens, guava and kiwi are just a few of the foods rich in this nutrient.

Vitamin E
Like vitamin A, E is fat soluble. Almonds, avocados, fish and spinach are just a few E-rich foods.

CoQ10
This compound is one of the body’s energy carriers, which is also the source of its antioxidant power. Meat, fish, nuts are some of your best sources of this nutrient.

Manganese
This mineral is critical for human development and metabolism, as well as the antioxidant system. Good sources include seafood (especially mussels, clams and bass), nuts (especially hazelnuts, pecans and walnuts), tofu, beans and dark leafy greens.

Iodine
As we mentioned before, this trace mineral is critical for thyroid function, but it also functions as an antioxidant. It’s abundant in sea foods and vegetables such as seaweed, spirulina and shellfish. It’s also found in raw milk, butter, eggs and cheeses (particularly from grass fed cows), pineapples, and dark green vegetables grown in good, healthy soil.

colorful fruits and vegetablesYour best bet for ensuring you get enough of such nutrients? Eating a varied and colorful diet based on whole foods and especially rich in fresh vegetables and fruit.

And keep in mind that as you age, your needs change and your natural production of antioxidants slows. What you needed to be healthy at 15 is different than what you need at age 40, say, or 70. A 2007 review in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging reminds that having good health is about smart choices.

The elderly should…be encouraged to consume a diet rich in antioxidants as there is evidence that such a diet especially in combination with a healthy life style can lower the rate of all-causes and cause-specific mortality

Of course, healthy choices are a must at any age.

For more information about ways to boost your antioxidant and co-factor levels, check out these articles:

Images by Pen Waggener & Faith Goble

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