Eat antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables such as berries, kiwis, kale, and broccoli at EVERY meal for a better physique and disease prevention. Research shows that eating a seemingly nutritious meal with high-quality protein and fat can cause oxidative stress and reduce your blood antioxidant level significantly. This is one reason why studies may have linked high-protein and greater red meat consumption with increased disease risk—protein can keep you lean and muscular, but it can also cause oxidative stress! The solution is to boost your antioxidant intake and you’ll get all the good of animal-based protein without the bad.
A study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition tested the effect of different meals on blood antioxidant capacity, which is a marker of the degree of oxidative stress in the body. If you experience oxidative stress without adequate antioxidant levels, you can develop chronic inflammation, which is a precursor to most diseases including Alzheimer’s, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress can also damage muscle tissue and compromise recovery.
Many things cause oxidative stress including aerobic exercise, exposure to toxins like cigarette smoke, or eating unhealthy fats. Even eating a mixed macronutrient breakfast made of protein powder, added sugar, coconut milk, coffee and cream will cause oxidative stress and lower blood antioxidant status as was seen in this study.
However, adding dried blueberries or grapes to that same breakfast protected participants from oxidative stress and effectively maintained blood antioxidant status. This means that by eating antioxidant-rich foods, it’s possible to prevent a rise in oxidative stress and protect the body and your muscle tissue because the antioxidants scavenge the free radicals and get rid of them for you.
This study also found that strawberries and cherries raised blood antioxidant levels significantly, whereas dried plums and plum juice did not. Other recent studies have shown that the following antioxidant–rich foods have protective effects too:
• Blueberries, concord grapes, and walnuts were shown to improve verbal memory performance and slow mild cognitive impairment in the elderly by decreasing oxidative stress levels.
• Orange, melon, grape, peach, apple, and kiwi juices suppressed oxidative stress in a study of ten young men. Grape juice raised antioxidant status to the greatest degree for two hours after supplementation.
• Wild blueberry powder raised blood antioxidant status in eight men by as much as 16 percent for four hours after ingestion.
• A grape seed supplement raised blood antioxidant levels in eight healthy women and countered oxidative stress following a similar mixed macronutrient meal as used in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition study. The grape seed supplement provides the same antioxidants as found in red wine, indicating that moderate red wine consumption with meals can also prevent oxidative stress.
Researchers suggest that the average 500 calorie mixed meal requires about 1.5 servings of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables in order to prevent oxidative stress. They suggest as much as nine servings a day of high antioxidant foods for a typical 2,500 calorie diet if stressors such as dietary pro-oxidants, disease or cigarette smoke and drugs are not present. To achieve this level, eat antioxidant-rich produce with EVERY meal, snack, and protein shake. Consider supplementing with an organic vegetable or fruit antioxidant powder as well.
Prior, R., Gu, L., et al. Plasma Antioxidant Capacity Changes Following a Meal as a Measure of the Ability of a Food to Alter In Vivo Antioxidant Status. Journal of the American College Nutrition. 2007. 26(2), 170-181.
Krikorian, R., Nash, T., et al. Concord Grape Juice Supplementation Improves Memory function in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment. British Journal of Nutrition. 2010. 103(5), 730-734.
Ko, S., Choi, S., et al. Comparison of the antioxidant Activities of Nine Different Fruits in Human Plasma. Journal of Medical Food. 2005. S8(1), 41-46.