What is an antioxidant?
Antioxidants are nutrients that work in the body to help keep cells healthy by preventing oxidative cell damage. The most well-known antioxidants are vitamins A (from beta carotene), C and E. Vitamin A, C and E all help support a healthy immune system. Vitamin A promotes healthy vision. Vitamin C helps develop healthy gums and helps heal cuts. Vitamin C can help absorb iron when eaten with iron rich foods. Vitamin E protects cells from damage. Other substances in plant-based foods called phytochemicals may function as antioxidants too. Nutrition scientists have associated diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with good health.
How does an antioxidant work?
You can actually show your preschooler how antioxidants work with this simple experiment. Cut an apple into small dices. Place some dices in a bowl. Place other dices in a bowl and toss with lemon juice. Wait a few minutes. Lemon juice has vitamin C which is an antioxidant. The dices without lemon juice will turn brown, due to exposure to air (oxidation). The slices with lemon juice will stay white, due to the antioxidant vitamin C. Just like the apples with the lemon juice, the cells in our bodies can stay healthy by eating foods with antioxidant nutrients like healthy fruits and vegetables.
Here’s how you can help your preschooler have antioxidants in her diet:
- Offer a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables throughout each week
- Offer a serving of fruit or vegetables (1/3 cup) at each meal and snack
- Make sure most of your preschooler’s grains are Whole Grain – look for “whole grain” in the ingredient listing on product labels.
What foods have antioxidants?