Lisa Bishop, PriMed’s registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator, encourages people to add more antioxidants to their diets. Antioxidants are components in food that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

As we move forward in the New Year, with all our resolutions, perhaps we need to rethink our relationship with food.

An emotional topic, food can be an addiction as exemplified by our high rate of obesity in the United States. Consuming specific food conjures up thoughts of pleasure, childhood memories — maybe even the occasional bad date.

Primarily, we should be eating to live and to give ourselves the best quality food we can obtain. Food that contains antioxidants is truly powerful. Antioxidants are components in food that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Every day our bodies turn the food we eat into energy. This process requires oxygen but also releases byproducts called free radicals.

Left alone, free radicals can cause damage to cell walls. The oxidative damage may increase our risk for diseases like heart disease and certain types of cancer. A recent study published in American Heart Association’s journal Circulation by Dr. Aedin Cassidy, a researcher at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, noted a trend.

Women who ate three or more one-half cup of blueberries or strawberries every day had a lower rate of heart attacks. The study followed 93,000 women  — with an average age of 36 — for 18 years who reported on their diet every four years. Cassidy said that substances naturally occurring in red/blue colored fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32% in young and middle-aged women.

Cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts contain the antioxidant sulforaphane. Studies have shown that sulforaphane appears to disrupt cancer cell growth and induce apoptosis, which is the process of programmed cell death.

The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) conducted by the National Eye Institute demonstrated that certain antioxidants such as vitamins C, E and beta-carotene slow the progression of advanced macular degeneration. Good sources of vitamin E include almonds, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, peanuts, flaxseed oil and avocados. Best sources of beta-carotene include sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, greens, mangoes, and spinach.

The most efficient way to obtain our antioxidants is through our food as opposed to supplements. With all this compelling information stating that simple, non-processed food is “anti-aging,” we should try to include a variety of foods, in an array of different colors, which will ensure we are getting the best nutritional value.

Lisa Bishop, MS, RD, CDE is PriMed’s registered and licensed dietitian and certified diabetes educator. PriMed is a multi-specialty physician group of more than 115 providers in 38 locations in Fairfield and New Haven Counties, offering a range of health care specialties and services. Bishop practices in Bridgeport at 4699 Main Street, Suite 101. For appointments, call 203-371-7048.