by Diane Spicer
The best antioxidants for hikers are...
Wait another minute.
Let's back up.
Maybe the whole topic of eating for strength on the trail is new to you.
So let's start off with the obvious questions.
Here is a quick, two part answer:
Not to be a smarty pants or anything, but an antioxidant is a molecule that's anti oxidation.
Let's try again.
Think of an antioxidant as a warrior molecule, built to protect your cells against exposure to high energy particles that may damage critical structures and functions.
An antioxidant can inhibit free radical formation during the process of oxidation. In other words, take away the bullets.
Sounds like a full time job, right?
I don't know about you, but when I'm pulling a long hill with a heavy-ish backpack, I go into open mouth breathing so I can gulp down oxygen molecules.
These little atomic packages get delivered to my skeletal muscles, heart, and brain to keep me upright and mobile.
But they also can generate those unhelpful high energy molecules known as the "I don't wanna play by the rules" gang.
So let's agree that hikers need antioxidants because we all engage in vigorous, strenuous, continuous muscle contractions.
Inevitably, this leads to free radical generation in our tissues.
And sometimes, we keep ourselves in oxidative stress, day after day after day, on a hiking trek.
Hikers also put themselves in the way of free radicals generated by these trail activities:
Fresh fruits and vegetables are sources of the best antioxidants for hikers.
But you already know where this leads.
Hikers cannot lug heavy acorn squashes, crates of richly colored but fragile berries or tomatoes, or bottles of red wine down the trail.
Which leads us into the next logical question...
There are two ways to call out the names of the best antioxidants to pack along on your next hiking trip:
Vitamins A, C and E are pertinent to this discussion of best antioxidants for hikers.
Eating foods containing them will help you recover from oxidative stresses.
These three vitamins are readily available in supplemental forms, and if you're going fast, light and hard over a number of days on the trail, please consider whether you should include them.
For a thorough look at water soluble vitamin C sources for hikers, read this.
NOTE: Vitamins A and E are fat soluble, meaning they can build up in your adipose stores if you're mega-dosing.
And there's more good vitamin news for hikers.
This vitamin strengthens your vision, one of the first senses to be compromised at dusk and dawn on a trail.
This is a powerful weapon against the day to day accumulation of inflammation in your hiking body.
Vitamin E trail tip:
If you have Vitamin E capsules handy, pop them open (using clean hands) and rub the oil into insect bites, sun burns, or abrasions to soothe and aid healing.
Now let's get molecular.
When looking for antioxidant names in foods and supplements, here's where to start:
To dive deeply into choosing the best antioxidants for hikers (and any other human on the planet), read this.
While we're on a roll, let's finish up with the last logical question on your mind.
Space, weight, availability of water sources, and many other factors play into what you include or exclude in your hiking menus.
Luckily, there are some really sneaky, inexpensive and genius level ways to sneak the best antioxidants for hikers into your food repertoire.
If you're planning to rehydrate a grain or cereal for breakfast, tip over this package -like this- to fill up a small plastic bag.
Toss a spoonful of this mighty tasty antioxidant blend on breakfast grains and desserts.
Be sure to drink a lot of water to get the full benefit of the fiber.
Look forward to a handful of apple juice sweetened dried cranberries as a trail snack or oatmeal topping.
Clinical trials with cranberries have established a connection with reduced severity of urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Cranberry extracts are available in powder, capsule and tablet form, if space and weight are at a premium in your backpack.
One of the best hiking foods is also one of the most portable, affordable, tasty choices for the best antioxidants for hikers: nuts and seeds.
To make an antioxidant rich mouthful, choose almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, or peanuts.
As in beef, bison, turkey, venison, chicken and fish jerky.
Fish oil capsules are teeny tiny, nearly weightless, and chock full of vitamin A.
Swallow 'em quick, to avoid a fishy taste.
And store them in a crushproof package, not a plastic bag.
Antioxidants are only one piece of your hiking nutrition puzzle.
Hikers also need plenty more information to stay strong on the trail:
Eat smart, hike strong, and enjoy your trail time :)
Best Antioxidants For Hikers
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And no free radicals are formed.
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Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer.
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