The term antioxidants or free radicals are repeatedly used in both the beauty and nutrition industries, with many product descriptions often written with an assumption that people understand what these terms actually mean. With so much information out there to try and consume, we thought we’d give you a crash course the basics of antioxidants and free radicals.
The basic misunderstanding
Antioxidant is often used as a noun, which in fact it is not. Rather, ‘antioxidant’ is an adjective, describing the specific task a substance can perform for us. An ‘antioxidant substance’ is something that can prevent or slow down the damage to our cells caused by ‘free radicals’ (more on these later). The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based foods, fruits and vegetables, with a good rule of thumb being that foods with vibrant colours often contain the highest levels of antioxidants.
Eat the Rainbow is a good tip to remember
Why are they important?
As the body goes about its daily function, such as processing the various things we consume or expose it to, the body creates what is known as a ‘free radical.’ These are the waste substances left behind by our own cells during certain activities.
These activities, which result in the creation of free radicals, are known as oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, immune deficiency and most reportedly, cancer. It is this ‘oxidative stress’ that is referred to when you hear the saying ‘it is stress that will kill you.’
Examples of oxidative stress include:
- Consumption of certain foods; namely refined and processed foods.
- Environmental pollution.
- Radiation exposure.
Substances with antioxidant properties can help neutralise these free radicals in our bodies, protect our cells and also boost overall health.
Tips to increase your antioxidant diet defensive line
- Look at the colours on your plate. If your food is mostly brown or beige, the antioxidant levels are likely to be low. Add in foods with rich colours, such as kale, beetroots, and berries.
- Include a fruit or a vegetable every time you eat. Good sources include lentils, broccoli, blueberries, apples, spinach, eggplants, black beans, red grapes, dark chocolate, pomegranates, tomato and goji berries.
- Pick the right snacks. Aim for nuts, seeds, (especially brazil nuts), sunflower seeds, and dried fruit. Ensure you make sure to choose those with no added sugar or salt.
- Have a cup of green tea or ‘matcha’. A favourite past time in many asian countries, particularly Japan.
- Spice up your meals. Turmeric, cumin, oregano, ginger, clove and cinnamon can all spice up and power up your meals.
- Use a supplement. If you want to power up your antioxidant defence further, you may choose to add a supplement into your daily routine.