The term antioxidants or free radicals are repeatedly used in both the beauty and nutrition industries. Many product descriptions are often written with an assumption that people understand what these two terms actually mean. It has occurred to me that this might not be the case, so here is a crash course on both the basics regarding 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 antioxidants.
Why are they important?
As the body goes about daily function, such as processing the various things we consume or expose it to, the body creates what is known as a ‘free radical.’ ‘Free radicals’ 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
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’. I tried this little gem on a recent trip to 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. Grape seed extract in concentrated form is a great antioxidant. Try Bondi Vite Grape Seed Protect during periods of heavy exercise or stress exposure, as it provides 12g of dry Grape Seed extract and can also help relieve swelling and promote blood capillary health.