• Alex Bovell

Nutrition 10: Antioxidants

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

It seems you can’t walk down the health food aisle these days without seeing a packet of food plastered in the word antioxidant rich. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon, yet when asked what’s an antioxidant the response is always, “I have no idea but all the health bloggers are eating them, so they must good for you”. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually know what you’re buying when you pick up a packet?

Antioxidants are extremely important for preventing the development of disease. One of their biggest jobs is the first line of defence against free radicals (which float around the body reactive + unstable). They’re naturally occurring chemicals that prevent or slow oxidative damage to our body by scavenging up free radicals that harm our cells, like a mop. The way they work is by donating electrons to free radicals, calming them down.

Free radicals are produced whenever our cells use oxygen, naturally through metabolism. Additionally, environmental and lifestyle factors such as pollution, pesticides, radiation, smoking, stress, alcohol and a western diet all increase the occurrence of free radicals.The issue with free radicals is they’re missing an electron in their outer shell, which makes them unstable. Therefore, they seek and steal an electron from somewhere else and place it in their outer shell, making them happy and balanced. The problem with stealing an electron is that it’s taken from elsewhere in the body that requires it. For example, if an electron is stolen from a cell membrane, it becomes compromised & damaged and may burst open and kill the cell. Additionally, free radicals cause chaos and increase oxidative stress in the body, meaning there’s an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of antioxidants to detoxify their harmful effects. Our aim is to keep oxidative stress low because high levels increase the risk of disease. We’ll never vanish free radicals, however we can avoid them getting out of control and raising oxidative stress and disease risk.

Antioxidants can be found in plant foods, fruits and vegetables, as the pigments that give them colour, are full of antioxidants. You can see why someone on a westernized diet who doesn’t eat whole, plant foods would be lacking enough antioxidants in their body. There’s no need to waste your money buying expensive antioxidant supplements if you balance your diet and eat a wide range of brightly coloured rainbow fruit and vegetables. These foods listed below are great additions to your diet that will improve your antioxidant status and leave you shining from the inside out!Orange foods such as pumpkin, carrots, oranges & sweet potatoes containing Beta-caroteneGreen Leafy Vegetables such as bok choy, spinach, kale & cabbageVitamin A, C & E rich foods including fruits and vegetables; broccoli, berries, cauliflower, carrots, milk, eggs yolks, almonds,Tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, asparagus, strawberries & papaya rich in lycopeneGoji berriesHerbs: cinnamon, turmeric, clove, oregano, cocoa, cumin