We hear a lot about antioxidants but what does that mean?
I’ll try and write this so it makes sense…
If you leave fresh food out of the fridge or open to the air it soon goes off. That’s because it is damaged by oxygen; it reacts with the oxygen in the air and that breaks the food down and kills it.
The same happens to cells inside us; to a degree breathing in oxygen kills our cells. Molecules called free radicals are created, which are just deformed electrons. They have a bit missing which makes them go ape around the body looking for places to steal their missing parts from and causing all sorts of damage! They sometimes just injure other cells a bit, which makes the cells act unusually and can be the start of cancer growth and other diseases.
Other substances cause the production of free radicals, such as smoking, sunburn, excess alcohol, stress, fried food, pollution and burnt food. That’s why people with poor diets or those who smoke, drink lots or have a lot of stress tend to look older.
But nature is very canny and gives us substances to help fight oxidisation – antioxidants. They fight the free radicals and stop them in their tracks. Well they either prevent them from getting to the scene or they limit the damage if they manage to get there. Antioxidants do different jobs in different areas; one might prevent a certain type of cell damage or protect particular types of cells whilst another might protect another cell type. So we need a good variety of antioxidant foods to make up a full army.
Antioxidants are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate, a little bit of red wine and many other whole foods. Vitamins A, C & E and betacarotene are particularly good antioxidant sources, so berries, dark green leafy veg, carrots, mango, cantaloupe melon, cherries, red and orange veg such as tomatoes, beetroot, peppers, red cabbage, red onions. Vitamin E foods such as nuts and seeds and cold pressed oils are great too.
It’s really easy to get enough antioxidants if you eat a largely unprocessed diet rich in a variety of the above foods. Not only easy but tasty too.
Better to prevent disease than treat it, and food plays a huge role there.