Why we need Antioxidants

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Antioxidant is a word we hear a lot these days but what exactly are antioxidants and how can they help our health?

In simple terms, Antioxidants are the martyrs of the biochemical world and they give up their lives, so to speak, in order to neutralise nasty free radicals. Free radicals are the by-product of certain metabolic processes and they literally attack our cells causing serious damage to the cell including its DNA. Once the DNA has been damaged, then the functioning of that cell will become compromised and it will not be able to do its job properly. When the cell goes to replicate itself to make more cells, it will do so incorrectly and instead reproduce a mutated cell. Free Radical damage is now considered to be one of the contributing factors of cancer and other degenerative diseases. Antioxidants can be considered as your internal ‘army’ protecting you from the enemy and they work by creating a ‘fortress’ around your castle i.e. your cell membrane. As long as your antioxidant army has a strong supply of men then no matter how many bullets the free radical’s fire, your cells will continue to be protected.

Where do Free Radicals come from?

Free radical damage occurs naturally in the body as part of metabolic processes; however we can significantly increase the rate at which these reactions occur by the way that we live our lives. The environment in which we live, the food we eat and our lifestyles all play a huge part in how much we expose ourselves to oxidative stress and unnecessary free radical damage. Excessive exercise, stress, pollution, cigarette smoke, UV rays, radiation, medications, alcohol, drugs, deep fried foods, chronic inflammation and chemical/ heavy metal exposure all create havoc inside our bodies, causing a full blown war to take place!  As a result, we expose ourselves to potentially increasing the ageing process and creating diseases processes. A diet full of takeaway foods, a stressful job or life, alcohol, drugs and too much sunbathing can all lead you down that rocky road to illness.

Where are Antioxidants found?

In ‘live’, colourful, fresh food – yes good old fruit, vegetables and herbs!

There are many different types of antioxidants and they each have their own unique function in the body and specific cells that they protect. For example, Vitamin C helps to stabilise DNA whereas Vitamin E helps to protect the outer fatty layers of your cell. So in order to make sure that you are getting a good range of antioxidants  in your diet, you need to eat a wide range of fruits and veggies!

Here is a list of common antioxidants and the foods that you can find them in:

  • Vitamin A: apricots, butter, carrots, cod liver oil, green leafy veg, egg yolk
  • Vitamin C: broccoli, citrus fruit, berries, kiwis, strawberries, pineapple
  • Vitamin E: wheatgerm, almonds, hazelnuts, egg yolk , sunflower seeds
  • Manganese: almonds, avocado, buckwheat, sunflower seeds, walnuts
  • Selenium: alfalfa, barley, broccoli, Brazil nuts, eggs, celery, wholegrains
  • CoQ10: beef, chicken, pork, herring, trout, sardines, salmon
  • Beta-carotene: broccoli, carrots, papaya, spinach, sweet potato
  • Bioflavonoids: apricots, berries, citrus fruit, onions, apples, buckwheat
  • Catechins: black and green tea, apples, berries, cherries
  • Anthocyandins: berries, grapes, red cabbage, aubergine
  • Curcumin: tumeric, mustard, corn, yellow peppers
  • Lycopene: tomatoes, pink grapefruit, guava, watermelon

How can I increase my Antioxidant intake?

Here are some simple and yummy ways to increase your antioxidant intake…

Fresh Vegetables - eat at least 5–6 servings per day including leafy greens (kale, spinach, rocket), red, yellow, purple veg – the more colours the better!

Fruit – especially citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges and grapefruits. Berries and kiwis are also a great source!

Superfoods – Spirulina, Chlorella, Barley Grass, Maqui berry, Wheat Grass, Acai and Goji berries, Maca and Camu Camu are all nutrient dense and packed full of antioxidants. You can simply add a spoonful of them to your smoothies in the morning.

Fresh Herbs – either picked fresh out of your own garden or from the local farmers market. Adds heaps of flavour to your cooking as well provides key nutrients and antioxidants.

Raw Chocolate – who said chocolate was bad for you… not this kind! If you haven’t tried raw chocolate then you don’t know what you are missing out on, it is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! It contains Cacao which is a superfood that is packed full of antioxidants as well as magnesium and lots of other phytonutrients.

Nuts & Seeds are a great source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

Green Tea – contains a constituent called Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) which is an excellent antioxidant that helps protect the body against free radical damage and is also anti-cancer.

Tumeric – a good source of cucurmin which has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumour and anti-arthritic properties – a fantastic herb to add to cooking.

Astaxanthin – is a caretenoid found in microalgae, krill, yeast, salmon, trout and crustaceans. It is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to help with cardiovascular, immune, neurodegenerative and inflammatory conditions.

Are you getting your daily dose of Antioxidants?

I’m off to make a smoothie…


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Michelle is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, Reflexologist and Reiki practitioner who is passionate about living a holistic lifestyle and helping others to achieve their health goals. She is also a Jungle Body Dance Fitness Instructor, which not only keeps her fit but also helps her to inspire others to feel confident and get in shape.

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