From green tea to white tea, dark chocolate to red wine, and from blueberries to goji berries – it's easy to feel a little bombarded over the ‘latest and greatest' in antioxidants. Not to mention a tad confused.
What you need to know
Antioxidants (AOs) are substances that protect the body from free radical (FR) damage. FRs are highly reactive molecules that damage body tissues.
These come from a number of sources, including our body's own biological processes that occur when we eat and exercise.
There are also external sources of FRs such as cigarette smoke, environmental pollutants and chemicals such as pesticides and preservatives.
The apple example
Consider what happens when you slice an apple. If you leave this sliced open, the exposed flesh soon goes brown. This process is called ‘oxidation', and helps demonstrate the power of FRs.
Squirt a little lemon juice on the apple and this browning process occurs much more slowly or not at all. This is the impact of the lemon juice, or more specifically, the antioxidants in the lemon juice. This same process happens in your body.
You've heard the expression that your body is a temple, now think of it as a slice of apple!
Prevention and protection
FR or oxidative damage plays a role in the development of many health problems including heart disease, cancer and degenerative conditions.
AOs may play a preventative role in these conditions and also play a role in slowing down the ageing process.
Finding the right antioxidant for you
Because there are so many different AOs (including vitamins C and E, the minerals zinc and selenium, and the flavonoids in berries), the best approach is to take in a broad range of AOs.
- Citrus fruits
- Cold pressed vegetable oils eg. olive, wheat germ
- Whole grains
- Green leafy vegetables
- Brazil nuts
- Organ meats
Coenzyme CoQ10 (CoQ10)
- Sweet potato
- Red grapes
- Teas - especially green and white
- Dark chocolate
- Red wine
* Flavonoids are a large family of compounds that share a common chemical structure. The above are just a few examples of a few of the different flavonoids.
A day in the life of a great anti-oxidant mix
Whole grain cereal with plain yoghurt and mixed berries and ground nuts and seeds
A cup of green tea
Italian lentil soup with capsicum, carrots and broccoli and whole grain bread
An apple and a palm-sized serve of Brazil nuts and cup of white tea
Grilled chicken or fish and a salad with English spinach and roast pumpkin served with a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice. Polished off with a small piece of dark chocolate
References available on request