What is an antioxidant?
Antioxidants are vital molecules that fight free radicals in our bodies by neutralising them. They are natural or man-made and can prevent or delay some types of the cell damage caused by these free radicals.
Keep reading to find out the benefits of antioxidants and where to find them. But first, we need to understand what a free radical is, and why antioxidants are vital for combatting them.
What are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are constantly formed within the body and are present as they serve important functions such as fighting infections.
To maintain a healthy balance, the body should contain a balance of free radicals and antioxidants. When this balance is thrown off due to a surge in free radicals, it can lead to cell and tissue damage, this is known as oxidative stress.
Factors Linked to Oxidative Stress:
- Alcohol and cigarette smoke.
- Air pollution.
- High blood sugar.
- Radiation (e.g. excessive sunbathing).
- Excess or lack of oxygen in the body.
- Antioxidant deficiency.
Cell damage caused by oxidative stress can contribute to a range of conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. However, an intake of antioxidants is believed to reduce these risks.
Where can we find Antioxidants?
Examples of antioxidant intake include:
- Vitamin A: Yellow, red and leafy green vegetables such as spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers.
- Vitamin C: Most fruits and vegetables, especially berries and oranges.
- Vitamin E: Nuts, seeds, and oils such as olive and sunflower. And again, leafy green vegetables.
- Beta-carotene: Carrots, peas, spinach and mangoes.
- Lycopene: Pink and red fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and tomato.
- Lutein: More leafy green vegetables, corn, oranges and papaya.
- Selenium: Whole grains such as rice, wheat and corn.
Finally, remember that it is important to uphold a healthy and varied diet, as there are many different types of antioxidants, and each will serve a different function.