We’ve all heard about antioxidants and how important it is to make sure we naturally get them from our food, but what are they exactly? Why are they so great and what different types are out there? Well, read on and lets find out!
What are antioxidants exactly?
Ok, so antioxidants are substances that do their job both inside and outside of the body’s cells, protecting the membrane from the damage caused by reactive molecules known as Free Radicals.
Free Radicals are ‘charged’ molecules that can cause problems in our bodies and damage to our cell structures and DNA, contributing to the development of diseases such as cancer and heart disease as well as accelerated ageing. With all this in mind, antioxidants in our food can help combat these in their own way as they literally ‘break the chain’ of potential chemical destruction in the body.
Where do free radicals come from?
Antioxidant substances can be obtained via your diet or nutritional supplements but are also made in the body. Vitamins A, C and E as well as trace minerals such as zinc, copper and selenium are all examples of antioxidants that we can get from our food. Some other less well-known antioxidants can also be found in plant-based foods which include antioxidant phenolic compounds, natural organic acids, tannins, flavonoids and other compounds.
Examples of antioxidants
Broadly, there are two different types of antioxidant – water-soluble or fat-soluble, which we need both of. They can be further categorised into on-enzymatic which are found in foods, and enzymatic which is produced in the body. Here are a few examples of both:
Vitamin C – one of the most well-researched nutrients out there, Vitamin C helps to lower blood pressure and cholesterol as well as reducing the risk of developing a number of chronic diseases.
Vitamin E – One of the major fat-soluble antioxidants that is a strong defender against Free Radicals. It’s also important for diabetics as it enables insulin to reach healthy cell receptor sites.
Glutathione – A ‘master antioxidant’ that is producted in the body and found in every single cell. Together with selenium it makes the antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, which is important for health functions of the liver.
CoQ10 – one of the most important antioxidants used by the body, it is particularly effective in helping the heart, blood vessels and arteries as well as helping prevent premature ageing.
Do I need antioxidant supplements?
Eating a natural diet high in wholefoods is the best way to get all of those amazing antioxidants into your body the natural way. For example, foods such as broccoli, sprouts and bok choy contain more than 70 different antioxidant substances.
So there you go! Antioxidants are really, really good for you! Kick those Free Radicals to the curb, eat healthily and feel great!