What even is an 'antioxidant'?
You’ve probably seen or read something about antioxidants, which foods they’re found in, on some sort of Health and Wellness social media page or website. You’ve probably also seen health food and online stores sell antioxidant supplements, claiming they reduce the risks of ‘stress-induced’ conditions like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and eye diseases such as macular degeneration. …But, have you ever wondered what even are antioxidants?
Where do they come from?
And why does everyone rave about them? Yes? Then this article is for you.
First, we need to discuss what happens in our bodies and why we even need antioxidants. Deep down in our bodies, there are things called electrons, which essentially work in pairs to allow chemical reactions to make our bodies, well, whole. These electrons must work in pairs to keep our cells stable - however, at times, some electrons lose their long-term partner. When this happens, just like someone whose just ended a long-term relationship, the un-paired electron (also called a ‘free radical’) becomes unstable and will promote cell damage through “oxidative stress”. Too much of this can lead to medical conditions such as cancer and heart disease. This is where the hero, the antioxidants, come in to save the day. When there is a free radical floating around, antioxidants happily donate one of their own electrons to stabilise the free radical and get it back into a neutral state. Happy times! So as you can see, antioxidants are pretty crucial for our existence, and because antioxidants are not synthesized in the body, we can only get them from a variety of food. Variety is emphasized here, because each food provides a different antioxidant, and each antioxidant provides a different function. So how do we get the most antioxidants?
First and foremost, we must have a fruit and vegetable dense diet.
Fruits and vegetables provide an array of antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E, lycopene, beta-carotene, flavonoids, and selenium – just to name a few.
Other sources of antioxidants include: fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel; nuts like walnuts; chocolate (the darker, the better) and red wine!
The bottom line of this all?
We need antioxidants because, although our body cannot synthesise them, it depends on them to reduce oxidative stress. Awesome sources of antioxidants are found in a variety of fruit and vegetables, nuts, and fatty fish.
For more information on how to reduce your risks of common diseases naturally through diet, contact (08) 8232 7372 to book an appointment.
Yours in health,
Joyce Haddad, Director of A Dietitian's Mission, is an Adelaide based Dietitian/Nutritionist and Master Personal Trainer with a passion for health and wellbeing. ADM aims to help the public make informed and realistic nutritional choices and ensure everyone has a healthy relationship with their body and with food.