We often hear this word being thrown about casually but what are antioxidants? What do they mean and how are they beneficial to our overall well being?
Firstly, in order to understand antioxidants, it is important to understand what free radicals are. Free radicals are actually molecules that are generated in our body upon exposure to toxins, germs, viruses or fungi1. Free radicals contain extra oxygen and destroy these unwanted invaders in our bodies through oxidation. The problem occurs when there is an abundance of toxins in our bodies hence an abundance of free radicals. Body cells themselves also become targets and must ward off the free radicals thus preventing disease. This is done by antioxidants or free radical scavengers.
Damage from free radicals can be greatly reduced by consuming antioxidant nutrients2. They can prevent disease as well as mopping up the damage caused by inflammation of these diseases. The best way to build an antioxidant rich foundation that proves inhospitable to free radicals is through a combination of wholefoods.
The major sources are:
In the body, antioxidants defend against free radicals and therefore disease. Fortunately, antioxidants can be found in the foods we eat. Foods containing dark pigments, such as beets, dark green leafy vegetables, crimson grapes and most notably berries, have been shown to contain a high concentration of antioxidants.
Vitamin C and selenium are great examples of potent antioxidants. They are most effective, by far, in their natural form - namely, straight from the fruit. Foods containing Vitamin C include all the citrus foods, broccoli, tomato, strawberries. Foods containing selenium include brazil nuts, salmon, chicken, brown rice, walnuts.
Among the most potent antioxidant fruits are raspberries, blueberries, and pomegranates. Tomatoes contain the antioxidants lycopene and glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that helps boost immune function.
1. Pitchford, P. Healing with Wholefoods. 2002 North Atlantic Books
2. Kirschmann, G.J., Kirschmann, J.D. Nutrition Almanac. 1996 McGraw Hill
Disclaimer: The material provided is for information purposes only and should not be used as medical advice. Do not use the information as a substitute for medical care.
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