We’ve all heard the buzzword “antioxidant” and how food that’s high in it will keep us healthy and potentially help us live longer. What are antioxidants, how do they work and where can we find them?
Big claims come from little antioxidants such as preventing the development of chronic diseases like cancer, stroke, arthritis and heart disease, so it’s no wonder everyone raves about them.
Antioxidants are substances that counteract the damaging effects of oxidation in animal tissue. This is a perfectly normal process, and one we can’t hide from. Time and environment all contribute to this process. But nutrients (minerals and vitamins) and enzymes, (proteins that assist in chemical reactions) are antioxidants believed to fight these ageing effects.
Fruit and vegetables are the best antioxidants as they are packed with vitamins and minerals that help to repair damage in our bodies and ward off colds and infection. Certain foods however are said to contain particularly high levels of antioxidants, so if you’re looking for the foods that pack the biggest punch look out for our top 5 below:
As well as being delicious, berries are rich in proanthocyanidins, the antioxidants that help to prevent cancer and heart disease. So for an antioxidant hit, throw some frozen blueberries, raspberries and blackberries in a morning smoothie, toss a handful over your morning yogurt or cereal or enjoy them as an afternoon snack.
If you hated broccoli as a child, now is the time to develop a taste for it. Packed with vitamin C, calcium and phytonutrients, broccoli is a little green powerhouse and the perfect vegetable to accompany any nutritious meal.
The health benefits of garlic have been well known for centuries, and as a flavouring agent, it is one of the best vegetables around. Just one clove of garlic contains vitamins A, B and C, selenium, iodine, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium.
By far the richest source of a powerful anticancer agent called lycopene, tomatoes are a versatile antioxidant source to add to your diet. Lycopene needs fat for optimal absorption to occur, which makes olive oil the ideal vehicle for this type of antioxidant. Add a little olive oil to some fresh tomatoes to make a delicious spaghetti sauce - an easy trick to increase your lycopene levels.
Black beans, Red beans, Kidney beans and Pinto beans are all rich in antioxidants and an easy addition to your diet. Beans are high in phytochemicals that incapacitate cell-damaging free radicals in the body, as well as very high in fibre. Add some beans to your salad at lunch, or substitute beans for meat in Mexican meals to cut down the calories.
Special mention: Dark chocolate and nuts are packed with antioxidants but the downside is they are also high in calories, so best not to go too overboard or you’ll be taking in more calories than you anticipated.
So what can you expect from an antioxidant-rich diet? Fewer colds, better skin, more energy, and the knowledge that you’re helping to “future proof” your body, there’s a lot to be said for antioxidants.
by Kath Webb
by Laura Briggs
by Kath Webb
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ambrose