Antioxidants and Free Radicals
We’ve got the scientific lowdown on the world of antioxidants and free radicals!
Free radicals have a particular role in the body in the form of killing intracellular bacteria as well as regulating local anti-inflammatory response in body tissue, healing and pain perception. Free radicals are a natural bodily process but can increase in the body due to a poor diet consisting of processed foods and bad habits such as smoking. Free radicals cause damage to the cell membrane and the DNA inside the cell. During cell replication, free radicals can cause a mutation that can lead to accelerated ageing but, on a more serious note, they can increase the number of carcinogens in the body. Free radicals are a natural bodily process but can increase in the body due to a poor diet and bad habits such as smoking. Free radicals are formed through a process called oxidation, the body needs a process to minimize the damaging effects of free radicals, which is where antioxidants come in.
Antioxidants have a super important role in the body, as they protect your cells from the effects of free radicals. This comes from plant-based foods, whole grain products and even cocoa! They safely react with free radicals before they can cause damage to the body. Therefore, this can decrease the risk of cancer and accelerated ageing as they prevent further free radical damage. Antioxidants have also been suggested to prevent other diseases such as heart disease. In this sense, antioxidants are our best friends and the benefit is these foods have high fibre, low saturated fat and contain high levels of vitamins and minerals. To ensure your body receives a healthy amount of antioxidants you need to follow a healthy and balanced diet. Nutritious ingredients contain a huge diversity of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which the body can only gain from eating a balance of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, poultry and legumes!
Oxidation is a bodily process in which electrons are removed and an oxygen molecule is added to a molecule or chemical in the body. This process itself creates free radicals, which as we discussed above is what can cause mutations and damage in our body. Oxygen for all its positives sadly is the culprit in this instance in a process called oxidative stress, which is again exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyle choices and a poor diet. This is where antioxidants come in to help neutralize the extra free radicals we’ve accumulated through diet and lifestyle.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the healthiest superfoods with the highest antioxidant content to help you fight pesky free radical damage.
You’ll be delighted (and probably shocked) to learn that chocolate has made the list.
Dark chocolate is nutritious and contains more minerals and antioxidants than their less healthy counterparts. Containing high levels of antioxidants, dark chocolate may help to reduce inflammation and the risk of heart disease. The higher the cocoa content- the higher the level of antioxidants!
Strawberries and Raspberries
These colourful fruits both contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical with antioxidant properties. Ellagic acid helps protect your skin from sunlight and reduces the breakdown of collagen, which helps to prevent accelerated ageing. Strawberries contain antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which can help to prevent the risk of heart disease by reducing the levels of bad LDL cholesterol and increasing the levels of good HDL cholesterol. Raspberries also contain anthocyanins, which can help to reduce inflammation, oxidative stress and heart disease.
This nutritious leafy green is rich in antioxidants that help to fight free radical damage. Kale contains the antioxidant phytochemical lutein, which helps to protect eyes from sunlight damage. As well as being high in vitamin A to boost eye health, kale’s lutein content helps to reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of loss of vision in older people.
Rich in phytochemicals known as polyphenols, pomegranates contain high levels of antioxidants to fight free radical damage. Polyphenols are antioxidants that can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce high blood pressure and improve blood flow to the heart. Pomegranates also contain phytochemicals called anthocyanins that help to improve blood flow to the brain as well as improving memory in later life.
Although they are tiny, blueberries contain a huge amount of antioxidants. The antioxidants in this fruit can help to protect your brain against signs of ageing by increasing the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain. These clever antioxidants can also protect the brain from free radical damage that may increase the risk of age-related memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Cruciferous veggies such as broccoli have heaps of benefits for your body! As well as being a fab source of vitamin C to protect your immune system it is also filled to the brim with antioxidants to keep your body happy and healthy. Broccoli contains the flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin. Broccoli contains the flavonoid quercetin, an antioxidant that fights the natural process of oxidation that takes place in the body and overtime as we age. Quercetin helps to slow the ageing process and reduce inflammation, as well as helping to prevent cancer.
This fruit contains high levels of phytochemicals, especially anthocyanins that have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cherries contain antioxidants that may help to reduce pain associated with arthritis, gout and muscular aches following exercise as well as protecting from certain cancers and heart disease.
Spinach is a veggie that contains a host of health benefits! It is a fab source of the phytochemicals zeaxanthin and lutein, which helps to protect the eyes from free radical damage and UV light.
Cinnamon contains one of the highest concentration of antioxidants in the world! The presence of antioxidant polyphenols, phenolic acid and flavonoids work together to fight oxidative stress, which can lead to serious disease and illness if left untreated.
This spice contains the phytochemical called curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may relieve arthritis symptoms, aid digestion and inhibit the growth of cancers.
Citrus fruits such as oranges are a great source of antioxidants. Oranges contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that keeps skin youthful by neutralizing free radicals that can accelerate wrinkling. Vitamin C also helps to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of some cancers, dementia and cataracts.
This tea is unprocessed, which helps it to retain its distinctive colour. It contains folate, B vitamins, manganese, potassium and other antioxidants, in particular, the antioxidant called catechins. Catechins are flavonoids, which may help to fight inflammation and protect the body from cardiovascular disease and different types of cancer. It has also been suggested that catechins prevent excessive oxidative stress due to its antioxidant properties.