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Antioxidants are well known to be beneficial to us, but their potential health benefits may go even further than we thought. Studies have shown that Vitamin C, for example, is a natural antioxidant that plays a role in the healing of wounds by producing collagen. It is also thought that Vitamin C can help to reduce cholesterol, by transforming it into bile acids before it builds up in the liver.1
By understanding what antioxidants, or ‘free radical scavengers’ are, and learning how they can affect our health, you will be opening yourself and your body up to one of the most powerful nutritional tools available to us.
Antioxidants help protect us from oxidative stress. By ensuring we have enough exposure to antioxidants, we are better able to detoxify our bodies of free radicals and keep healthy.
Oxidative stress occurs when the production of free radicals within the body, and the body’s ability to counteract their harmful effects, suffers an imbalance. Numerous factors can lead to an increase of free radicals, and therefore an increase in oxidative stress; both from internal and external sources. Inflammation or damage to the mitochondria; the powerhouses of our cells, are major factors. Cigarette smoke, environmental pollutants and exposure to radiation will also contribute to oxidative stress.
While oxidative stress may sound scary, it is a perfectly normal phenomenon in the body.2 That being said, there are ways to help ourselves in the prevention of oxidative stress. One of the easiest things you can do is simply remove as much exposure to free radicals from your lifestyle as possible. If you are a smoker, try to cut back or, ideally, give up altogether. Try to avoid city pollutants and wherever possible take walks in the fresh air instead.
Healthy eating is also a great form of prevention from oxidative stress. Aim for a healthy diet that is rich in a variety of foods containing antioxidants. You may be unsure of which foods these are, but many of the well-known vitamins and minerals are antioxidants so if you familiarise yourselves with those, and the foods that contain them, you will be well on your way to a great healthy eating routine.
Antioxidants need to be broken down in order to be absorbed. Some of them are water soluble, while others are fat soluble, and studies have shown that each has a number of health benefits.
For detailed information on the antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide, you can consult an Antioxidant Food Table. 5
While many foods contain antioxidants, plant-based foods are generally higher in antioxidant content than animal-based or mixed food products.5 Whichever diet you follow, the following list of foods show how you can integrate lots of beneficial antioxidants into it:
It’s not just foods that can be high in antioxidant value. The following types of drinks are rich in antioxidants and well worth including in your diet.
While both are great antioxidant drinks, green tea is superior as, unlike black tea, it has not been fully fermented, meaning that more of the antioxidants are available as they’ve not been lost to oxidation7
Excessive alcohol consumption is not good for your health, but red wine contains antioxidants, so drinking a glass of red wine every now and then could have some health benefits.
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