Antioxidants: What are they, why do you need them and which ones are best?

Antioxidants: What are they, why do you need them and which ones are best?

Antioxidants are a modern catch-cry for health foods. We justify treating ourselves to red wine, dark chocolate or a cup of coffee by saying ‘it’s full of antioxidants.’ And it’s true – these things do contain more antioxidants than many other foods and drinks.

But what are antioxidants, why do we need them and which ones are best?

To understand why we need antioxidants, you must understand free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms, created as a bi-product of natural chemical reactions within the body. Metabolic processes like cell division and energy production produce free radicals. Free radicals attack and damage healthy cells and cell membranes, and in doing so, produce more free radicals. Depending where this deterioration occurs illness can arise.

Illnesses associated with free radical damage:

  • Eye problems; glaucoma, cataracts
  • Memory Loss
  • Asthma
  • Acne, eczema
  • Low immune health
  • High blood pressure
  • Arthritis

Factors increasing free radical production:

  • Poor diet
  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • UV exposure
  • Drugs – both illicit and pharmaceutical
  • Environmental pollutants, chemicals
  • Illness

Why Antioxidants help…

Think of antioxidants like hungry termites gobbling up free radicals. The more hungry mites in your body, the less free radicals. The less free radicals, the slower they reproduce, so a reverse cycle begins. The more antioxidants in your body, the better your chance of preventing free radical damage. Better still, an abundance of antioxidants can repair cell damage already done!

Benefits of antioxidant intake

  • Improved nervous system health
  • Immune support
  • Improved vision
  • Better sleep quality
  • Improved skin appearance
  • Improved reproductive health
  • Weight loss

Now you know why you need antioxidants, which are the best ones?

Red wine, dark chocolate, coffee and leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, but the antioxidant content of the foods below blows your favourites out of the water!

  • Pomegranate – of all fruit and vegetables, pomegranate has some of the highest antioxidant content – much more than organic kale and leafy greens!
  • Amla berries (Indian Gooseberries) are more antioxidant than blueberries, blackberries, even goji berries! Buy them dried, organic and from a reputable health store.
  • Bee Pollen has formidable antioxidant. It’s ORAC score – the scientific measure of antioxidant capacity – is even higher than the pomegranate!
  • Propolis also scores an extraordinary high ORAC value. It can vary depending on the source of the propolis, but to give you an idea, propolis can be up to 500 times more antioxidant than citrus fruits!
  • Green Tea Powder, or powdered green tea leaves. Of 390 foods evaluated for antioxidant strength, green tea powder topped the list at more than triple the antioxidant strength than the next highest ranked food in the list.

There are so many more incredible antioxidants available. The important thing is to start adding more to your day, every day, and enjoy better health all over!