For a diet that decelerates ageing and protects your body against disease, look for a variety of antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants shield your body from the damage caused by free radicals. As you get older, the body has a harder time fighting off the effects of free radicals on its own. It’s believed that by consuming more antioxidants, we can stop, or at least slow down, many of the age-related, degenerative health issues that can take their toll on us as we get older.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are unstable atoms that cause damage at the cellular level. Left unchecked, free radicals contribute to a range of issues, from wrinkles and greying hair to cardiovascular disease and age-related vision decline.
Free radicals are naturally occurring. They’re not something we can completely avoid or eliminate our exposure to. However, certain lifestyle factors can increase the number of free radicals the body produces. Exposure to pollution, eating a diet high in fried foods, and habits like drinking alcohol and smoking can all exacerbate the negative impact of free radicals.
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants neutralise the effect of free radicals. They are the body’s cell protectors. While you may have heard of some of the most well-known antioxidants like vitamins C and vitamin E, there are many different antioxidants and they all play varying roles.
For example, lutein and zeaxanthin are two of 600 types of carotenoids (all of which act as antioxidants!) that may help to protect the health of the cells in your eyes. Getting enough of these compounds, which are found in high antioxidant foods like spinach and kale, may help to prevent degenerative vision problems like macular degeneration.
The catechin, ‘Epigallocatechin Gallate’, or EGCG, is found in green tea. Researchers have studied EGCG over the years for its potential anti-cancer benefits with promising results. EGCG is also linked to cardiovascular health.
How to benefit from antioxidants
By eating a diet that includes high antioxidants foods, you can help to promote wellness and possibly slow the ageing process. As different antioxidants will have varying effects on free radical activity, it’s a good idea to eat a variety of high antioxidant foods. Here’s a list of some of the best antioxidant foods you can add to your diet.
Ginger is high in gingerol, a bioactive compound that is known to have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the body. Cook with fresh ginger, drink ginger tea, and add diced ginger to your smoothies for a boost of free radical-fighting power.
Green tea is one of the highest antioxidant foods in the world. You can drink regular green tea or use matcha to give your body all those cell-protecting catechins. Matcha is powdered Japanese green tea. It has a higher concentration of antioxidants because it’s the whole tea leaf, stone-ground into a powder. It’s also tasty in smoothie recipes and healthy desserts!
Spinach and other dark, leafy greens are high in a variety of antioxidants like vitamin C and lutein. Spinach is also a great source of minerals like iron and magnesium. Mix fresh spinach with matcha powder and some ripe bananas in the blender for a superfood, high antioxidant smoothie that tastes amazing.
Beets are a great source of antioxidants known as betalains. These compounds may help lower your risk of developing some types of cancer. Toss a few sliced beets in your next salad for the extra health benefits.
Berries are some of the best antioxidant foods you can eat but acai berries are particularly high in antioxidants. You won’t find these dark purple berries fresh in your local markets in Australia. Acai berries are cultivated in Brazil and other nearby countries. You can, however, enjoy frozen acai or acai berry powder to make your own delicious acai smoothies and breakfast bowls.
Goji berries are another berry superfood that contains a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. If you’re looking for some of the highest antioxidant foods in the world, goji berries are a great choice. These berries contain antioxidants called lyceum barbarum polysaccharides, which have been shown in some studies to help with everything from memory enhancement to protecting against heart disease.
Dark chocolate – the more unrefined, the better – is a great source of antioxidants called polyphenols. Don’t start eating sugary chocolate treats to get your antioxidants, however. The benefits are in the raw cocoa; you won’t find a lot of antioxidants in highly processed chocolate products.
Mushrooms like reishi, shiitake, and lion’s mane are high in antioxidants. Both cooked and fresh mushrooms are good for promoting wellness. You can also drink a delicious caffeine-free alternative to coffee with mushroom powder. Mix one tablespoon of organic mushroom powder with 250ml of boiling water for a warming, nourishing mug of ‘mushroom coffee.’
Toss them in smoothies, yogurt, or even on ice cream. Blueberries are rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant you’ll find in other berries like strawberries and blackberries as well. The next time you visit your local farmer’s market, don’t forget to pick up some fresh berries to snack on.
Coffee is one of the best antioxidant foods. Ounce for ounce it contains more antioxidants than cranberry juice or pomegranate juice. That’s one more reason to savour every sip of your morning coffee!
Known for their high content of omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are also an excellent source of antioxidants. Add walnuts to your salads and morning oatmeal.
Great news if you love mint tea – dried mint leaves have among the highest concentration of antioxidants of any herb, including other high antioxidant herbs like ginger, basil, and rosemary. Drink mint tea, or add the herb to your smoothies.
Pumpkins are loaded with antioxidants including vitamin C and E, and carotenoids that can help with immune health and healthy skin. This bright orange food is also a versatile ingredient – you can add pumpkin to all your favourite stews and soups, or make a soup using pumpkin as a base.
This Peruvian plant is well-known for its energising properties and its benefits in enhancing learning and fertility. Maca root is a good source of antioxidants. With a mild, malty taste, you can add maca powder to smoothies. It blends well with bananas, almond milk, coconut, and cocoa powder.
Eating a high antioxidant diet
When adding antioxidants to your diet, aim for variety. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Coffee, tea, and herbal teas also will give you an antioxidant boost. Cook with more fresh herbs like ginger, cloves, and garlic. And, combine different ingredients in your smoothies, like superfood powders and fresh fruits and greens. The more diverse your diet, the more antioxidants your body has to support your overall health.