There’s no doubt that you would have heard the word antioxidant come up before. Whether it’s in conversation with a friend, or in a commercial for a new cereal, the word antioxidant is a selling a point when listing the benefits of something.
So, what exactly are antioxidants, what do they do, and how can we get more of them? Keep reading to find out all you need to know about antioxidants!
What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are a substance that helps to protect cells from damage. While they are produced naturally by the body, antioxidants can also be found in foods as well as be man-made. There are different types of antioxidants, including flavonoids, polyphenols and phytoestrogens.
Each antioxidant type serves a different function in the body and can interact with other antioxidants to help the body work effectively.
However, the main role of antioxidants is to help delay oxidative damage to the cell. But what is oxidative damage and how does it happen? The body’s cells face formidable threats each day. Some of these threats include lack of food, virus infections, and unstable molecules created naturally by the body, known as free radicals.
Free radicals are capable of damaging cells and genetic material and are produced as a byproduct to the process of turning food into energy. The damage caused to a cell by free radicals is through a chemical reaction known as oxidation. Oxidative cell damage can also be caused by many environmental factors, such as exposure to air pollution, excessive sunlight, and cigarette smoke.
When there are not enough antioxidants in the body, oxidative stress can cause damage to healthy cells and has been linked to cancer, heart disease, and eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.
While the body does a pretty good job trying to defend the against the relentless free radicals – which it does by naturally producing antioxidants - there are ways that we can give our bodies an extra helping hand. And that’s through a nutritious and varied diet.
How you can get more antioxidants
An antioxidant-rich diet is one of the easiest ways you can help stabilise cells and prevent oxidative stress in the body. Many of the foods that contain a high level of antioxidants are known as superfoods and are a lot easier to add to your diet than you probably realise.
Here are some of the best superfoods jam packed with antioxidants to help your body fight off damage caused by free radicals in your day to day activities.
Known for its vitality restoring powers, cordyceps mushrooms have been a popular ingredient for tonics in China for many years now. Discovered by sheep herders centuries ago when sheep and goats would have a burst of energy whenever they ate cordyceps.
It has since been commonly sought after by followers of Eastern medicine. Nowadays, cordyceps mushrooms are the perfect fit for people with active lifestyles. Athletes and gym goers are huge fans of cordyceps for restoring energy and vitality.
They also help the body recover faster after an intense training program. Cordyceps are also adaptogenic and can easily assist your body’s immunity against stress and infections and their antioxidant levels are impressive as well, getting rid of free radicals that could lead to chronic disease.
Acai berries are considered to be one of the best superfoods in the health food world. They offer superior nutritional value vs the calories they contain, along with a multitude of health benefits to boot, as well as high amounts of antioxidants that work to fight off free radicals which can damage our skin cells, hair, teeth and eyes.
Not only does this boost of antioxidants help to promote young and radiant skin but it can also help eliminate free radicals that can cause cardiovascular health issues like heart disease.
Acai berries have also been found to have detoxifying effects as they can help cleanse the digestive system and improve intestinal health. The natural fibre in acai also assists you to digest and absorb nutrients in other foods.
We know we just mentioned acai berries, but the entire berry family deserves a shout out here for its antioxidant properties. Of the more readily available berries, strawberries and blueberries are two standouts when it comes to antioxidants.
Strawberries and blueberries both contain high levels of Vitamin C and anthocyanins which are good for improving immune cell functioning, can help to reduce tiredness and fatigue and improve memory and brain function.
And let’s not forget, they are a delicious, sweet snack.
Drinking green tea is a tradition that has truly stood the test of time. And for good reason. Dating back to ancient times, green tea has long been associated with longevity, improved brain function and even fat loss.
Green tea comes from the green tea plant, which is rich in polyphenols and catechins, which are both types of antioxidants.
The best part is besides being enjoyed as a favourite beverage worldwide, green tea can actually be added to many recipes, including into delicious treats like cookies and cakes.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that nuts are jam packed with so many healthy properties in them, including a significant level of antioxidants. Other beneficial nutrients in nuts include very high levels of protein, fibre, and healthy fats.
In addition to these, nuts are seen to contain nutrients which are good for your body such as Vitamins B6 and E, niacin, folic acid, magnesium, zinc, copper, and potassium.
More importantly, the high levels of antioxidants act as protection for your body’s cells against bacteria and infection. All these vitamins and minerals work together in making your body stronger and could improve the quality of your life.
Your spice cupboard is a great source for antioxidants as well. Many different spices contain antioxidants, with some of the most antioxidant-rich spices being cinnamon, allspice, mint and cloves.
Regularly adding spices to your diet can help increase your antioxidant intake and can have the added benefit of increasing the flavour profile of a dish and reducing the need to add salt and sugar.
Another superfood that packs a true antioxidant punch is maca, a staple in the peruvian diet. It’s fair to say that maca is one of the lesser known superfoods out there, but that’s definitely no reflection on it’s nutrition density.
Maca contains vitamins B1, B2, C and E, as well as magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and many other nutrients. Maca is also adaptogenic, which means it can help the body build stamina and manage the effects of stress better.
You can learn more and check out some maca recipes right here.
Get your antioxidant fix today
Antioxidants are vital to ensuring our health and longevity. While they are naturally occurring in the body, by eating a varied and nutritious diet that includes fruit, vegetables and superfoods, like the ones we’ve talked about today, you can give your body a helping hand and boost its levels of antioxidants.
If you’re ready to add superfoods jam-packed with antioxidants to your diet, then check out our range here at Superfoods Australia. We offer a huge variety of superfoods available in powders, tinctures, and capsules. We also offer free express shipping Australia-wide for orders over $100. It really couldn’t be easier to get those antioxiants!