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Found in abundance in nature, antioxidants are vital to our health, yet how do they work to protect us?
Antioxidants are key substances that have the ability to reverse or inhibit ‘oxidation’, a process that creates unstable molecules known as ‘free radicals’, which cause damage and destruction to our body. Imagine a freshly cut apple or avocado turning brown, or a nail becoming rusty. In most instances, it is the process of oxidation causing these changes.
Due to the extensive damage they can cause to our healthy functioning cells, these free radicals need to be neutralised. This is where antioxidants are so important, due to their natural ability to offer protection, stabilising these harmful molecules. This may assist in preventing chronic disease, by preserving healthy cell membranes, proteins, DNA expression and regulating our inflammatory response. Oxidative stress is linked strongly to the development of chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease.1
These days, it is difficult to avoid exposure to a variety of harmful toxins via the air we breathe, chemical based cleaners and cosmetics via our skin, or the food and drink we ingest on a daily basis. In order to protect us from these potential harmful substances, our body must act to defend our cells. It can do this by utilising antioxidants, protecting us against disease and the ageing process by reducing oxidative stress.2
Whilst our own metabolic processes, such as inflammation, can itself create free radicals, it is of particular importance to increase our consumption of antioxidants when exposed to external situations known to further increase oxidative stress, for example:
How can we best protect our health defences?
Include key nutrients in your diet that help support high antioxidant activity, preventing damage to cells and tissues and reduce inflammation:
How to Eat a Rainbow coloured diet, some ideas of antioxidant rich foods/drinks to include in your daily diet:
Brightly coloured breakfast bowls and salads, made using a variety of fruits and vegetables are an ideal way to provide an abundance of natural food based sources of antioxidant nutrients. Aim for 5-7 portions of vegetables and fruit daily, not only to provide a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fibre, but also their rich and colourful plant pigments, with the ability to serve as antioxidants providing cellular defence.
In addition to their natural health benefits, some phenolic compounds are also very flavourful, capsaicin is the phenolic compound that gives hot peppers like jalapenos and chillies their overwhelming warmth.
Of course, including plenty of antioxidant rich foods in your daily diet is the cheapest and most natural way to support your health, however, if you have increased requirements or are subject to high exposure to toxins or inflammation, these supplements may provide additional support.
To fully ensure that you are consuming as many antioxidants as possible, the key factor is to consume many bright and colourful fruit and vegetables - Eat a Rainbow.
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