What on Earth … are Antioxidants?

It appears, or so we are told, almost every food you can think of,  is rich in antioxidants.  So what are they and why are they important for good health?

I think the easiest analogy is if you think about Oxidation being the process that creates the breakdown which causes rust, usually on the surface of something, then Oxidation occurring on the inside of the body causes a breakdown of  body cells,  which then attack healthy cells, DNA, proteins and fats. This weakens the immune system and speeds up the aging process as well as being linked to several diseases such as cataracts, cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s , diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, to name just a few.

Oxidants, aka “free radicals,” are introduced to the body by pollution, stress, alcohol, sun exposure, unhealthy food, and cigarette smoke.

Antioxidants, or anti-oxidation agents, reduce the effect of dangerous oxidants by binding together with these harmful molecules, decreasing their destructive power. Antioxidants can also help repair already damaged cells.  Certain antioxidant enzymes are produced within the body, unfortunately, todays’  fast paced lifestyle, pollution and and poor diet has once again dramatically tipped the natural balance of things.

Other antioxidant agents are found in dark green leafy vegetables, foods high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene are believed to be the most beneficial. These can be found in fruits and vegetables, those with the strongest colours being healthiest. Orange and red peppers, tomatoes, spinach and carrots are examples. You can also supplement, but supplements are exactly that and should never be used as an alternative to a healthy, preferably organic, diet!

It all comes down to your ‘5 a day’, which is now being considered for an upgrade to a 7 and even that’s a minimum!