What are antioxidants?

What are antioxidants?

  • 8 April 2020

By now you would have heard about antioxidants, either on food labels, online or from other people. With all the foodie buzzwords and ever-changing trends in healthy eating, it can be tough to separate the fads from the facts. But the huge hype around antioxidants is here for good reason.

What are antioxidants?

Free radicals are produced by the body as it processes food and reacts to the environment. Cigarette smoking and pollution increase free radical production, as well as exposure to excessive sunlight. Free radicals are bad because they cause oxidation which damages cells and your DNA, and increases the risk of heart disease and cancer.

That’s where antioxidants come in: Antioxidants protect your body from these free radicals by neutralizing the free radicals, and reducing the risk of these diseases.

There are thousands of types of antioxidants in food. Many you’ll be familiar with already, even if you didn't know they were actually antioxidants! Vitamin E and Vitamin C, lycopene, zinc and beta-carotene are all antioxidants. Other compounds in food that act as antioxidants are flavonoids, tannins, phenols and lignans. They serve slightly different functions in the body, so it’s a good idea to eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods.

What foods are high in antioxidants?

Most foods known as superfoods are high in antioxidants. The best sources of antioxidants are plant-based, so eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will ensure you get a good dose of antioxidants daily. But apart from fruits and veggies, here are a few other great sources of antioxidants:

  • Cocoa - dark chocolate is one of the best sources of antioxidants out there. the higher the cocoa content, the bigger the antioxidant punch. A perfect excuse to have something chocolatey for dessert tonight!

  • Red wine - As if we needed to give you another reason.. Red wine is high in polyphenols and flavonoids which makes it anti-inflammatory and can improve cardiovascular health.

  • Nuts and seeds - also very high in many antioxidants, like vitamin E. So be sure to eat variety of nuts and seeds that pack an antioxidant punch.

  • Berries - Berries contain high amounts of antioxidants, like anthocyanins and resveratrol. Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are the best sources of antioxidants among berries

  • Tea - green, black, rooibos, honeybush.. Whatever your preference, a cup of tea is a great source of antioxidants. So go and put the kettle on.