Beauty and Benefits: Antioxidants play a vital role within foods and your body – there is evidence suggesting our bodies production of antioxidants may decrease as we age. The normal process of metabolism, no matter what you are doing or eating creates free radicals – unstable compounds which through oxidation, transfer an electron and so leave behind a new free radical. On top of this we are exposed everyday to free radicals present in sunlight (UVradiation), cigarette smoking, air pollution, and toxins presents in pesticides and other household chemicals. These ‘free radicals’ damage cell function and intercell integrity. Damage to our skin cells and the ‘scaffolding’ that keeps skin smooth and tight leads to sagging, rough, wrinkled skin, blemishes; and an uneven complexion. Antioxidants can help combat the damage by neutralising free radicals and stop them from damaging our skin.
Source: Foods rich in many hundreds of antioxidants include most fruits, veggies, some ‘good’ oils such as olive & sunflower, whole grains, eggs, nuts, green tea, some spices and meat. They contain an extensive variety of antioxidants which have varying roles and effects, some more valuable than others. There are 2 main types of antioxidants found in foods – Carotenoids and Polyphenols which are further classified as there are over 600 known carotenoids alone. (we’ll help you understand that in another post) Vitamins A,C & E are antioxidants as are many minerals.
There are lots of tests & tables claiming what foods have the highest antioxidant levels but in reality the measure of the antioxidant level (eg the ORAC – oxygen radical absorbance capacity) has little relevance to real life without knowing what antioxidants are absorbed or how much we might need or how they work synergistically within the body. There is still a lot of research to be done.
Morsel to Motivate: The hope is however that antioxidants from foods may compensate for the shortfall in our own production. It has been proven that antioxidants work better when obtained from a variety of foods rather than supplements as the latter may have little effect on the cells! As always – eat fresh, minimally processed foods and ensure you have lots of variety!