Herbfacts
An array of fruit and vegetables which are high in antioxidants

Q & A: The benefits of antioxidants

“I’ve heard the word ‘antioxidant’ used frequently, especially with reference to ageing. I’d like to keep as healthy and youthful for as long as possible, so can you explain what antioxidants are and advise me what I should be eating to include them in my diet as much as possible.”

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer explains what they are and where to find them.

As part of normal everyday life, our bodies are subjected to free radicals – chemicals that are formed in the body as part of its metabolism and defence against bacteria. Environmental factors also produce free radicals; excessive exposure to pollutants, UV light, and cigarette smoke are just a few examples. Left unchecked, these chemically-unstable free radicals may cause serious disease and accelerate the ageing process. And this is where antioxidants are essential.

Our bodies, however, produce antioxidant enzymes to defend against these free radicals, but we also need to boost our defences by eating foods containing them.

GOOD EXAMPLES OF ANTIOXIDANTS INCLUDE:

Vitamins C, E and beta-carotene (turned into vitamin A in the body)

Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta-carotene are found in most fruits and vegetables.

Selenium

Selenium is found in Brazil nuts, tuna and chicken.

Copper

Copper is found in beef liver, lentils and dried apricots.

Zinc

Zinc is found in oysters, red meat and dairy produce.

Anthocyanins – plant compounds which help to give fruits and vegetables their wonderful bright colours – are also powerful antioxidants, so make sure to include an array of these in your daily diet.

The best advice is to make your diet as colourful as possible, Try blueberries, strawberries, broccoli, kale, carrots, mango … the list is endless! Think of all the colours of the rainbow and you’ll be giving your body exactly what it needs!