Antioxidants are very important soldiers in the battle against free radicals, as they donate the electron free radicals are missing to calm them down and stop their activity. In this way, the free radical is rendered harmless. In the process the antioxidant is consumed, so it actually sacrifices itself to cure the damaged cell.
Antioxidants are produced by the human body in a certain quantity, but this amount is not enough to combat the number of free radicals present in the body of many human beings today.
Several metabolic enzymes are produced by the body, namely glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase – all of which are extremely effective antioxidant fighters. Unfortunately, because the body's capability to manufacture these enzymes decreases dramatically in our late 20s, it is necessary to make sure we include plenty of antioxidant-rich foods in our diet.
Antioxidants come from nutrients and enzymes. The major antioxidants we know of are vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium, copper, manganese, bioflavonoids, and CoQ10. Melatonin is another important antioxidant as is alpha lipoic acid. Plant phytochemicals also appear to play a role and have antioxidant properties.
All plant foods have antioxidant properties, with some of the most significant being:
- Brussels sprouts
- Pecan nuts
Fruits and vegetables are measured by researchers for their ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) which indicates their antioxidant power. However, it is important not to look at ORAC values alone, as you might inadvertently end up eating a diet that targets one group of free radicals but leaves you vulnerable because other types are not targeted.
Eating fresh and where possible, organic produce of many diverse colours is the best way to make sure you are covered, so load up on blueberries, green leafy vegetables, carrots, red peppers, oranges and grapes.
Due to modern farming methods, and the use of pesticides and poor soil, it is unlikely you will get adequate antioxidants through your diet alone. You would have to eat an impossible quantity of food to cover the full spectrum of antioxidants needed by the body to fight free radicals. Many companies push a single type of antioxidant rich food, such as acai and goji berries, but a single food does not cover all the bodies’ needs or target all types of free radicals. You need to use a supplement that incorporates the scope of the body’s requirements, and ideally one that has been tested and produced significant results.