All You Need To Know: Antioxidants
Antioxidants: they're everywhere, they're great for you. When designing our most recent collection, one of the main health benefits that kept popping up for almost every product was 'high in antioxidants' - they're in everything from our porridge to our salad. But what is an 'antioxidant'? It's all well and good knowing where to get them, but as with everything, unless we know exactly what it is, why we need it and when we need it, then we're probably not going to eat it. But because you probably should be loading up on antioxidants, we've answered the what, why and when for you.
WHAT IS AN ANTIOXIDANT?
To put it in the most basic form, an antioxidant is a compound which naturally occurs in plant-based foods - which means you find antioxidants in fruit and veg, but also coffee, tea, wine and chocolate (the good stuff). There are different types of antioxidants: the commonly know Vitamins A (also know as beta-carotene), C and E are all antioxidants, as well as flavanols (found in chocolate), resveratrol (found in wine) and lycopene (found in tomatoes) - to name just a few of the thousands out there.
WHAT DO THEY DO?
Antioxidants help prevent or stop cell damage in the body. They are capable of stabilizing, or deactivating, free radicals before they attack cells. And what are free radicals? They're potentially damaging molecules that can attack the cells of the body, leading to cell damage and disease. They're produced naturally in the body to help fend off viruses and microbes, but also in the environment, with factors such as air pollution, cigarette smoke and alcohol leading to an overload and cell damage.
WHY DO WE NEED THEM?
I guess this one has already answered itself, but getting enough antioxidants from natural plant based sources helps protect against and prevent cell damage and disease. They also help protect against common diseases and infections, providing support for your immune system, as well as your heart and nervous system. They slow down and help your body to resist signs of ageing caused by everyday exposure to pollutants as well as helping to repair cell damage, inflammation and injury quicker.
You want a constant balance of antioxidants to free radicals (also referred to as oxidants - hence antioxidants), so continuously including antioxidant rich foods in your diet is the best approach. And that's much easier than it may sound: lots of everyday foods particularly coffee, blueberries, red peppers, pumpkin, black pepper and many herbs are high in antioxidants. Also anything labelled a 'superfood' or 'superfood powder' is a guaranteed powerhouse of antioxidants - they didn't get their name for nothing after all! Stick to natural sources rather than supplements though - an overload of antioxidants can suppress your body's ability to turn on it's own defines system (but don't worry, it's not possible to overload from natural sources - no matter how many matcha lattes you drink).