Everyone is in search of what will keep us happy, healthy and young for longer. One key nutrient, or group of nutrients, may hold the answer: antioxidants. So let’s have a look at the role that antioxidants play, and how you can reap the benefits.
What are antioxidants?
I like to think of them as the bouncers of the body. When bad guys, known as oxidants, try to start a fight in the body and inflame everything, antioxidants come along to bring them under control and kick them out. This means that anytime there is something nasty doing damage in your body, antioxidants are there to help.
Why is variety so important with antioxidants?
There are so many different types of antioxidants that we can consume in the diet. But it’s not just how much you consume that can have an impact on your health. Variety is also an incredibly important factor.
If you consume one type of antioxidant all the time, you’re only protecting yourself from one major concern. Different types play different roles throughout the body.
Some can even have a negative impact if we eat too much, or don’t keep it in balance. The mineral selenium is a potent antioxidant, but if we consume too much, it can do damage to the body. So balance and variety is key to getting the most out of your antioxidants.
What colour has to do with antioxidants
So how do you know if you’re getting a good variety of antioxidants in your diet? The answer is in the colour. Different groups are responsible for the hues of the produce that you eat. So if you’re only eating green, you’re only getting the benefits of the group that are found in that green hue. The best choice is to ‘eat the rainbow’.
What’s in a rainbow?
Red is an easy group to spot. The main red antioxidant, lycopene, protects your heart and circulatory system from damage. It can also protect from male cancers, particularly prostate. Find your red dose in fruits such as watermelon, strawberries and raspberries, and in your tomatoes and red capsicums.
Unlike many other antioxidants, lycopene is most available to the body when cooked and served with fat. So don’t skimp on your good fats when serving up a red dish.
Yellow/Orange allows you to see clearly – no, really! They contain carotenoids, an antioxidant group that can convert to essential fat-soluble vitamins. They protect your eyes from age-related damage and deterioration. Look for the yellow and orange options such as lemons, oranges, apricots, pumpkin and sweet potato.
White or pale coloured fruits and vegetables have anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. They help to boost immune function, keeping you safe during the flu season. Look for pears, white peaches, garlic, mushroom and cauliflower to reap the boost.
Green is where you find potent anti-cancer antioxidants hiding. For example, indoles found in cruciferous vegetables are being closely studied, and one day may be an effective alternative to chemotherapy for cancer treatment. Find your greens in your leafy greens, broccoli, avocado, green apples, kiwifruit and limes.
Purple/Blue livens up your plate, but also contains a powerful antioxidant group anthocyanins. They protect your cells from damage and inflammation. This means reducing your chance of heart disease, stroke and cancer naturally. Get your dose from plums, blueberries, eggplant, beetroot and red cabbage.
Brown isn’t a popular colour – but it can be a good sign for antioxidants. Brown options are packed full of catechins, a group of antioxidants that supports heart health. These are found in cocoa and dark chocolate, black tea and green tea.
Want more antioxidants in your diet?
Antioxidants are plentiful in foods that also have natural anti-inflammatory properties. And lucky for you, I have a freebie that shares my favourite anti-inflammatory foods. Want to get your hands on a copy? Pop over here to grab yours today.