Antioxidants have been the talk of healthcare for decades, known as the fearsome fighters of the free radical cells that tend to do damage in our bodies. So what are they and why do we need them? Stephen Eddey, Principal of Health Schools Australia explains.
Antioxidants are found commonly in healthy foods as well as naturally in our bodies. They have been shown to help combat the activity of free radicals and oxidation in the body, the processes that are at the root of ageing-related health issues. These processes are a result of normal metabolic processes, and are often enhanced by external stressors such as environmental toxins, poor diet, stress and more. If free radical activity and oxidation can be minimised by enhancing your internal antioxidant levels, you may feel an increased sense of vitality as your body may be functioning more efficiently.
Here are five easy ways to up your body’s natural antioxidant levels:
Not only are they tasty and moreish, blueberries have also been consistently recognised as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities when compared against other fruits, vegetables and spice. Anthocyanins are the compounds found in blueberries are responsible for the antioxidant power they provide, as they are the driving force behind minimising free radical activity and oxidation.
Blueberries are most beneficial when eaten in their raw form, not only to keep the important nutrients and enzymes intact, but also to enjoy the best flavour possible. A handful of raw blueberries can be easily added to your breakfast muesli or oats, your daily juice or smoothie, or eaten as a light snack mixed into some yogurt with a bit of ginger (for an added immune boost!).
As an alternative to blueberries, acai berry is continuing to become a popular addition to the diet for its wealth of health benefits, including its super antioxidant power. Acai is an inch-long, dark purple berry that originates from the acai palm tree, which is native to the Amazon rainforest region. As with blueberries, anthocyanin is the compound found in acai that provides this berry with its impressive antioxidant properties.
Most commonly consumed when added to a juice, acai may also be blended and topped with pieces of banana and granola, or frozen and eaten with a spoon as a sweet snack in the warmer summer months.
CoQ10 has long been known as a powerful antioxidant that helps to minimise free radical activity and associated age-related symptoms. Ubiquinol is the active and reduced form of CoQ10 produced naturally in the body. It is three to eight times more absorbable than traditional CoQ10 providing important antioxidant support and cellular energy.
Studies have shown that as we age, the natural levels of CoQ10 in our body decreases, begin at around the age of 30. In addition, the older we get, the harder it becomes to convert Ubiquinone to Ubiquinol, which is the form it is required in to help power our cells.
Whilst the need to restore natural Ubiquinol levels has been established, the ability to achieve sufficient levels simply through food containing Ubiquinol (such as red meat, chicken, spinach and peanuts) may not be achievable without eating these foods in excessive quantities.
Japanese scientists have recently discovered a stabilised form of Ubiquinol which is not prone to oxidation and which is readily absorbed into the body, marking a significant breakthrough in supporting cellular energy and helping to maintain a healthy heart and vascular system. Ubiquinol is available through leading Australian nutritional supplementation brands. Ask your health practitioner or local pharmacist for the best product for you.
Kidney beans are an important source of the trace mineral manganese, which itself supports antioxidant capacity. Kidney beans have also been shown to be particularly rich in flavonoids, which represent one of the most important classes of antioxidants. Kidney beans are particularly good when eaten in simmered dishes so that they can absorb the flavours and seasonings from the surrounding foods within which they are cooked.
Lucuma powder comes from the subtropical fruit of Pouteria lucuma tree, which is native to Peru, Child and Equador. The anti-oxidant rich fruit is yellow-green and egg-shaped with a dry, starchy yellow-orange flesh. It has been described as having a “unique, maple-like taste that is a delight for a variety of recipes”.
Lucuma may be used as a natural sweetener in breakfasts, desserts, juices, smoothies and more. Using lucuma in baking is an easy way to fortify the nutritional content of the recipe without increasing your blood sugar levels. As lucuma is naturally sweet but low on the Glycaemic Index, it is a healthy choice for individuals seeking to minimise their sugar consumption.
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Consult your healthcare practitioner on strategies for your health.
About Stephen Eddey
Stephen Eddey is a qualified Nutritionist and Naturopath and is the Principal of Australia’s longest established natural medicine college, Health Schools Australia. He has completed a Bachelor of Complementary Medicine as well as a Masters in Health Science.