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Antioxidant power

Critical to good health, and so easy to obtain, why are we still not consuming enough antioxidants? Naturally Good Health answers some key questions.

There are so many different considerations to make when trying to stay in good health these days; are you eating your five a day? Did you drink enough water? Have you had enough essential fats? And what about your fibre intake?
In short, we as human beings have a vast amount of nutritional needs to maintain good health, and that’s before you factor in certain lifestyle choices, such as whether you exercise, your weight, the kind of diet you follow and your intake of any supplements. One of the most important groups of nutrients we must make sure we consume is antioxidants as they are critical for health for so many reasons. Here, we answer some of the most common questions about why you need them and how to obtain enough.

What are antioxidants?

They are commonly referred to as molecules and their biggest role is to fight things called free radicals.
Free radicals are unstable compounds that are produced in the body in a variety of ways, for example, through poor diet, from intense exercise, smoking and excess alcohol intake as well as via pollution, among many others. We must try to counter these free radicals as, over time, they can damage our cells and lead to ill health, being linked to the likes of heart disease and cancer. The best way to do this is through antioxidants, which effectively neutralise them. There are a number of vitamins considered to be antioxidants, including vitamins A, C and E, as well as lutein, lycopene, selenium and beta-carotene.

Are they in food?

The beauty of antioxidants is they are found in a huge variety of foods, so are very easy to obtain on a daily basis simply by following a generally healthy diet. Fruits contain high levels of antioxidants, especially the like of blueberries, Montmorency cherries and oranges, while vegetables including spinach, broccoli and kale also contain high amounts.
You can also find good levels in green tea, dark chocolate and red wine (within moderation), nuts and seeds and legumes.

Should I consider a supplement?

You should always start with diet as the foundation to good health and to ensuring you are getting an adequate intake of nutrients. That said, a supplement is often a good idea if you are concerned that you could be deficient and, if you already take a multivitamin, you will find it contains some key antioxidants. Start by visiting your local health food store as they will stock a reputable brand, so you can be sure it has been made to high standards and contains the right
level of ingredients and in a form your body can absorb. You could also look for organically certified supplements as these will ensure certain standards have been met in terms of the ingredients and also the processing.