Free radicals are unstable molecules that contain one or more unpaired electrons and are generated by the body as a by-product of normal everyday metabolic processes. As a result of this property, free radicals are highly reactive and have a strong tendency to cling to and harm healthy cells and other vital molecules such as DNA, proteins and fats.
Antioxidants are the yin to the yang of free radicals in the body. Known as ‘sacrificial’ molecules, antioxidants, donate their electrons (without making themselves unstable) to neutralise the reactivity of free radicals and reduce their harmful effects.
When the production of free radicals outweighs the body’s innate antioxidant reserves, a phenomenon called oxidative stress develops which can adversely affect the structural and functional aspects cells and tissues of the body.
Factors that can contribute to free radical load and consequently increase our susceptibility to oxidative stress include poor diet (e.g. highly refined sugar and carbohydrates, processed meats, alcohol, etc.), radiation and environmental toxins (e.g. pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals and air pollutants).
Amp up your antioxidant intake
Maintaining a balance of free radicals and antioxidants is important for maintaining general health and wellbeing. A good way to keep this balance in check is by upping your intake of antioxidants, which can be easily done by prioritising the consumption of:
- Plant foods – as they represent the richest source of antioxidants, which often are responsible for their varied pigments. Some helpful tips include, painting your plate with the rainbow at every meal, incorporating meatless Monday’s or making plant-inspired substitutions in traditional meat-based recipes, for example lentil bolognaise sauce.
- Nuts and seeds with their skins (e.g. almonds and peanuts) – as these contain a high concentration of a family of antioxidants called polyphenols.
- ‘Imperfect’ fruit and vegetables – characterised by dimples, blemishes and scabs as these signify places of high antioxidant load where they had needed to fight off and heal from environmental insults.
- Organic produce – as studies have shown that it contains 20 to 40 percent higher antioxidant content than conventionally-grown produce.
Antioxidants from A-Z!
Beyond their free-radical scavenging abilities, antioxidants in all their diversity, can offer a range of health-promoting benefits. Our favourites include:
- Alpha Lipoic acidis a unique water and fat-soluble antioxidant that regenerates and prolongs the life of other antioxidants (including vitamins C and E) and supports energy production, assists sugar metabolism and helps to maintain nervous system and blood vessel health. See Herbs of Gold Alpha Lipoic 300.
- Vitamin Cis a key water-soluble antioxidant that supports connective tissue and skin health, collagen health and formation and healthy immune system function. See Herbs of Gold Zinc Forte + C
- Glutathione is considered the body’s ‘master antioxidant’ and can be found in every cell. See Herbs of Gold Grape Seed Gold.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin – are known as carotenoids that support healthy eyesight, particularly to assist eye adaption to variation in light intensity and night vision. See Herbs of Gold Macu-Guard
- Zincsupports healthy immune system function, and connective tissue and skin health. See Herbs of Gold Zinc Forte + C
 Baranski, M., Srednicka-Tober, D., Volakakis, N., Seal, C., Sanderson, R., Stewart, G. B., ... & Leifert, C. (2014). Higher antioxidant concentrations, and less cadmium and pesticide residues in organically grown crops: A systematic literature review and meta-analyses. British Journal of Nutrition, 794-811.