Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
3 minute read
4 Aug 2021
12:26 pm

Why your body needs antioxidants and where to get them

Renate Engelbrecht

Fight free radicals by boosting your body with antioxidants from these five foods.

Include foods rich in antioxidants in your diet. Picture: iStock

Antioxidants are a crucial part of your diet if you would like to keep your body healthy and strong. These compounds can counteract the unstable molecules better known as free radicals that damage DNA, cell membranes and other parts of cells.

Why fight free radicals?

Free radicals lack a full complement of electrons and therefore they steal electrons from other molecules and damage them in the process. Free radicals are damaging by nature, even though they are generated by the body itself.

Yes, the body generates free radicals in response to things like tobacco smoke, ultraviolet rays, air pollution, radiation, inflammation, certain drugs and pesticides. It is also a natural by-product of the natural process in cells.

Some free radicals are even produced during exercise and according to Harvard Health, this is necessary as it sensitises your muscle cells to insulin.

Still, free radicals are rather inescapable, and many are unstable and highly reactive, which is why your body needs ample antioxidants to deactivate them to prevent them from damaging your cells.

Boost your body

Although the body’s cells naturally produce some potent antioxidants, you also need to boost your body with antioxidants that can only be found in foods like vitamin C and E. Plants consist of phytochemicals that also hold antioxidant properties.

Berries

Blueberries might be low in calories, but they are very high in nutritional value and antioxidants. In fact, there are studies that suggest that blueberries contain some of the highest levels of antioxidants when it comes to your everyday fruits and vegetables.

Strawberries come with a high level of vitamin C and antioxidants – specifically an antioxidant called anthocyanin. This antioxidant not only gives these berries its red colour, but it is also said to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Goji berries are promoted as a super food for good reason. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and may be effective in raising blood antioxidant levels. The research on these berries is limited, though.

Raspberries come with a generous dose of dietary fibre, vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants and may be of help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.

Berries are high in antioxidants
Berries are rich in antioxidants. Picture: iStock

Leafy greens rich in antioxidants

Kale has been dubbed one of the most nutritious green vegetables on the planet. It is rich in vitamins A, K and C and comes with heaps of antioxidants. It is also a great plant-based source of calcium, which plays important roles in the body’s cellular functions.

Like blueberries, spinach is also low in calories, yet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The antioxidants found in spinach help to protect your eyes from free radicals caused by UV light.

Cacao

Antioxidants contained in cacao and dark chocolate can reduce inflammation and the risk for heart disease, which is why chocolate lovers would be happy to know that it is okay to eat chocolate, as long as you opt for a chocolate with a high cacao percentage. The higher the cacao content, the more antioxidants.

Cacao consists of antioxidants
Cacao and dark chocolate consist of antioxidants. Picture: iStock

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are not only loaded with dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. According to the South African Mushroom Farmers Association comes with phytonutrients and antioxidants that prevent plaque from building up against artery walls, which evidently reduces blood vessel hardening and assists in lowering blood pressure.

ALSO READ: 7 Reasons why you need to include mushrooms in your diet

Pecan nuts

By using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) method, researchers found that pecan nuts are the nuts with the highest antioxidant capacity, so go ahead and add them to your granola, in salads or coat chicken or fish with it before baking. Pecans are also packed with additional nutrients like vitamin A and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium and more.

As people across the globe are opting for a healthier lifestyle, adding these five foods to your daily diet might just help you to take that first step toward your goal of a healthier life. Fight those free radicals with fruit and vegetables (and chocolate, of course) that are packed with natural goodness and keep your body healthy and strong with your daily dose of antioxidants.