Antioxidants: What are they?

Antioxidants. You may have heard about them, but what are they exactly, and why are they supposed to be good for you?

Free radicals

In our bodies, we produce free radicals, whihch are highly reactive chemicals. They have both positive and negative impacts on the body. Free radicals are important in many cell functions, but if there are high concentrations in the body, they can cause damage to components of the cells, including DNA, proteins and cell membranes. This damage, particularly to the DNA could lead to the development of cancer and other health complications.

Antioxidants to the rescue!

But never fear about free radicals, as antioxidants are here to save the day! These chemicals help to neutralize free radicals, which lowers their concentration, meaning they are unable to cause any of this harm to the cells. Although antioxidants are also made in the body, we are all reliant on external amounts of them as well, which are obtained mainly through the food that we eat. These are generally foods that contain selenium, vitamins A, C and E, amongst some other minerals that you may not have previously heard of.


(pink food) protects specifically against prostate cancer and heart and lung disease. Grapefruit, guava, watermelon and tomatoes are included.


are found in orange foods (just think “carrot-enoids”!) like mangoes and sweet potatoes, which store the antioxidant beta carotene (vitamin A).
Yelllow and green foods contain lutein and zeaxanthin tackle cataracts and atherosclerosis. These include honeydew melon, avocados and yellow corn.
Finally, many purple fruits and vegetables contain anitoxidants, like blackberries, blueberries, aubergine and red cabbage. These foods prevent inflammation due to the presence of anthocyanidins.

Here’s a great recipe for a salad that will boost your antioxidant levels:

Carrot and chickpea salad


400g tin of chickpeas, drained
2 grated carrots
1 bunch of spring onions, chopped
Seeds of 1 pomegranate
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 small bunch of mint

In a bowl, place the chickpeas, carrots, spring onions and pomegranate seeds. Mix together the lemon juice and sesame oil then pour over the ingredients in the bowl. Toss the salad then serve garnished with mint leaves.



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