Think of antioxidants as the scavengers of your body. They are compounds in food you digest that slow down or prevent molecules in your body from “oxidating” or creating by-products otherwise known as free radicals.
These free radicals are really normal and exist in all of us as a result of day to day body processes such as metabolism of the food we eat. However, when they exist in excess they can wreak havoc on our cell membranes and other cell structures. Damage caused to cells by free radicals is linked to diseases such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis, damage to the nerve cells in the brain and the lenses of the eye, diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and premature ageing.
Factors that increase the level of free radicals in our body include poor diet, medicines, smoking, sunburn, stress, intense or prolonged exercise, alcohol, exposure to pollution. Enter Antioxidants, which help to neutralise these free radicals and repair the damage they have already done.
Antioxidants are plentiful in a diet high in fresh fruit and vegetables. Nutrients which contain antioxidants include vitamins C and E and selenium. Some other nutrients which might act as antioxidants include carotenoids such as beta-carotene, isoflavones and flavonoids such as in red wine and tea.
Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) measures the antioxidant effect of food (or more specifically the oxidation of free radicals in response to the food compounds). It’s a widely recognised measure globally. Below is a table listing the foods highest in ORAC.