Antioxidants may not sound particularly fun or glamorous, but without them, we would not exist because their role, in fact their generosity, is crucial to our survival, let alone our health. I am using the word generosity very specifically here, because antioxidants are genuine givers, and I will explain why in a moment.
You will undoubtedly have heard of antioxidants, but what precisely is their role? What do they actually do? They are part of our personal army, waging a never-ending war against treacherous atoms known as free radicals. These atoms are highly unstable because they are out of balance – they carry pairs of electrons in their orbit but if an electron suddenly finds itself without a partner, it becomes a scavenger, hurtling around and trying to steal an electron from somebody else – and of course if it succeeds, it has in the process created another free radical and set off a cascade of free radical damage.
Free radicals can wreak absolute havoc, damaging or even killing cells, affecting genetic material and destroying tissues - but this is where antioxidants’ generosity comes in because the heroic antioxidant kindly donates an electron to the free radical, stabilising and effectively disarming it – and, amazingly, its big-hearted act of donating the electron to the free radical does not result in the antioxidant becoming a free radical itself.
Free radicals are produced naturally in the body as a normal part of living, but they are also the result of life-style and a polluted environment: smoking, alcohol, chemicals, toxins in the air, water and our food, radiation, pesticides, junk food, processed vegetable oils, diets low in fruit and vegetables, diets high in animal protein, too much physical exercise, too little sleep, excessive sun exposure, stress – the sources are endless and pretty much impossible to avoid in the modern world.
The human body itself manufactures a wide range of antioxidants, but this production slows down as we grow older and it becomes increasingly essential to provide ourselves with antioxidant protection from outside sources, most importantly through our food. Needless to say, they are also available as supplements and these can certainly be useful if the power of a specific antioxidant is required in a highly concentrated form, but a natural, nutrient-dense daily diet will pack an abundance of antioxidants in their pure unprocessed form, ready to do their job. Furthermore, nutrients love being part of a team and work much better together than separately – think in terms of citrus fruit being rich in Vitamin C as well as countless other nutritional compounds rather than a Vitamin C capsule.
Some antioxidants are well known – Vitamins A, C and E for instance, but many others are aliens and quercetin, isoflavones, anthocyanidins and resveratrol are considerably less familiar examples. However, if you make sure that you include onions, beans, berries and green tea perhaps in your daily dishes and drinks, you will automatically be getting a good dose of these four.
How can antioxidants support our health generally and our Dynamic Ageing in particular? They have a vast range of functions, from calming inflammation and enhancing the skin’s ability to retain moisture, to improving immune function, regulating enzymes, warding off wrinkles and protecting the integrity of DNA. They can even offer protection from intense UV rays, allergies and viral attacks but most importantly, they help keep age degeneration at bay – in other words, they are crucial to Dynamic Ageing! So make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, the more brightly coloured, varied and fresher the better. Absolutely FLOOD your body with antioxidants, and see for yourself what miracles they can work for you.