Chronic stress is a state that many of us accept as the norm in our hectic, modern lives but it’s wreaking havoc with our health, so how can we tackle it? As well as stress management practices, we can increase our bodies defences against stressors that cause damage with antioxidants – our health and wellbeing superheroes, if you will.
What are antioxidants & why do we need them?
Every day our bodies are faced with threats that can cause damage to
our health; environmental stressors like UVA and UVB rays, pollution,
blue light radiation from digital screens, plus, unhealthy foods and
alcohol. All of these can cause short and long-term damage to our
health, from our skin, hair, and nails, and in worst cases, over time
they actually alter our DNA cells to cause more serious health
conditions like depression, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s,
macular degeneration, and cancer.
Scientists believe that
molecules call free radicals cause these aging health problems by
creating oxidative stress on the body. Antioxidants fight free radicals
(the bad molecules wreaking havoc) to reduce the amount of stress on the
body and improve our health overall. This is why they’re super
How can we increase antioxidants in our bodies?
We all produce a small number of antioxidants in our body naturally
but we need them from external sources to stay healthy. As well as
reducing the amount of exposure to UV rays, tobacco, alcohol and
processed foods, we can also increase the number of antioxidants in our
diet, skincare, and supplements.
Common antioxidants to look out
for are vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene,
lutein, zinc, and selenium. Each antioxidant has a different chemical
make-up and they each provide differing health benefits. We need lots of
different kinds to improve different aspects of our health, so, as
delicious as they are, it’s no good living off of peas as your only
source of vegetable! Food consultant Dr Sunni Patel advises, “Add
as many plants and the rainbow to your daily plates and if you can,
meet 30 different plant points a week (different portions of fruits,
vegetables, nut milks, fresh herbs).”
Many of the antioxidants we
need can be found in a varied, healthy, balanced diet – ideally one
that encompasses all the colours of the rainbow from our fruit and
veggies to get all the varying nutrients you need. So, which
antioxidants should we look out for and why are they important?
Vitamin C is a powerful detoxifier.
It can flush your body of toxins, helps to protect cells and keeps them
healthy, maintains healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, and cartilage,
and assists with wound healing. Citrus fruits like oranges, peppers,
strawberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and blackcurrants are the best
sources. Vitamin C can also lead to increased collagen production for
youthful skin, glossy hair, and strong nails. If your nutrition slips,
try a supplement to support your vitamin C levels so you stay healthy
Vitamin C with Citrus Bioflavonoids
Vitamin A, also known as retinol, is another skin-boosting vitamin and
antioxidant. It can boost your immunity against illness and infection,
help you to see in dim light, and preserve your eyesight from aging eye
degeneration, plus keep the linings of your body (like your nose)
healthy. Good sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, oily fish,
fortified low-fat spreads, milk, yogurt, and liver products. If you’re
plant-based, it’s worth considering a supplement to get your vitamin A
Advanced Retinol Complex
Vitamin E helps to maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthens the
body’s natural defence system against disease, illness, and infection by
boosting your immunity. Vitamin E can be found in plant oils like
rapeseed, corn, soya, and olive oil, nuts and seeds, and wheat germ.
Supplements rich in vitamin E are great to boost your skin, hair and
nails, as well as your antioxidant levels.
Red and orange vegetables contain
beta carotene which is especially good for your eye health, but also
helps to maintain vital organs like your heart, lungs and kidneys.
when you were encouraged to eat all your carrots because they will help
you to see in the dark? Although they won’t give you a superpower,
there is an element of truth behind it! They can help to slow the risk
of developing age-related eye concerns like macular degeneration or
cataracts. A deficiency in this essential can often lead to eyesight
The body converts beta carotene into vitamin A or
retinol which helps to reduce physical signs of aging like fine lines
and wrinkles. If you struggle to incorporate it into your diet, try
a multivitamin that contains beta carotene to ensure you’re getting all
those useful nutrients.
Zinc is a mineral that can support your normal bodily functions;
your immune system, protein synthesis, growth, development, and wound
healing. It’s key for skin health, DNA synthesis, and protein
production and is needed for your sense of taste and smell. Lots of
animal and plant foods are rich in zinc making them easy to incorporate
into your diet for better health.
Shellfish like oysters,
lobster, clams, and crabs are high in zinc, along with meat and poultry,
fish, legumes, nuts and seeds, dairy products, whole grains, and
vegetables including mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, and beet
greens. If you struggle to incorporate these foods into your diet, try a
Selenium plays a vital role in
thyroid function and metabolism, plus helps to protect your body from
damage caused by oxidative stress. It can boost your immune system, slow
age-related declining health conditions, and reduce your risk of heart
disease. It can be found in some seafood, sunflower seeds, chicken
breast, eggs, shiitake mushrooms and Brazil nuts. When life gets busy,
have some handy supplements and multivitamins to hand to protect
Is red wine really an antioxidant?
Nutritional therapist Mike Murphy lets us know once and for all. “Red
grapes contain plant chemicals known as polyphenols. These plant
compounds have the power to neutralize free radicals in the body and can
therefore be protective to our cells against oxidative stress from
environmental pollutants and the effects of aging. Whilst some argue
that the resveratrol (the type of polyphenol) content in red wine is
negligible (i.e.,less than 1mg in a small glass of red wine), studies do
suggest reductions in cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure,
coronary artery disease, and arteriosclerosis) in people with regular
moderate red wine consumption.”
IS IT WORTH THE HYPE?
Good-for-you foods are often labelled 'healthy' because they contain high levels of antioxidants that strengthen your immune system. Ultimately, they are the superheroes protecting our bodies from any villains (toxins) that can cause serious damage to our health, as well as accelerate aging. Look younger, strengthen your immune system and feel better with an antioxidant-rich diet!