So everyone knows we are supposed to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day because it's 'good for you'. Yes I know that, but I still don't do it. However, after what I've learned this week in my Nutritional Therapy diploma I definitely will!
Have you ever heard of 'Free Radicals' and 'Antioxidants'? Probably, they are starting to be more generally heard of. I actually thought they were the same thing before.
Free Radicals are the baddies in our bodies - a little ironic as their name suggests something good. They are cells that have been damaged by everyday bodily functions like breathing (yes - breathing oxygen damages our cells as it 'oxidises' them - you know when you cut some fruit and it turns brown, that's oxidisation). But the biggest cause of the damaged Free Radicals are external things like pollution, too much sunlight, over exercising, cigarette smoke and eating charred and deep fried food. Over exposure to theses things will damage your cells and increase the number of free radicals.
Antioxidants are the goodies. They are clever little cells that are able to 'neutralise' Free Radicals which stops them damaging more cells, and they also repair the damage.
The bad news....
Once you get free radicals, which we all have, they zoom around your body trying to mend themselves but actually can cause a chain reaction damaging even more cells, even our DNA leading to quicker ageing and disease.
The more damaged cells you have, the more you are likely to get diseases such as Arthritis, Heart Disease, Stroke and Cancer.
The good news...
Our bodies have always had to deal with free radical damage, just in differing forms, and Antioxidants are powerful enough to combat them, if you have enough.
So what does all this mean?
Well for me it means I need to make sure I minimise my family's Free Radical intake by avoiding pollution, smoke and charred and fried foods, and to increase our defences by intaking as many Antioxidants as possible.
What are Antioxidants and how do you get them?
Your 5 a day! Here are the main antioxidants to make sure you get a good supply everyday.
Vitamins A, C and E
However, be warned, taking a supplement is not recommended without proper advice as if taken in the wrong quantities or combinations, more harm than good can be caused.
The best way is to eat the right foods which naturally give you this defence - and fortunately there is a new rating called the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) rating which shows you how high in Antioxidants different foods are - the higher the better.
The top 15 Antioxidants are (in order of greatness):
So if you eat 5 of these a day you’re off to a good start! That’s my new target! Just don’t boil them to death and kill all the nutrients - steaming retains the most good stuff! I’m also starting my day with a raw smoothie to get a few portions in before the day runs away with me!
‘The Challenge’ Update
At the moment I must admit that ‘life’ has taken over in my quest and I am resorting back to what I know rather than experimenting. However in light of this new research on Antioxidants I am even more determined to find ways to get 5 a day into my kids!
Thanks for reading!