Nutrient - Antioxidants
Antioxidants are substances made in the body and present in food, which protect against “free radicals”. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules. They are made in the body as part of normal body processes. Free radicals can also enter the body from eating fried food, smoking and drinking alcohol, through over-exercising and from pollution, stress and sunlight. Excess free radicals are highly damaging to cells. Free radical damage, or oxidation, plays a part in the cause of many illnesses and premature ageing.
The antioxidant enzymes made in the body include “superoxide dismutase” (SOD), “glutathione peroxidase” and “catalase”. These need certain co-factors to work, such as zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and iron.
Vegetables and fruit are packed with antioxidants. For example, carotenoids are antioxidant pigments, which are responsible for the yellow, red and orange colouration of plants. Lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, beta carotene and astaxanthin are important ones. Vitamins A, C and E and mixed tocopherols are well-known antioxidants found in plant foods.
Antioxidants work together in supporting each other. For example, vitamin C recycles vitamin E, whereas vitamin C is recycled by glutathione. Anthocyanidins, the purple pigments in bilberries, blackcurrants and black elderberries, recycle glutathione.
So, it is important to eat a wide variety of foods containing antioxidants and antioxidant co-factors and to take a supplement daily.