Antioxidant rich foods and why to eat them


It’s a paradox that oxygen, one of the things we depend upon to live also very gradually contributes to our mortality as we breathe. Oxidation is the process by which damage occurs as a result of contact with oxygen, and even though oxygen is essential to humans, we aren’t exempt from oxidative damage. Oxidation leads to the formation of “free-radicals.” Free radicals form from normal cellular processes. Environmental hazards can increase free radical production. Too much sun exposure, air pollution, cigarette smoke, drugs, poisons, pesticides – they can all increase free radical production. Yet it’s not just oxidative stress from free radicals that threatens us. Add in daily risks from viruses to infections damaging our cells and genes, no wonder it’s in our interests to try to combat and neutralise such agents.

Ageing is inherent to life; antioxidants can help slow the process

We generate free radicals from the food we eat, the air we breathe and from sunlight. However, our body also makes free radical fighters: antioxidants. We don’t know all the different substances that can be converted to antioxidants, with thousands most likely yet to be discovered, but some are already familiar;

  • vitamins C & E
  • beta-carotene (which converts in the body to vitamin A)
  • minerals such as manganese and selenium
  • phytonutrients such as lycopene and anthocyanin

It’s common knowledge that antioxidants play a key role in reducing the risk of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, yet even though consistent and substantial evidence that a diet in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains may be the most effective source of these key elements in sustaining good health, somehow most of us still fail to make the connection between the importance of what we eat and our long-term health.

Eat more real food

Each antioxidant is unique and plays a different role in the protection of the body. This means variety in our food consumption can provide additional protection; no one single antioxidant can do everything – and no one food. But be in no doubt, what we choose to eat, including their level of antioxidants, can have a significant impact.

Eating to combat cancer risk

Foods that can harm: a number of studies in 2018 have highlighted that the higher the proportion of processed and heavily processed foods in our diets the higher the incidence and the greater the risk of obesity, which may increase a person’s risk of developing cancer.

In 2014, the American Society of Clinical Oncology reported that obesity contributed to a worse outlook for people with cancer, while according to Cancer Research UK in 2018, obesity is the UK’s biggest cause of cancer after smoking.

Foods that can benefit: studies have found that a diet rich in fruits reduced the risk of cancers of the upper gastrointestinal tract. Other studies have found that a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fibre lowered the risk of colorectal cancer and that a diet rich in fibre reduced the risk of liver cancer.

Many phytonutrients found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes act as antioxidants, which protect cells from damage that can cause cancer. Some of these antioxidants include beta-carotene, lycopene, and vitamins A, C, and E. However more research is needed as trials in humans have so far been inconclusive.

Making a change

While it might sound challenging to develop a diet with a wide range of fruit and vegetables, it can be quite straightforward. If you need some help, try the Just Routine App for some recipe ideas. And think about this; while the anti-ageing cosmetics market is worth billions of dollars, some of the most amazing and cost effective anti-ageing products remain neglected: fruit and vegetables.

Top anti-ageing tip

So, whether it be for wellness or beauty, healthier living = smarter aging, with one of the best tips being simply to make eating more fruit, vegetables, legumes & whole grains as instinctive as breathing.


Make eating real food Just Routine


Note: better to source antioxidants from real food as some studies have raised the possibility of antioxidant supplements interfering with our health. Always discuss supplements with your doctor before taking them.

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Iris is the founder of No Targets Just Routine. She has researched food since 2009 and believes “Happiness is real food shared with loved ones.”

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