If you want your body to be a lean, mean damage-fighting machine, you need antioxidants in your life. While the word antioxidant gets a bit of buzz in the health space, the actual definition and reason behind consuming antioxidants has gotten itself lost amongst the filters, buzz words and creative marketing.
So, why do we need antioxidants?
When we metabolise oxygen, it creates unstable molecules known as free radicals (and no, not the cool kind of radical). Free radicals steal electrons from other molecules, causing damage to cell membranes, DNA, cellular protein and lipids. If you imagine your body like a school playground, free radicals are kind of like the bully who steals other kids’ lunches.
What causes an accumulation of free radicals?
- The food we eat
- Environmental pollution
- The body’s internal metabolic processes
- UV radiation
The reactive nature of free radicals can cause cellular impairment and even injury. An accumulation of free radicals adversely affects the body and can trigger several human diseases, including:
- Inflammation of the joints
- Damage to nerve cells in the brain
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Accelerated ageing
How do we fight back against free radicals?
Antioxidants are who we have on speed dial, in the fight to prevent and reduce any damage caused by free radicals. Antioxidants neutralise damage by scavenging free radicals from the body and are essential for glowing skin, a healthy immune system and overall wellbeing.
My favourite antioxidants
As a clinical nutritionist, I'd love to share with you my favourite antioxidants that are essential for good health.
While vitamin A usually gets praise for its impact on vision, this fat-soluble vitamin is rich in antioxidants and essential for a youthful glow. As vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, eat it with a healthy fat such as avocado, olive oil or nuts.
Food sources of vitamin A include:
- Cod liver oil
- Egg Yolks
- Red capsicum
- Sweet potato
Everyone knows vitamin C as the first port-of-call for a sniffle, but did you know it’s capable of so much more? Vitamin C is essential for healthy, glowing skin as it supports collagen production, which reduces fine lines and aging.
Foods sources of vitamin C:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Citrus Fruit
- Kiwi Fruit
Vitamin E is a potent fat-soluble antioxidant. Vitamin E fights oxidative damage to cells and assists in natural wound-healing and skin turnover.
Foods sources of vitamin E:
- Leafy greens
- Sunflower seeds
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that plays a vital role in metabolism and thyroid function. Selenium boosts the immune system, prevents acne and reduces the breakdown of collagen. My favourite way to get selenium is to consume a couple of brazil nuts daily.
Food sources of selenium:
- Brazil nuts
- Red meat
- Whole grains
In my eyes, this powerful mineral can do no wrong. Zinc fights inflammation, assists the immune system and gives us an excuse to eat oysters. Isn’t that zinc-credible?
Food sources of zinc:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Red meat
To help your body stay fighting fit, make sure to get your daily dose of antioxidants. The more antioxidant-rich foods you eat, the better!
If you’re looking for an easy way to increase your antioxidant intake, I recommend my kale and blood orange salad from my latest recipe book Supercharge Your Life.
The vibrancy of a whole food colour indicates its antioxidant potential, which means this salad, with dark green kale and crimson blood orange, is bursting at the seams with antioxidants. Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A and C, while blood orange provides a hefty dose of vitamin C.
Kale has been blitzed into gag-worthy smoothies for far too long. Here, it’s redeemed in a tasty salad, paired with bright and zingy blood oranges. This unique crimson-coloured orange develops its distinctive shade when the fruit grows in low overnight temperatures. This brings with it a delightful raspberry-like flavour that adds an unforgettable twist to green salads.
Not only is this salad an easy way to get in your antioxidants, it’s also full of fibre that the gut microbiome loves. Plus, it looks fabulous on your Christmas table, if I do say so myself.
For anti-inflammatory benefits top it with my Golden Gut Blend.
Let me know how you go with this delightful, antioxidant-rich salad in the comments below.
Kale and blood orange salad
Serves 4 as a side
- 3 blood oranges, 2 peeled and sliced into rounds, 1 juiced
- 350 g (12 oz/1 small bunch) kale, stems and spines removed
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/1 ¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 French shallots, very thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, grated (optional)
- 75 g (2/3 4 oz/ ½ cup) pepitas (pumpkin seeds), toasted
- 15 g (½ oz/¼ cup) coconut flakes, toasted
- edible flowers, to serve (optional)
- Golden Gut Blend (sprinkled on top optional)
Carefully remove and discard any seeds from the orange slices.
Wash and dry the kale, then massage in half the olive oil to soften.
To make a dressing, combine the orange juice and remaining olive oil in a small bowl, and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the orange slices and vegetables on a platter, scatter over the pepitas, coconut flakes and edible flowers, if using, and drizzle over the dressing.