What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are phytochemicals, vitamins and nutrients that help protect your cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. The most well-known antioxidants are vitamins A, C and E, and selenium. Other good antioxidant sources are the carotenoids betacarotene, lutein and lycopene.
Betacarotene can be found naturally in orange vegetables such as pumpkin and carrots. Egg yolk is high in lutein and lycopene is what gives tomatoes their lovely red colour.
What are free radicals?
Free radicals are unstable, electrically-charged molecules that harm our DNA, fat and protein cells. They’re formed as a by-product of our natural metabolism or due to the exposure to environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, sun exposure and pollution. Being highly reactive, free radicals try to steal the electrons from the molecules that surround them. Then, these ‘robbed molecules’ also ‘go bad’ and try to rob their neighbours too! It’s this chain reaction that scientists believe plays a role in the development of certain diseases and cancer.
How can antioxidants help?
Antioxidants neutralise free radicals by giving up their own electrons. Unlike other molecules, antioxidants don’t become reactive (or mad and thieving) upon losing an electron, so they put an end to the free radical chain reaction.
What can I do?
You can dose up on antioxidants by including antioxidant-rich foods in your diet, taking an antioxidant supplement or apply them topically in the form of antioxidant-enriched skin creams. Antioxidant-rich foods include berries, broccoli, tomatoes, red grapes, garlic, spinach, carrots, soy and green tea.
When it comes to skincare, look out for moisturisers that contain vitamins A, C or E, or organic antioxidants – things like green tea, pomegranate, blueberry or soybean extract.
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