Anti-oxidants are compounds naturally produced by our body, and present in a wide range of foods we eat. These are practically a group of different vitamins, minerals and compounds and phytochemical compounds, that help our body fight the action of free radicals.

green tea is a good source of anti-oxidants
green tea is a good source of anti-oxidants and might help to prevent cancer.

Know your free radicals and what they do

Free radicals are found in our body and are naturally produced as the body processes food, has an intense physical activity, reacts to the environment.

They are particularly unstable molecules, missing an electron, that they tend to absorb from another molecule in our body, creating another free radical, in a chain reaction. These molecules are the responsible of the ageing of our body, and to keep them in check, our body naturally produces anti-oxidants. But free radicals are produced even in response to external factors.

Environmental pollution
Environmental pollution is an external factor that causes free radicals production in our body

These are 12 external factors that produce free radicals in our body:

  • Some types of drugs (as in pharmaceutical drugs, and recreational drugs).
  • Solar radiation (UVA and UVB rays, ozone).
  • Cigarette smoke (active and passive).
  • Environmental pollution.
  • Heavy Metals (pollution by).
  • A too intense physical activity.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Consumption of more calories than you actually burn.
  • Eating too many proteins.
  • Inflammatory diseases.
  • Physical trauma.

As you can see from the list above, our modern lifestyle is the perfect recipe for an overproduction of free radicals, and the damage they provoke to our health is considerable.

If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result: the oxidation of the cellular membrane. In simple words the free radicals presence is causing too many damages to our cells. This can harm cells and body functions, and that that can lead to cancer, atherosclerosis, inflammatory joint disease, asthma, diabetes, senile dementia and degenerative eye disease.


Food to the rescue: anti-oxidants super heroes

Every time that our internally produced anti-oxidants fight efficiently the free radicals produced, we feel good, healthy, in shape. When the internal defence is not enough, we face a situation of oxidative stress that requires an additional quota of anti-oxidants to fight it efficiently.

Luckily nature has wisely provided us with a solution. Anti-oxidants are largely present in many foods, and knowing how to top up our anti-oxidants intake is a clever way to fight oxidative stress! Considering that we are  widely exposed due to different environmental conditions and lifestyle choices, knowing how to integrate anti oxidants is a must.

Here is a list of the most important anti-oxidants and where to find them:

Vitamin A and beta carotene:

It stimulates cellular metabolism, and helps in the recovery from physical exhaustion. Red, orange and yellow fruit and vegetables like peppers, pumpkins, carrots, tomatoes, mango, apricots, melon, plums, and in full fat milk and dairy products, egg yolk, liver, and cod liver oil.

Vitamin C:

Has a powerful anti-oxidant effect, and it blocks the formation of harmful substances potentially cancerogenic for our body. Found in all citrus fruit, kiwi, wild berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries etc.) Kale, cabbages and broccoli, green peppers, spinach, apples, pears, grape, onions, carrots.

Vitamin C and anti-oxidants sources
Vitamin C and anti-oxidants sources

Vitamin E:

Green leafy vegetables, lettuce, peas, nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), vegetable oils (extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, almond oil), oily fish (salmon, mackerel), egg yolk, milk.

Almonds are a good source of anti oxidants
Almonds are a good source of anti oxidants


It protects our cells from the accumulation of free radicals, and works in synergy with vitamin E. Found in wholegrain cereals, banana, orange, meat and some type of fish like crustaceous, molluscs.

Wholegrain cereals are good source of selenium
Wholegrain cereals are good source of selenium


These are phytochemicals like flavonoids and other related polyphenolic compounds like tannins and resveratrol. First, thay have significant antiinflammatory activity, reducing the cells damaged by the free radicals. Second, they are present in great quantity in all fruit and vegetables, so if you are taking your (at least) 5 a day, you ensure yourself a good intake.

Furthermore, you can find them as well in green tea, wine, chocolate and cocoa, vegetable oils.

Chocolate and cacao contain tannin, a powerful polyphenol
Chocolate and cacao contain tannin, a powerful polyphenol

How to take the best from anti-oxidants

In order to obtain the best effects from anti-oxidants assumption, is worth taking care of the few following steps:


  • Always eat more than 5 portions of fruit and vegetables.
  • Prepare your food without wasting its nutrients! Most fruit and vegetables are better consumed raw, when you cook do it at the lowest temperature possible and for the shortest time possible, and consume the liquid in which you have cooked the food.
  • Eat everything fresh, as with conservation we lose many of the vitamins present in the food.
  • Always wear a sun screen protection when exposing yourself to the sun, and use an after-sun cream to reduce to the oxidative stress of the skin.
  • Limit stressful situation as much as possible!
  • Have an enjoyable physical activity, nothing too excessive.


Finally, I’d suggest you add some small tweaks to your diet and focus on your anti-oxidants intake! You will  defend your body from the oxidative stress and all the diseased related, and your body will thank you soon enough!


Are you already paying attention to your daily dose of anti-oxidants? Let me know in the comments!

If you are going through a period of increased stress, have a look at how adaptogens herbs can help you build resilience!


Image Credit: Pixabay

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