Why we need antioxidants and how to consume more every day

To live a long and healthy life we should all maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes getting enough sleep, reducing stress levels and eating healthily. But there is so much more you can do to improve your health as shown in a book with the top tips from a doctor and medical journalist, Dr Trisha Macnair, called Live Well: 100 Simple Ways to Live a Better and Longer Life.  In this book, you will find tips that will help you add years to your life and improve its quality along the way.

Live Well contains easy-to-understand health advice and self-help information that will help you age better, all of them backed by the latest scientific research. The focus is on different areas of wellbeing and includes emotional, physical and environmental wellbeing.

In this post I wanted to share with you an extract from Live Well, explaining the importance of antioxidants and what you can do to consume more of them every day.

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Extract from Live Well:100 Simple Ways to Live a Long and Healthy Life

Dr Trisha Macnair

Modern Books, £9.99 paperback original


One of the main theories about why the body degenerates as we age is based on a chemical process called oxidation. During normal metabolism, the body produces unstable molecules called free radicals. Other factors in the environment around us also increase free-radical production. Free radicals cause oxidation – this is dangerous as it damages the body’s cells and tissues, and has been implicated in all the major killer diseases.

Fortunately, we have a supply of natural antidotes called antioxidants, which mop up free radicals. But levels of antioxidants fall as we age, leading to increasing damage to cells and tissues. By increasing our intake of antioxidants as we get older (or avoiding free-radical-producing pollutants), we may be able to protect ourselves from this process.


A wide range of chemicals found in different foods can act as antioxidants, but some of the most important are beta-carotene and the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.

As far as antioxidant supplements go, however, studies have been disappointing. Some trials found only minimal and inconsistent evidence that any single vitamin supplement, combined antioxidant supplement or multivitamin combination has a significant benefit in cardiovascular disease, while others found that beta-carotene used to prevent cancer might even increase the risk of death from other causes.

Research on people who follow a diet rich in antioxidants, rather than relying on supplements, however, has been promising, for example in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Something in the chemical complexity of food could be key here. The best advice, for now, is simply to keep your diet healthy and varied.

Foods that are rich in antioxidants:

  • Beans: pinto, red, black and kidney beans
  • Berries: cranberries, blueberries and blackberries
  • Nuts: pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts
  • Other fruits: plums, cherries, apples
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Russet potatoes

In addition to the above, antioxidants are also found in other foods (cinnamon, raw cacao, for example) and even drinks (green tea).

To increase the amount of antioxidants you consume, try and add some antioxidant-rich foods to every meal. For example, add some cinnamon and cacao to your porridge and don’t forget the berries! Snack on nuts and fruits and always include vegetables with your main meals. If you do all this you will be getting plenty of antioxidants in your diet. If you also drink several cups of green tea every day, you can make an even bigger impact on your health.