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Aunty Who? What are antioxidants and why you need them?

Chances are you have heard of antioxidants. It’s a term often used in marketing to help highlight the “healthiness” of products by touting that its full of antioxidants, but what are these miraculous components in our food? And what do they actually do?

Without delving into too much chemistry antioxidants are the clean-up crew. The bouncers at the end of the night, picking up the stragglers and helping them along, making sure they don’t cause any trouble.

When we consume food, it's broken down through digestion into its nutrients and small parts, our body then absorbs that, then they get circulated in the blood to all cells of the body. When nutrients reach a required destination, there are a serious of biological and chemical processes undertaken for the nutrient to play its role. However, sometimes, when these processes happen not all of the nutrient chemicals are needed, and the “leftovers” are put out back into the blood to continue on their way – these are called free radicals.

Free radicals are misunderstood components. Atoms that haven't reached their full potential and who really, really just want a friend. They need a buddy to help stabilise their being; otherwise, they can be destructive and cause havoc in our body without proper guidance. In their hunt for a place of belonging, free radicals can sometimes bind to unwanted locations and cause inflammation, spurring along disease and ageing in the body.

Antioxidants to the rescue. Antioxidants are givers. When an antioxidant molecule comes across a free radical molecule, the antioxidant binds with the free radical soothing the compound, giving it stability. The newly formed unit of antioxidant and free radical can then make its way to exit the body and live happily ever after.

Many foods considered to be inflammatory such as processed sugars, trans fats and hydrogenated oils are high producers of free radicals. While whole foods especially fruit and vegetables are considered to be high in antioxidants include whole foods, especially fruit and vegetables, are considered to be high in antioxidants.

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