Many foods are classified as good because they contain antioxidants, but not everyone understands what this actually means.
The normal metabolic processes in our body produce substances called free radicals. These are molecules that have lost an electron during these metabolic processes (like pollution produced when your car burns fuel). Free radicals then 'steal' an electron from any nearby molecule (to replace the one they have lost). This will create a new free radical and the process continues. In small amounts our body can deal with them but in larger numbers they can cause havoc and have been linked to heart disease, ageing and some cancers. The number of free radicals in our body can be increased by exposure to pollution, cigarette smoke, UV light and even stress!
Antioxidants are substances that neutralise these free radicals and make up part of your body's natural defence system. They are made up of various minerals (manganese, zinc) and vitamins (C,E), which is one reason it is so important we have a healthy and balanced diet. Some of the best sources are fresh fruit & veg including tomatoes, broccoli, avocado and blackcurrants.
So next time you see a food advertised as containing antioxidants you know what that means and what it protects you against!