What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules in food and nutrients that protect the body from free radicals. A complex system of electrons on atoms can either give a substance in the body free-radical and damaging properties, or antioxidant and restorative properties.
An excess of free radicals can contribute towards some chronic diseases, as well as keeping your body in a ‘run down’ state. Besides not feeling great, both of these can affect the condition of your skin, hair and nails.
Where do antioxidants come from?
Food – There are many types of antioxidants in food. They can come from the vitamin and mineral content, or from other substances such as pigments and flavonoids. Typically, the darker or brighter the colour of the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it contains. Antioxidants are also found in foods like nuts, seeds, avocados and olives which are rich in natural vitamin E sources and in anti-inflammatory fats.
Your body creates them – Your body creates some of its own antioxidants from nutrients derived from food. These antioxidant enzymes can be recycled in the body in the correct conditions. The main antioxidant enzymes are called glutathione enzymes.
Where do free-radicals come from?
Food – Foods that contain high levels of free-radicals include alcohol, foods high in sugar, and those that lead to an excessive intake of fats.
Your body creates them – Free-radicals are naturally created in the body through everyday metabolic reactions such as breathing. Athletes create a higher level of free-radicals than those who do not exercise, as the remodelling of muscle naturally produces free-radicals. Despite this however, the benefits of exercise still very definitely outweigh the risks. Everyone creates free radicals however, so it is more important to consider how you are going to counteract them.
The environment – Free-radicals may also occur due to environmental pollution such as polluted air, smoking, toxins in the environment, radiation and infections in the body.
What do excessive free radicals do to the body?
DNA – An excess of free-radicals can damage DNA. This has an impact on the function of cells and their replication. Damage to DNA also causes a decrease in the amount of collagen that the cells produce leading to premature wrinkling of the skin and ageing of the body.
Hair, skin and nails – A chronic excess of free-radicals can also contribute towards several diseases. The amount of collagen produced by the cell, and health of the cells is integral to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and a good nutrition supply to the skin, nails and scalp. Free radicals also need to be kept in check to prevent any cholesterol in the arteries becoming oxidised and hard.
What do antioxidants do in the body?
Protect against free-radicals – Without antioxidants, free radicals cause damage to the cells. Antioxidants neutralise free radicals and protect the cells from damage, preserving their function.
Hair, skin & nails – As antioxidants have a major influence on protecting DNA and preserving the ability of cells to produce collagen, they are essential for hair skin and nails. Collagen is the main structural and elastic component in skin and nails, as well as the blood vessels that supply nutrients to them and to the hair follicles on your head. A lack of antioxidants may leave the skin looking dull or dry, and the nails and hair weak and brittle.
Anti-inflammatory – Antioxidants also have anti-inflammatory properties in the body which is excellent for many bodily functions and pathways. Too much inflammation in the body shows in the skin and causes large pores and red and inflamed skin. So, keeping inflammation under control is essential for a healthy glow.
How do I make sure I am getting enough antioxidants to keep my hair, skin and nails glowing?
The best way to consume antioxidants is by eating 7-9 portions of vegetables and fruit per day. Try to eat the colours of the rainbow each day as well, as the different coloured fruit and vegetables contain different types of antioxidants.
One simple way to measure 1 portion is that it is only around a handful of any fruit and vegetables (roughly 80g).
It is also now possible to buy some great antioxidant supplements that can really help if you are super busy or perhaps have a restricted diet. As always, we recommend looking for good quality, high sustainability, and a ‘clean’ label to ensure you are only putting the best into your body.
You can also decrease your exposure to free radicals by stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol, and if you do drink, try sticking to red wine if you can as this has the least impact.
If you live in a polluted city, you could also consider investing in an air purifier to help decrease environmental exposure to toxins.