Over the past 10 or 15 years, antioxidants have become such a buzz word. They have been touted as miracle cures for your heart, your brain, your skin and your fertility. They also appear to be in everything - your food, your cosmetics, your supplements - but what do they do and how do they work?
 
At a base level, antioxidants clear up and remove 'free radicals,' from the body. There is a strong theory in the scientific community, the free radical theory of ageing. This states that the cells in our body age because of the accumulation of free radical damage over time.
 
What is a free radical?
A free radical is any atom or molecule that has a single unpaired electron in an outer shell. This doesn't mean much. Think of a free radical as substances that are so volatile, that if not harnessed, will cause damage. Like a troublesome tot running around the living room unsupervised!!! Now enter the parent! The child will (hopefully) settle down and start to behave. This is not too dissimilar to the role of antioxidants and free radicals. The antioxidant, lends an electron to the free radical that stabilises the free radical. Thus, the potential damage is eradicated.
 
What does this mean and can I see it happening?
If we follow the theory of ageing and most other theories, free radicals cause damage to our cells every second of everyday. Our cells, as versatile and as tough as they are, can only take so much damage! If they take too much damage, then the DNA within that cell starts to malfunction and then problems arise. On many levels, we would be far better off if the free radical damage actually killed or destroyed the cell.
 
Some examples of free radical damage include: an apple slice turns brown, fish becomes rancid (the smell). These result from a natural process called oxidation (free radical damage).
 
How do we stop, or more accurately slow down this process?
Sadly, we can't stop this process. But we can slow it down. The body craves antioxidants as they support the functioning of many of our systems, our cariovascular and immune systems to name but two. They also circulate in the blood and look after your lungs, your brain, the blood itself and your reproductive organs. The ovaries and the testis are surrounded by antioxidants. We even find two of the most important and heavy hitters, Glutathione Peroxidase and Superoxide Dismutase, around the ovary and the egg and in seminal fluid. The antioxidants protect the egg on its journey down the fallopian tubes and also protects the sperm cell on its journey to meet the egg. Hundreds of clinical studies show how effective antioxidants can be; Zinc, Selenium, CoQ10, NAC and so on all have clinical evidence to show their antioxidant effects. Motility, count, DNA and hormonal patterns have all been improved with antioxidant supplementation.
 
 
Where do we find them and which ones are the best?
I am never a fan of picking the 'best,' when it comes to the body. There are several categories of free radicals, peroxyl, hydroxyl, peroxynitrate, superoxide anion and singlet oxygen. So naturally, you have different antioxidant classes. Different antioxidants are more potent in certain areas, so the best thing to do, is have a wide variety of all. USDA scientists analyzed antioxidant levels in more than 100 different foods, including fruits and vegetables.
 
What foods should I eat?
 
1
Small Red Bean (dried)
Half cup
 
2
Wild blueberry
1 cup
 
3
Red kidney bean (dried)
Half cup
 
4
Pinto bean
Half cup
 
5
Blueberry (cultivated)
1 cup
 
6
Cranberry
1 cup (whole)
 
7
Artichoke (cooked)
1 cup (hearts)
 
8
Blackberry
1 cup
 
9
Prune
Half cup
 
10
Raspberry
1 cup
 
11
Strawberry
1 cup
 
12
Red Delicious apple
1 whole
 
13
Granny Smith apple
1 whole
 
14
Pecan
1 ounce
 
15
Sweet cherry
1 cup
 
16
Black plum
1 whole
 
17
Russet potato (cooked)
1 whole
 
18
Black bean (dried)
Half cup
 
19
Plum
1 whole
 
20
Gala apple
1 whole
 
 
As a general principal, stick to brightly coloured fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds. I am not a huge fan of beans but I try and include them into curries, bakes, stews and soups and they are pretty harmless then, taste-wise!
Fertility Specialist
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