Good health is vital to the concept of ageing successfully. Many people think that diet is unrelated to overall health but in truth, diet and health are intricately intertwined; your food provides the nutrients that your body needs to thrive.
Whether you are well now or suffering from chronic disease, it is essential to eat well for your future health. Eating the right food can help to keep you healthy, but good nutrition can also help to improve and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, migraines, and even cancer.
Some compounds present in food make you less healthy and promote disease, such as refined sugars and chemical food additives. Other food compounds make you healthier and contribute to your overall vitality and wellness. An example of food compounds that contribute to good health are antioxidants.
Antioxidants are nutrients and enzymes that help protect the body from damage by molecules called free-radicals. Free-radicals are created in the body during a chemical process called oxidation. Oxidation is a process that happens in all human bodies, however it occurs in excess as a response to chronic inflammation, acute disease, infections, smoking and eating inflammatory foods (such as refined sugar, chemical additives and refined white flours).
Antioxidants mop up excess free-radicals in the body, preventing them from causing harm. Although the body does make some antioxidants, the rest must be obtained from dietary sources. Fruits, vegetables and grains all contain high levels of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, lycopene and beta-carotene.
Excessive free radicals in the body can damage DNA and cause damage at a cellular level. This damage has been implicated as a major contributing factor in a range of chronic and acute diseases that are associated with ageing, such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease1; migraines2; cancer, diabetes, septic shock, stroke and neurodegenerative diseases3.
Because of the clear benefits of antioxidants in the body, there are a wide range of antioxidant supplements available to purchase. Many people take these supplements as an anticancer preventative measure. These supplements should be used with caution. Scientific studies show that antioxidant supplementation does not provide much additional protection against developing cancer4,5,6.
In fact, some studies have shown that antioxidant supplementation can actually increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. In particular, beta-carotene and retinol have been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer7,8.
The levels of antioxidants present in plants vary depending on the source. Some of the highest concentrations of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables can be found in red beans, blueberries, kidney and pinto beans, cranberries, blackberries, prunes, artichokes, apples and plums9.
Spices and herbs also contain significant amounts of polyphenols which have been shown to have significant antioxidant effects inside the body following digestion. High antioxidant concentrations can be found in most herbs and spices, including clove, cinnamon, turmeric, parsley, cumin, oregano, ginger and paprika.
Antioxidants can also be found in nuts such as pecans, walnuts, peanuts and cashews; and wholegrains such as wheat, corn and rice.
Another easy way to increase the amounts of antioxidants in the diet is by drinking tea. Fruit teas contain the same antioxidants that were present in the fruits that they were made with. As long as fruit teas are drunk without sugar or sweeteners, these drinks are valuable sources of antioxidants such as chlorogenic, caffeic acids, naringin and hesperidin10.
Black and green teas contain beneficial antioxidants that are not available in fruits and vegetables. Favonoids in tea demonstrate strong antioxidant activity. Black tea contains high levels of catechins, quercetin, and rutin. The antioxidants in black tea are thought to help reduce risk of heart disease, although the addition of cow’s milk to the tea has been shown to lower the effectiveness of the compounds11.
Green tea is made with the same leaves as black tea, however the leaves are not oxidised or fermented. Green tea antioxidants fall mainly into the catechin category. Epigallocatechin is thought to be responsible for green tea’s superb health benefits, this compound has been linked to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and has strong anticancer properties.
For maximum antioxidant benefit, all teas should be drunk without sugar or sweeteners, and ideally without milk.
Eating a diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and tea, will provide you with an abundance of natural antioxidants. This diet, combined with reducing refined sugars, chemical preservatives and harmful lifestyle habits such as smoking, will support successful aging. Artificial supplementation of antioxidants should be avoided.
With so many healthy living websites, blogs and books about, it can be difficult to know what advice to believe. In addition to this, many of these platforms make money by publishing sponsored blogs or promoting certain products, making it hard to know which advice is genuine. The Green Apple Club provides nutritional advice based on unbiased scientific studies into food and health. Visit www.thegreenappleclub.com for more information, articles, recipes and books.
Green tea contains the compound Epigallocatechin (EGCG). EGCG is a potent antioxidant that mops up free-radicals and protects neurons from oxidative damage. EGCG is also a potent anticancer molecule as it can restrict the growth and metastasis of tumour cells.
This easy, clean eating recipe is perfect for anyone who likes green tea. It is a delicious way to increase the amount of antioxidants in the diet. This recipe is also suitable for an anticancer diet as it is both dairy-free and sugar-free.