So if you've had a high stress day, cycled home in traffic, eaten a fry up for breakfast and spent an hour on your mobile, what can you eat and drink to counter the oxidative damage?
Well the answer lies in antioxidants which cancel out the effects of oxidants ... The clue is in the name! Infact that's not quite true, they don't have the exact opposite effect, instead what they do is if there are free radicals circulating in your body they bind with them and in doing so neutralise them. This is why it's important to have a regular intake of anti-oxidants to neutralise free radical damage being constantly created in your body.
The food group richest in antioxidants by a mile is fruit and vegetables which is why I recommend having at least two portions of fruit or veg with every main meal. As I've also mentioned before it's important to eat a range of colours as the different colours come from the different antioxidants. It actually doesn't take a lot of effort to incorporate fruit and veg into your diet but it is absolutely essential so don't neglect it.
If you do struggle than having fresh juices and smoothies can be a good way to up your intake. My good friend Ms Haribos makes all sorts of sludge like smoothies containing spinach and cabbage ... but blended with some sweet fruit they're actually surprisingly palatable!
Even if you're having your five a day we all sometimes need a bit of an antioxidant boost, particularly in times of stress, having a shortage of sleep, doing a lot of travel or upping your exercise programme.
So far Cherry active still remains my number one liquid antioxidant supplement. Made from super concentrated Montmorency cherries and free of any sugars/sweetener/other nasties, it is unbelievably effective in avoiding post-exercise muscle aoreness that you get from damage to the muscle cells. And if it's producing that effect in your muscles it's going to be having beneficial effects elsewhere in the body.
As for actual vitamin supplements, vitamins A, C and E are your bricks and mortar antioxidants which you should be getting through plenty of fruit and veg (A and C) and nuts and seeds (E), but also you should look for them in a good multivitamin.
There are numerous other antioxidants you can supplement with, but for me there's two clear favourites, Resveratrol and Co-enzyme Q10.
Resveratrol is the protective antioxidant found in the skin of grapes, thought to be responsible in part for the mediterranean effect (why the french can drink more wine whilst having a lower rate of heart disease than us). It's particularly good for slowing the visible signs of ageing ie wrinkles and thinning skin and hair.
Co-enzyme Q10 is a fat soluble antioxidant so is of more benefit in protecting our fattest organ - the brain. Our brains are 60 per cent fat, which is why essential fats such as fish oils are so important to keep us sharp into old age. But so are antioxidants that can protect those fats from damage which is where CoQ10 comes in having been shown in numerous studies to help cognitive function and slow age-related mental decline. You might not be forgetting things yet, but it's never too early to start looking protecting your little grey cells!