Why Are Antioxidants Important?

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What are antioxidants? Why are they important? In this blog post I share the facts on antioxidants and their importance in our daily life. I also share some simple tips for increasing your antioxidant intake throughout the day and week.

Antioxidants – Why Do We Need Them?

If you are interested in nutrition and health, at some point you may have come across the term antioxidants. So, what are they and why all the fuss?

Antioxidants are naturally occurring compounds found in food which combat free radicals when eaten. Free radicals are created within our body in response to environmental toxins or stressors.

When we have an excess of free radical buildup, this can cause oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation is a major driver of many diseases we see today like cancer, heart disease and more.

In other words, if I experience a lot of stress and I have exposure to nasty chemicals, along with eating a poor diet, I could be setting myself up for future disease. Many diseases are preventable with a healthy diet that is high in antioxidants.

This is why antioxidants are so important. They keep our bodies in a healthy state effortlessly! Luckily, it is easier than ever to get a daily dose of this protective nutrient.

Supplements or Food?

In the market today there are supplements for nearly every type of nutrient available. As a holistic nutritionist, I strongly recommend getting your nutrients from your diet first. We can start looking at supplements later to fill in any gaps.

The reason for this is because high doses of some supplements can cause negative effects on health. It is well known that high dose vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy is a big no-no because of known birth defect risk.

Also, when you eat plant foods that are naturally rich in antioxidants, you are getting a lot of other beneficial nutrients too, along with fibre. Further, whole foods contain the full nutritional and biochemical package which allows antioxidants to work their magic properly.

Unfortunately, isolating nutrients doesn’t always have the same beneficial effect in the body. This is why I always recommend a good diet first before supplementation!

green frill lettuce contains antioxidants

Food Sources of Antioxidants

We have several major food sources of antioxidants:

  • Fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin E
  • Minerals like selenium and zinc
  • Water soluble vitamins like vitamin C

These nutrients are all considered antioxidants. So it makes sense to choose whole foods which are rich sources of these nutrients.

We also have flavonoids, which are plant pigments that have antioxidant activity. Think of all the beautiful rainbow colours found in fruits and vegetables!

Flavonoids offer many other health benefits when it comes to using ‘food as medicine’ as they may contain anti-inflammatory properties which can be used to treat inflammatory based diseases.

rainbow silverbeet chard stems colourful from flavonoid antioxidants

Vitamin A

Food sources include:

  • Retinol: dairy products, eggs and liver
  • Beta-carotene: dark leafy greens, orange fruits and vegetables like apricots, mango, orange kumara (sweet potato), carrots, butternut squash and pumpkin.

Vitamin E

Food sources include:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Liver and egg yolks
  • Nuts and seeds like almonds and sunflower seeds


Food sources include (highly dependant on selenium quantities present in the soil):

  • Brazil nuts! Two Brazil nuts per day may help maintain selenium levels
  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Seafood


Food sources include:

  • Oysters
  • Meat, poultry and dairy products like cheese and yogurt
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Tofu
  • Pinto beans

Vitamin C

Food sources include:

  • Colourful fruits and vegetables!
  • Citrus, red capsicums, strawberries, tomatoes, mango and melon
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli
bright red fresh strawberries


Flavonoids really deserve their own separate post because there is such a huge range of different flavonoids and their beneficial effects. The range of foods they cover is extensive so here is a ‘short’ list to get you started!

Food sources include:

  • Purple and blue: grapes, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, plums and dark cherries
  • Red: strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and tomatoes
  • Orange: mandarins, oranges, mango, melon, apricot and peaches
  • Yellow: corn, banana, potato, lemon, pineapple and yellow capsicums
  • Green: all leafy greens, green vegetables and fruits like broccoli, Brussel sprouts, zucchini, olives, pears, peas, beans, avocado, apples, asparagus and so many more!
  • White/brown: cauliflower, potato, mushroom, garlic, onions, coffee, dark chocolate, ginger, tahini and more

Tips to Increase Your Antioxidant Intake

As you can see, it is truly amazing just how many foods these beneficial nutrients are in. If you are starting from scratch, I suggest including one serving at each snack or meal time. You don’t need to go overboard straight away. Start slow and gradually build the habit over time.

For example, say you normally have cereal and milk, or peanut butter toast for breakfast. Let’s add a handful of fresh berries or a sliced apple on the side.

At lunch with your sandwich try adding in sliced tomato, cucumber or a handful of broccoli sprouts. Again, just adding in one fruit or vegetable serving at each meal time and congratulate yourself!

Instead of cookies or chips for a snack, have a handful of unsalted mixed nuts with half a cup of grapes. Have a fresh squeezed juice instead of a soda/fizzy drink.

Soon your tastebuds will adjust to the new flavours and textures and you can increase the amount at each serving. Over the course of one day you had 3-5 servings of antioxidant rich foods!

Your body will be loving the goodness and will thank you for it with increased energy and improved mood.

misome garden greens

My Favourite Antioxidant Meal

My favourite way to get my antioxidant hit is to make a rainbow salad. Fresh salad greens like lettuce and rocket form the base. Next I add in diced cucumber, grated carrot and sliced red capsicum.

Sometimes I add in sliced strawberries, red onion or tomatoes too. I finish it off with a honey mustard or lemon tahini dressing. It’s fresh, crispy and crunchy and great to have as a light lunch with a side of protein like baked tofu and toasted almonds.

What are your favourite antioxidant rich meals or dishes to prepare? Let me know what your favourite rainbow coloured fruit and vegetable foods are and share your beautiful creations.

Interested in learning more about food as medicine and holistic nutrition?

Get in touch today to book your free 15 minute discovery call. I make nutritional plans tailored to you and your health goals.

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