We know that eating a rainbow is a fundamental health tip and no, I’m not talking Skittles or M&M’s! The antioxidants you get from bright coloured plant-based foods can help with everything from heart health to clear, healthy skin.

What are oxidants?
To understand antioxidants, you need to know the role of oxidants. Oxidants are molecules that are missing an electron, so they go around stealing them from others. In turn, the others then become oxidants, and the cycle continues.   Oxidants are a natural part of everyday body functions including breathing, metabolism and acute inflammation. In fact, they are essential for some processes. But if left unchecked, ongoing oxidation can further inflame tissues and cause widespread damage.

What are antioxidants?
Antioxidants keep oxidants in check. They stop the oxidation chain reaction before it spirals out of control. Some antioxidants are created within the body, but many come into the body through food and drinks.
Many antioxidants also have other functions within the body. For example, vitamin C is an antioxidant, but it also builds collagen so it’s anti-aging.

Why do we need a variety of antioxidants?
Although antioxidants all play a role in reducing the process of oxidation, they all work a little bit differently.

Choosing antioxidant-rich foods
The easiest way to get a variety of antioxidant-rich foods is to eat a rainbow. Here are some reasons to pick different coloured plant foods.

Red foods
A major red antioxidant, lycopene, protects the heart and blood vessels from damage. Include:
• Watermelon
• Strawberries
• Raspberries
• Tomato
• Red capsicum

Yellow & orange foods
These foods contain carotenoids, which can convert to one of the essential fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin A. These nutrients can protect your eye from deterioration and age-related damage. Include:
• Lemons
• Apricots
• Oranges
• Pumpkin
• Sweet potato

White foods
These aren’t always white, but are pale in colour. Many of these plant foods have anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, supporting immune function. Include:
• Pears
• White peaches
• Mushroom
• Cauliflower
• Garlic

Green foods
Green produce is where you can find some potent anti-cancer properties. For example, cruciferous vegetables have antioxidants called indoles. Indoles are currently being studied as an add-on or alternative to chemotherapy!  Include:
• Green apples
• Kiwifruit
• Limes
• Broccoli
• Avocado
• Leafy greens

Purple/blue foods
These brightly coloured foods contain a powerful group of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins protect cells from inflammation and damage, which in turn can protect the body from related conditions such as heart disease and stroke. Include:
• Blueberries
• Blackberries
• Plums
• Eggplant
• Beetroot

Antioxidant-rich foods are best
Sometimes, people think that if antioxidant-rich foods are good, then supplements are even better. But food is always the first place you want to be getting your antioxidants because they are balanced out with other nutrients for overall health. Too much of one antioxidant can become a problem. For example, selenium works as an antioxidant in the body, but excess selenium can become an oxidant.  If you think your situation requires a supplement, make sure you consult your Naturopath.

References
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22051937
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13677624
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/312/5782/1882
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20298156