We are all fighting the ravages of time. But, what if time didn’t have to be so ravaging? Antioxidants may be the answer to help your body grow old gracefully, strong, and healthy.

Antioxidants are substances that fight free radical damage in the body. This begs the next question: What are free radicals?

The body uses food nutrients at a cellular level to drive certain reactions that goes on in the body. This is called cellular metabolism or respiration. Free radicals are by-products produced by these reactions. In the body, these substances bump into organs, vessels and everything else, damaging them in the process. That is why the body ages, and not always so gracefully.

Free radicals can come from not only the body but also the environment. Pollution, smoking, stress, drugs, alcohol, and other sources all feed into the damage that causes us to age. Antioxidants help by neutralising the effects of these rogue particles. You are less prone to disease, wrinkles, age spots, arthritis, and the list goes on.

As it stands, there are no recommendations as far as the amount of antioxidants you have to consume each day. Suffice it to say, eat as many as you can not only for anti-aging effects but also for overall good health. Let’s look at some antioxidant rich foods:

Berries – The best berry for antioxidants is considered to be blueberries, but strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are also good choices to get your fill of antioxidants. The rule of thumb is always eat the most colourful fruit and vegetables for the most antioxidants. Even a half cup each day on your cereal is an excellent start in boosting your antioxidants.

Grapes – The skins of the red grape contain an antioxidant substance called resveratrol. This is one reason why it is suggested that people drink a glass of red wine each evening for their health. Of course, snacking on a plate of red grapes is also considered very healthy. Be sure not to peel the grapes; if you’re feeding a young child grapes, just cut the grapes in halves or quarters so the skins slide down easier.

Prunes – Your mum was right. Prunes are good to get the digestive system flowing. However, prunes also offer a tremendous boost to the immune system. And, no, you don’t have to drink that rather unsavory juice if you don’t want to. Snacking on two or three prunes a day is much more appealing to most people. You can buy individually wrapped prunes now which makes it very handy to take them along as a sweet treat.

Pumpkins and Carrots – A well-known antioxidant substance is beta-carotene. They improve eye health, immunity and help with cellular repair. You’ll see a common element here – orange color. Again, the more colorful the vegetable, the more antioxidant power. Buy pie-pumpkins when you can, cut and roast them just like squash and keep a bag of fresh carrots cut up and ready to munch on.

Beans – They are tiny, but pack a punch. Filled with protein, they work to build muscle and lower cholesterol. Replace meat in your diet a couple times a week with a hearty black bean soup, red beans and rice casserole, or three bean salad, and your antioxidants will be jumping right off the scale. Beans are not only protein packed, but they are also a vegetable, so you are meeting several food requirements at the same time.

Where possible always go organic. Proven studies have shown that organic produce contain more antioxidants than produce sprayed with chemical fertilizers.