Put simply, antioxidants are one of the keys to good health. They make sure your body keeps working like a healthy, well-oiled machine. Except this machine is made up of a massive range of biological cells, all with different roles to play.
Your liver is amazing – it’s a 24-7 detoxing powerhouse. When your liver is strong and functioning well, you do too. But the relentless pace of modern life can tax the liver immensely, knocking you off balance and causing ill health.
We show you how you can harness the power of antioxidants to keep your liver in tip-top condition. Plus, we offer ways to get your lifestyle on track and super-charge your wellbeing.
What are antioxidants and why do you need to know about them?
Antioxidants are your body’s forces for good, defending against ever-present harmful free radical molecules that are produced naturally in your body, as well as by environment factors like pollution or UV light.
While free radicals are a normal part of cell function, a heavy bombardment can build up and damage healthy tissues – including those in your liver.
When your cells find themselves unable to fend off these tiny marauders, this is known as oxidative stress. It’s been linked to many chronic ill-health conditions, including inflammation, allergies and high blood pressure, as well as skin ageing.
Our hard-working liver processes all the toxins we come into contact with. However, like every cell in the body, it also needs to defend itself from free radicals.
Antioxidants ensure that the oxidative/antioxidative balance of the liver is delicately maintained. They protect healthy cells by preventing the formation of damaging free radicals in the first place and destroying them when they form.
So, if you want to stay looking and feeling as young as possible for as long as possible – and maintain a healthy liver – it’s a smart idea to up your antioxidant game.
Shake up your daily habits and give your liver a break
As you know, your liver is an absolute star. Being both an organ and the largest hormone-producing gland, it performs more than 500 bodily functions. Chief among these is its detoxification duties, forever cleansing the blood of toxins.
When your system is clean and free of toxins, your eyes are likely to be bright, your skin clear, your mind sharp and your energy levels fizzing.
Toxins accumulating in the body are often the result of a stressful lifestyle (who isn’t stressed these days?). The everyday things we do can contribute to high oxidation:
Too much alcohol – this is the number-one cause of alcohol-related fatty liver disease (ARLD).
Poor diet –our go-to ‘stress-foods’,especially processed snacks, can lead to excess weight, which is a marker for liver disease. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is caused by an unhealthy build-up of fats in the liver, often down to the foods we eat.
Smoking – passive smoking has been linked to a 38% increased risk of NAFLD.
Other factors that might play a part – emotional or mental strain, taking certain prescription or other drugs, and infections.
While the body produces small amounts of certain antioxidants, all giving different effects, we need to regularly top them up. Eating a well-balanced diet, taking regular exercise, getting enough sleep and limiting our exposure to external pollutants are important ways to increase our levels – and minimise those free radicals.
Did you know…?
Your liver is the body’s second largest organ – after your skin. The size of a football (albeit with a trademark triangular shape), on average it weighs 3-3.5lbs.
Signs your liver is out of balance
It’s estimated that 25% of the US population, and up to 30% of the UK population, are in the early stages of NAFLD.
There often are no obvious symptoms your liver is in trouble. However, untreated, NAFLD can lead to serious damage, including cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver. NAFLD is also associated with an increased risk of high cholesterol, diabetes (and potentially heart problems), kidney disease and liver cancer. So, it’s really worth showing your liver some love.
Antioxidant superfoods for your shopping basket
Ascorbic acid (vitamin C), phenolic acids, glucose oxidase enzymes and flavonoids (plant chemicals) are all examples of antioxidants that can support your body’s healthy function. It’s a good idea to consume a wide variety of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, from a range of food sources, to keep your levels balanced. These include:
Vitamins A, B and C
Dairy products, liver, fish, carrots, broccoli, cantaloupe melons and squash are rich in vitamin A, while B vitamins are found in oily fish, leafy greens, milk and eggs. Vitamin C helps boost levels of another antioxidant called glutathione, and is found in citrus fruit, peppers, asparagus and avocado, amongst other things.
Chicken, turkey and beef provide iron and copper, while dairy products offer a good supply of zinc.
Coffee is shown to be a potent source of antioxidant polyphenols. And if you’re a latte lover, take heart, as studies suggest regularly drinking moderate amounts of coffee might alleviate symptoms for those living with liver disease.