Antioxidants & Free Radicals explained and what YOU can do about them.
Antioxidants are molecules that fight damage by free radicals which are unstable molecules that can harm cellular structures. Free radicals are a byproduct (meaning they are formed) during metabolism. Plainly.. with all of the processes in our bodies, if we didn’t have antioxidants which counteract free radicals, our body would be quickly destroyed. That is as rough and basic definition of the relationship I can produce.. HOWEVER free radicals have their place too. Free radicals also serve important functions that are essential: immune cells use free radicals to kill bacteria that try to infect us.
SO with every relationship there is balance. The right amount of free radicals and the right amount of antioxidants to keep everything running smoothly.
On the wrong side of balance, when the free radicals outnumber antioxidants, we experience a state called oxidative stress. During oxidative stress, important molecules in the body can become severely damaged and so much so sometimes they die, or experience cellular death.
Prolonged oxidative stress leads to increased risk of negative health conditions ranging from cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer to increasing the aging process. Stress factors and lifestyle habits that promote excessive free radical formation and oxidative stress include:
- Air pollution
- Smoking cigarettes
- Alcohol consumption
- Toxins and heavy metals
- High blood sugar levels
- Consuming large amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Radiation, including excessive tanning
- Infections by bacteria, fungi or viruses
- Intense and prolonged exercise, which causes tissue damage
- Antioxidant deficiency
Antioxidants are ESSENTIAL for health and are found in all varieties of food.
The human body precipitates its own antioxidants, such as the cellular antioxidant glutathione.
Two antioxidants in particular, Vitamin C and Vitamin are especially important and can be found in whole plant based foods everywhere. The health benefits associated with a diet rich in plants is, at least partially, due to the wide array of antioxidants they provide.
Other sources of antioxidants even include green tea, coffee, and dark chocolate. Three of my favorite things.
Our diet is an essential source of antioxidants and there is a huge variety of different antioxidants found in foods. Take a look at some listed below:
- Vitamin C: One of the most important water-soluble antioxidants and an essential dietary nutrient.
- Vitamin E: The main fat-soluble antioxidant that plays a critical role in protecting cell membranes against oxidative damage.
- Flavonoids: A large group of antioxidants found in plant foods.
- Curcuminoids in turmeric and oleocanthal in extra virgin olive oil. These substances function as antioxidants, but they also have potent anti-inflammatory activity.
Real foods have an abundance of different nutrients that work synergistically therefore supplementation with just one or two isolated nutrients doesn’t have the same beneficial effects. The best strategy to gain an adequate intake of antioxidants, is to consume a diet rich in various vegetables and fruit.