What are antioxidants? We know what they do, but what are the benefits of having them in your diet? What are the risks if you do not have enough antioxidant foods in your diet?
Antioxidants are molecules that inhibit oxidative stress, a biological process that causes cell damage and results in oxidative stress (free radical production).
Oxidative stress is a normal part of cellular physiology, resulting in cellular death and the deterioration of cell functions.
The symptoms of chronic free radical stress include the development of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, atherosclerosis and other age-related conditions.
The body’s natural defenses are compromised by increased oxidation (the burning of oxygen molecules in cells).
This is why most people feel fatigued after exercising.
Antioxidant supplementation is often recommended for individuals who want to maintain or improve their health.
Antioxidant supplementation can provide a protective shield to the body from the effects of chronic and excessive oxidation.
The molecules that make up a cell contain two electrons: one electron is positively charged and the other negatively.
Electrons have different pairs – a positive charge (cation) and a negative charge (cation).
When molecules are formed, the pair of electrons are held together by a bonding agent called a ligand.
This ligand is a chemical bond that links two different atoms together and therefore is subject to the effects of both an electron and a proton.
The bonds between the two atoms are broken when these substances come into contact with each other.
The chemical reaction in this case is what causes free radicals to be produced.
Antioxidant molecules neutralize free radicals by joining with these damaging substances and killing them.
In order for antioxidants to become effective, the molecules must be able to absorb and neutralize a wide range of substances including oxygen molecules.
Thus, there is a need for the body to produce its own supply of antioxidants.
Foods high in antioxidants are often referred to as superfoods because of their ability to fight off oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a natural response that protects the body from the negative effects of oxygen by allowing the body to create new, more reactive cells.
Some foods that have been shown to be highly antioxidants include berries, artichokes, blackberries, cherries, grapes, lemons, oranges, plums, prunes, raisins, salted nuts, tomatoes, spinach and many others. The list goes on.
For the most part, though, you cannot turn on your TV, radio or computer without hearing advertisements for antioxidant-rich foods.
It is important to note, though, that not all antioxidant-rich foods are free of free radicals. Some antioxidants are in actual fact anti-free radicals.
Oryzanol, an antioxidant found in red wine, for example, has been shown in studies to actually cause free radical damage
Thus, wine is not one of the true antioxidant-rich foods.
In conclusion, while antioxidants are important for overall health, they are not the key to living a long, healthy life.
You still need to follow a healthy diet, exercise and avoid environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and excessive alcohol consumption to keep your heart healthy and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidant-rich foods may help slow down the process of aging, but they cannot stop the oxidation of free radicals.
You still need to do your part to fight off oxidative stress.
Antioxidants are molecules with two different functions. They neutralize highly reactive molecules called free radicals.
These molecules, often in excess, damage the DNA in cells. DNA repair itself is a defense against this type of damage.
However, there is a flip side to this.
Oxidative stress is another way that environmental toxins cause cellular damage. Studies have found that exposing laboratory animals to UV radiation from the sun triggers a massive expansion of cancerous cells.
The study also found that animals exposed to oxidative stress had much lower levels of thylakoid than did those that remained unexposed to the sun’s rays.
This was, of course, a study of fruits and vegetables rather than meat and fish.
But the bottom line is that fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants.
The bottom line is that you cannot rely on eating just one type of fruit or vegetable to meet your daily requirements for antioxidants.
In fact, there are more antioxidant-rich foods than there are free radicals.
The best way to meet your recommended daily allowance is by eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Adding antioxidants to your diet through supplements is a great way to help you avoid chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Now that you know what antioxidants do for you, don’t you want to start eating them?