During the normal metabolic activity of our bodies, a process called oxidant stress occurs. Oxidant stress is the name given to the cellular process that results in the formation of reactive byproducts. These byproducts are types of oxygen that can take on three forms: molecular oxygen, superoxide, and peroxide. These oxidants, or free radicals, steal nutrients from healthy cells, essentially starving them to death. As the affected cells begin to degenerate, they release more free radicals, and the process has the potential to multiply exponentially.
To counter the damaging effects of free radicals, our body uses antioxidants to neutralize free radicals and safely remove them from our system.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that prevent oxidation. Oxidation is the loss of electrons, which causes the molecule to become reactive and unstable. This can lead to cell damage and death, which is why antioxidants are essential for good health.
Many different antioxidants can be found in our diet, including beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamins C and E (tocopherol), selenium, and zinc. Each antioxidant has unique properties that make it effective against certain free radicals (1).
What are Some Sources of Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are the one thing that can help fight the aging process. They are found in fruits, vegetables, and even coffee. Antioxidants help us fight off diseases by fighting off free radicals. Free radicals are a byproduct of oxygen that attacks the body’s cells and causes them to break down and die early.
You can get more antioxidants from foods like dark chocolate or blueberries than supplements because they contain so many different antioxidants working together to protect your body against disease and premature aging.
Antioxidant Vitamins Include:
Vitamin A is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, and other leafy greens; this vitamin comes from dairy products such as milk and cheese.
Beta-carotene (precursor to vitamin A) is found in leafy green vegetables like spinach or kale and in orange-colored fruits such as cantaloupe and mangoes.
Vitamin C is found in citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, or green peppers; green vegetables like bell peppers or broccoli.
Vitamin D is found in fish such as salmon or tuna; also present in egg yolks (but not egg whites)
Do Antioxidants Have Any Other Health Benefits?
Antioxidants and Aging
Antioxidants can help slow down the aging process. As we age, our bodies produce fewer of these natural compounds. Antioxidants help to reduce the damage caused by free radicals and prevent premature aging.
The aging process affects all functioning systems, including skin, organs, nerves, the cardiovascular, and the immune system. This equates to skin that has less elasticity and becomes wrinkled, causing becoming sick more easily, heart disease, and memory loss.
Augmenting our bodies with an adequate supply of antioxidants is essential to maintaining healthy cells and slowing aging. While there are antioxidants in certain foods we eat, their overall contribution is usually not enough. Taking vitamins or supplements daily that contain antioxidants is an excellent way to maintain cellular health and slow the aging process.
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Antioxidants and Cancer
Antioxidants can also help fight cancer by preventing cell mutations that lead to cancer growth. Certain antioxidants can help inhibit the growth of tumors in some cases. In addition, research suggests that people who consume lots of antioxidant-rich foods are less likely to develop certain types of cancer than those who don’t eat such diets.
Many chronic diseases — such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis — are associated with inflammation in the body. Antioxidants can help reduce this inflammation by keeping free radicals from damaging your cells’ DNA and causing them to send out chemical signals that cause inflammation. Reducing this type of inflammation will help protect your body from developing these diseases over time.