What are Antioxidants, and How do They Work in the Body?
Antioxidants have become an important topic of discussion in the medical world, but the science behind them can be a little bit confusing. So what are antioxidants, and why are they important to your body?
What is an antioxidant, and what do they do?
The word “oxidants” is derived from “oxidization”, a normal chemical process that happens in the body on a daily basis. Essentially, oxygen combines with other chemicals in the body to create molecules called free radicals. These molecules have an uneven number of electrons, which makes them highly unstable (electrons like to exist in pairs).
Free radicals harm healthy cells in the body by causing a damaging chain of chemical reactions. They even have potential to react with cellular components like DNA or cell membranes, causing cells to function improperly or die.
Disruptions to the normal oxidation process such as smoking, exposure to toxins, radiation, and heavy drinking can cause oxidation to occur at a rapid rate, increasing the likelihood of acute disease, cancer, and accelerated aging.
Antioxidants are naturally occurring molecules that are found in certain enzymes produced by the body, as well as some foods. They counteract the effects of free radicals by giving up one of their own electrons to stabilize them, which halts damaging chemical chain reactions.
(Image via Juicing for Health)
In short, antioxidants are always at work in the body as a veritable molecular army of do-gooders that patrol your system looking for oxidants to neutralize. In doing so, they help halt the process of aging, combat disease, and counteract damage done by environmental hazards.
So, what are good sources of antioxidants?
Our understanding of antioxidants and how they work in the body is fairly new field of human biology, so there isn’t enough research just yet to determine the precise amounts of antioxidants that we need. But you know how your grandma pestered you to eat your fruits and vegetables? She was on to something, because many fruits and veggies are an incredibly dense source of antioxidants. There’s also a few foods that may surprise you!
Some of the most antioxidant-rich foods on the planet include:
-Dark chocolate (hooray!)
Does supplementing with antioxidants work?
There’s a lot of conflicting information about the benefits of supplementing with antioxidants. A recent study in The Cochrane Library combined 78 clinical trials that involved close to 300,000 people showed that people taking supplements containing high doses of antioxidants including beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E were actually at an increased risk of illness.
There’s mounting evidence showing that antioxidants taken in doses much higher than what we would consume in a balanced diet could cause harm. So for now, the safest bet is probably just eating your fruits, veggies, and thankfully, some dark chocolate! Our Organic Greens are also a good bet- they have 15 organic superfoods packed with powdered, plant-based antioxidants!
Antioxidants play an essential role in keeping you well, so make a point to seek out foods that contain high amounts.
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