We’ve always had the impression that antioxidants are good for the health. But, what exactly do they do? Here, we’ll be answering 5 antioxidant-related questions.
What Are Antioxidants and Why Are They Good for You?
Who Needs Antioxidants?
The answer to this question is simple: everyone needs antioxidants. Every moment, people absorb what are called oxidants. These come from external sources like cigarette smoke, air pollution, and alcohol. The human body naturally produces them as well as free radicals through oxidation. As these are organically formed substances, their main job is to protect the body from microbes and viruses.
While their protection can be beneficial, too much of oxidants or free radicals in the body can be harmful. Free radicals are compounds known to be highly reactive. This means that they can bind themselves to normal cells in the body and damage them. They can damage cells that carry important DNA and contribute to the development of heart disease and cancer. This results in oxidative stress and can pose health problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease, premature aging, arthritis, stroke, and autoimmune disorders.
What Are Antioxidants? | Antioxidant Definition
This is where antioxidants come in. They help prevent or stop the damage caused by oxidants, as the name suggests. Also, they provide natural protection from diseases without leaving side effects.
They travel through the bloodstream and bind themselves to free radicals. Once free radicals are bound, they can no longer bind with healthy cells and cause harm.
Where Can You Find Antioxidants? | Good Antioxidant Sources
You can find antioxidants in food and drinks. There are also antioxidant supplements available in the market. Here are good sources you can add to your diet:
- Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, liver, cheese, butter, collard greens, and broccoli are good sources of the antioxidant Vitamin A or beta-carotene.
- Vitamin E is another antioxidant vitamin. You can get it from olive oil and food with natural oils like whole grains, avocado, coconut, and nuts.
- Rounding up the list of vitamins that contain antioxidants is Vitamin C. You can commonly find this in citrus fruits, green vegetables, red peppers, and cantaloupe. Aside from providing antioxidants, Vitamin C also boosts the immune system.
- Selenium is another good antioxidant source. You can stock up on this by enjoying red meat, fish, eggs, milk, and garlic.
- There are also dark antioxidants called flavonoids. These give the dark color to cranberries, dark red grapes, pomegranates, black tea, and wine.
- Tomatoes have lycopene, which is an effective antioxidant against prostate health problems.
- You can get the antioxidant polyphenols from tea, herbs, spices, olives, and chocolates.
- Surprisingly, coffee is also a good source of antioxidants.
Why Are Antioxidants Important? | Antioxidant Benefits
Free radicals can cause different health problems. The good news is, antioxidants are beneficial to the different parts of the body commonly affected by these.
- Vitamin A (a.k.a. beta-carotene) can prevent eye degeneration, protect the immune system, and aid in metabolism.
- Flavonoids are helpful to the heart’s health — that’s why they say wine is good for the heart.
- When astaxanthin, beta-carotene, and Vitamin E combine, they form an antioxidant combination. This is known to be the most powerful skin protection.
- Polyphenols and carotene protect the brain, reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and stabilize blood sugar levels.
Free Radical Theory of Aging
Have you heard of the free radical theory of aging (FRTA)? According to this theory, the irreparable damage to your body caused by free radicals demonstrates itself as aging. That is why when free radical damage slows down, aging also does the same. You can achieve this by avoiding oxidation or free radical production. And of course, antioxidants can do this.
How Much of Antioxidants Is Good for You?
As with everything else, too much of something is never good. Having high levels of antioxidants and low levels of oxidative stress is perceived to be good for your health. But finding the right balance is still key as not all antioxidant sources are equal. High concentrations of it may do you harm such as:
- Increased oxidation
- Headaches and nausea
- Protection to dangerous cells like cancer cells
- Reduced benefits of exercise
Go for a variety of fruits and vegetables, and have 5 to 7 servings each day.
Antioxidant supplements can actually be more detrimental than helpful to your health. This is because supplements can contain high antioxidant concentrations. Too many antioxidants from outside sources can actually suppress your natural ability to produce them.
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Having a good amount of antioxidants in your system will certainly help keep you healthy as you age. Couple them with a proper diet and regular exercise to maximize the benefits. Don’t skimp on nourishing yourself with other vitamins and minerals and always take care of your body.
What misconceptions did you have on antioxidants? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!