Most people know antioxidants are good for you, but few can explain why they’re important, how they work, and which foods are loaded with them.
What Are Antioxidants and How Do They Work?
First, let’s go back to school. All matter in the universe is made up of atoms. Atoms are made of protons and neutrons at their core, with electrons revolving around the core. When 2+ atoms are linked they are known as molecules. Humans are made up of proteins, fats, and DNA which are large molecules with hundreds if not thousands of atoms linked together.
In order for molecules to remain stable, it must contain a certain number of electrons. If a molecule loses an electron it can turn into a free radical which are unstable, electrically charged molecules that can damage other cells. In fact, they can even damage other molecules to the point where they also lose electrons that become free radicals.
Antioxidants take damaging free radicals and give them one electron which neutralizes them as a threat.
This process is important because free radicals can cause cell damage if left unchecked. Cell damage can be a contributing factor towards causing cancer, heart disease, eye problems, memory problems, mood disorders, immune system problems, and other diseases.
Which Foods Have Antioxidants?
Most foods have antioxidants like flavonoids, tannins, phenols lignans, carotenoids, vitamin C, and vitamin E — but some foods have more than others.
Fruit like blueberries, apples, bananas, and grapes are loaded with antioxidants. Certain fruit have different antioxidants so it’s best to eat a variety of fruit.
More Antioxidants the Better, Right?
This is a classic example of “too much of a good thing.” Like with most things, antioxidants vs free radicals are all about balance. Free radicals have a positive role to play in the body as our immune system uses free radicals to kill harmful bacteria. Therefore, it is not recommended to take pill supplements that are artificially stuffed with antioxidants. Instead, it is best to get a more moderate dose of antioxidants from food such as fruit.
What Causes Free Radicals?
Living your healthiest life is not just about eating enough foods with antioxidants. It’s important to reduce the factors that cause antioxidants.
– Air pollution
– Cigarette smoke
– Alcohol intake
– High blood sugar levels
– Polyunsaturated fatty acids
– Radiation, including excessive sunbathing
– Infections by bacteria, fungi or viruses
– Excessive intake of iron, magnesium, copper, or zinc
– Too little oxygen in the body
– Too much oxygen in the body
– Intense and prolonged exercise, which causes tissue damage
– Excessive intake of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E