Antioxidants protect the body against damage caused by free radicals and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases. They can be found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
It’s best to get them through a healthy diet rather than high doses of supplements, and it’s always best to consult a doctor before taking any supplement.
Every other day you come across the term antioxidants, especially if you deal with food, nutrition or medicine.
Even if you do not come across the term, your body encounters antioxidants at different times during the day, you might not even know it.
What are antioxidants, and why are antioxidants important?
The role of antioxidants in the body is to fight against oxidation.
Oxidation happens in your body every other day. Oxidation can be accelerated by several factors, the most common being alcohol, smoking, and stress.
As long as there is a disruption in the body’s natural oxidation process, the body creates free radicals.
Free radicals are potentially damaging and highly unstable molecules. These radicals, when uncontrolled, usually cause a lot of damage to the cells in your body and are always linked to cancer.
Free radicals are simply atom groups that have electrons. They form when some molecules in your body interact with oxygen.
Upon formation, the free radicals usually begin a series of chain chemical reactions, which are very dangerous.
In fact, the biggest threat they pose to you is that they can react with the cell membrane or your DNA, making the cells malfunction or kill them.
These radicals are not only present in the body, but also in some of the food we eat, and even in the air we breathe.
Protecting the body
The production of free radicals in the body brings about oxidative stress.
When this happens, even the body’s natural defence systems are weakened, and you cannot get the protection you need. This is how the early stages of heart disease and cancer come about.
Free radicals are also at the centre of the development of the following:
- Age-related blindness
- Kidney disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
Luckily, the body has several defences that help in fending off this damage. Some molecules – antioxidants – protect the body and fend off the oxygen attack.
Antioxidants usually interact with free radicals and impede their damaging impact before they can affect the cells around them.
The body has enzyme systems that intercept free radicals and prevent severe damage to the body cells. You can also get additional antioxidants from the food you eat, or supplements you buy from stores.
Some vitamins are natural antioxidants, like Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Some minerals serve as antioxidants, such as manganese and selenium.
Plant components like lycopene and beta carotene are also antioxidants you must have come across in supplements, ads or other places.
There are a lot of foods out there that introduce quality amounts of antioxidants into your body. Primarily, plant foods are rich in antioxidants.
Minerals like manganese and selenium might be found in seafood and meat, but the quantity is low compared to plants.
The following are some of the foods that should form a good part of your diet in case you are looking to provide your body with the ammunition it needs against free radicals:
- Sweet potatoes
- Green vegetables
The list is endless.
However, as long as your diet contains a lot of vegetables, chances are high that you will have enough antioxidants in your diet to support your body’s defence systems.
When it comes to antioxidants, one of the areas where there is so much promise is eye health.
Some studies have revealed the importance of vitamins C and E, beta carotene and zinc in reducing the risk of developing advanced AMD – age-related macular degeneration, especially in those who already have intermediate AMD or advanced AMD in one of the eyes.
Coupled with the success in fending off free radicals, hence protecting you from different forms of cancer, you should see that your diet is appropriately nutritious.
Risks of antioxidant supplements
They say, too much of a good thing is bad, right?
Well, whether you are taking them in a mixture of compounds or not, there are studies into prostate and lung cancer that have previously indicated that excessive consumption of antioxidants could adversely affect the body.
In women, using supplements a lot increases the risk of skin cancer.
Some studies have also shown that people who take too much beta carotene, vitamins A and E, are at a higher risk of premature death. At the same time, another indicated that too much vitamin E intake might be a factor in increased bleeding and heart failure.
Note that the FDA never regulates supplements, which could easily be sold with little research on their purity or effectiveness.
We have to underline the use of the words “too much” and “excessive”. You should be safe if you maintain a credible content of antioxidants, especially in your food.
A lot of research has been done, proving that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which contain good antioxidants, are safe for your body.
So, to wrap it off, why are antioxidants important? Well, simply put, they make sure you live longer and stay away from terminal illnesses.
Antioxidants are essential for maintaining good health because they help protect the body against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are produced naturally in the body due to normal metabolic processes, but they can also come from external sources such as pollution, UV radiation, and cigarette smoke.
When free radicals build up in the body, they can cause damage to cells, leading to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals, which helps prevent cell damage. They can also help to repair the damage that has already occurred, which can help to slow the ageing process and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Some of the most important antioxidants include vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, and the mineral selenium. These nutrients can be found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as in nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Additionally, many supplements contain high levels of antioxidants and can be taken to supplement one’s diet.
It is important to note that, while antioxidants are beneficial to health, it’s not recommended to take them in high doses as a supplement, as this may do more harm than good.
The best way to ensure you’re getting enough antioxidants is to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. And in case of any doubt or concern, it is always best to consult a doctor or a healthcare professional before taking any supplement.