What Is An Antioxidant And What Do They Do
Antioxidants are important to protect your body from harmful molecules known as free radicals.
Free radical damage could result in many diseases such as atherosclerosis (blood vessel disease), cancer, and many other conditions.
There are several ways that a person can become exposed to free radicals such as:
- Through the by-products of normal body functions such as the release of digestive enzymes to break down food and the burning of sugars for energy.
- Breaking down of certain medicines by your body.
- Through environmental pollutants.
- Some vitamins (vitamins C & E), some minerals (selenium), flavonoids (mostly found in plants) are some of the sources of antioxidants. Hence, the best sources of antioxidants are fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are mostly found in red wine, fruits, and tea. Although you can buy antioxidant supplements on the market, the best source of antioxidant is a healthy diet.
Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., (assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Florida) says antioxidants could prevent or delay the damage done to the cells in the body. These compounds ward off cell damage by removing the waste products or free radicals in our cells. These compounds are released from the food we intake. Once the food is digested, antioxidants travel through the bloodstream into the cells. They are able to work on the free radicals once inside the cells.
How Do Antioxidants Work, Why Are They Necessary And What Are Antioxidant Benefits?
Similar to its name, an antioxidant will resist the actions of oxidants. In fact, an oxidant will oxidize other molecules by stealing an electron from those molecules. Most of the time, an oxidant is quite weak and will take the electrons that are readily available. But there are some oxidants that are very strong.
These strong oxidants can take away an electron from molecules that need the electron to function properly. This process could result in a chain reaction of electron stealing, which will cause the destruction of the molecule over time. An antioxidant is able to lose an electron to the free radical without being unstable in the process.
An antioxidant is able to stop the chain reaction of losing electrons. In fact, antioxidants can be stable in either of two distinct electronic states, such as before oxidation and after oxidation. It will neutralize the oxidant without creating another harmful molecule in the process.
Advanced antioxidants are structured in a way that their shape changes after neutralizing a dangerous molecule. That way it becomes easier to excrete them with the antioxidant will only stay in the body until its job is completed.
An antioxidant can neutralize a free radical in two ways - one is by providing the extra electron to make the pair - the other way is by breaking down the free radical and making it harmless. In fact, an antioxidant can stop the chain reaction of free radical formation.
It can benefit the health of our bodies by boosting the immune system.
A diet rich in antioxidants will guarantee a constant supply of antioxidants to neutralize the free radicals in the body.
Antioxidants And Free Radicals Are Both Important
Free radicals can destroy a person's body very soon without antioxidants. That's because they are constantly being formed during the metabolic process. You should keep in mind that free radicals are also important since they have important functions that are essential for our survival.
In fact, the body's immune cells use these molecules to kill the bacteria that try to infect our bodies. That's why you need a balance between antioxidants and free radicals similar to many other functions of the body.
We require the right amounts of free radicals as well as the right amounts of antioxidants to keep them in check. Things start to go wrong when this balance is disrupted. When the free radicals outnumber the antioxidants, it may lead to a state known as oxidative stress.
Scientists have realized the importance of free radicals to our body. In fact, they perform a host of vital functions in the body such as helping the immune system to fight infections. The latest studies show that free radicals can stop the growth and destroy cancer cells in the body.
Science reveals that free radicals turn "bad" when the coping abilities of the body are overwhelmed. This state is known as "oxidative stress." That's why a certain balance is important between free radicals and antioxidants.
How To Find The Best Antioxidant Supplement
Supplements Rich In Antioxidants
Taking your antioxidants from foods is possible, but you'd have to eat way too much to get the daily dose needed to reap their health benefits. Overeating is going to lead to various other health issues, so you may not want to choose this way of taking your necessary intake of antioxidants.
Moreover, as we've discussed before, getting a single high antioxidant food as many companies suggest isn't a good idea either. You have a full spectrum of needs and you can't possibly find a super food to cover them all. It's much wiser to take a full spectrum antioxidant supplement, so that you can benefit from their action in all areas and in all cells of your body.
Nonetheless, it's worth mentioning here that finding the "ultimate" supplement is impossible, but there are a few of them that supply pretty much everything you need to stay in good health.
If needed, choose antioxidants that complement each other. Full complexes are the best, as well as natural supplements. However, most clinical trials available to date have barely found any evidence that taking various combinations of antioxidants can protect healthy people from getting ill.
Even further, according to Dr. Saunders from King's College London, taking such supplements may even harm your body. Smokers are particularly at risk of getting harmed by antioxidants.
There are also other scientific groups like the Cochrane Collaboration which support the view that antioxidants can actually harm you in some situations.
Back in 2012, this organization performed a review of almost 80 clinical trials on antioxidant supplements, and found barely any evidence taking them would be a reliable preventative measure against disease.
A study done in Finland, in the 90s, involving male subjects who were heavy smokers, found that those who took large doses of beta-carotene had an increased risk to get lung cancer. Studies involving vitamin E have revealed that this antioxidant may increase the risk of stroke and prostate cancer.
We are fortunate that nature has given us a balanced amount of antioxidants, and there's no scientific evidence to show that eating a lot of fruit and vegetables can harm you.
Should you be looking for supplementing your diet with antioxidants, the below would be worth you checking out:
- IntraMAX - 100% Organic Liquid Multi-Vitamin
- MegaHydrate - Powerful antioxidant supplement
Who Can Benefit The Most From Taking Antioxidant Supplements?
According to most scientific theories, eating a well-balanced diet should provide all nutrients your body needs to maintain good health. There are so many superfoods such as fruit and vegetables that you shouldn't have a problem in securing your daily needs.
Nonetheless, studies suggest that many people eat too little fruits and vegetables to take as many antioxidants as they need. As a matter of fact, only 22.1% of men and 32.2% of women in the US are eating a minimum of three servings of vegetables per day. This is where supplements come into play, as taking a good one could enable your body to fight free radicals more effectively.
Adults Moving Into Your Older Years
As you get older, your body loses the ability to produce antioxidants. The result is that you find it more difficult to fight the effects of free radicals, so you taking a supplement is suggested to secure the proper levels of antioxidants in your body.
When you exercise, you expose yourself to oxidative stress. Clinical research shows contradictory reports, so it's hard to know whether antioxidants are good or bad for fitness aficionados.
Some studies show that vitamin C and E or various antioxidant mixtures can reduce the effects of exercise-induced oxidative stress.
Another study suggests that the intake of antioxidant supplements may be warranted in such cases as athletes who don't have an adequate diet.
Apparently, beta carotene, vitamin A and vitamin E may increase mortality, while vitamin C and selenium don't have any significant effect. However, in conclusion, there's no evidence that antioxidants have an influence on mortality.
What Are High Antioxidant Foods?
The number of foods high in antioxidants is so diverse such that, you will see various kinds of colored foods almost everywhere, with purple and richly colored foods can be found in virtually every grocery store.
These antioxidant rich foods include black rice, purple cauliflower, asparagus, acai, elderberries, purple sweet potatoes, purple cereals, and corn. The power of colored foods (purple) goes beyond just the color, they are rich in antioxidants and are nutrient dense.
Interestingly, the darker the food is, the more nutrient dense, healthy, and antioxidant-dense it is. A study conducted on the effects of consuming purple fruits and vegetables revealed that individuals who eat such foods have a lower risk of getting high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions.
Vegetables And Fruits High In Antioxidants
Some foods have a richer composition of antioxidants as compared to others. The three most important and known antioxidants are Vitamin C, beta-carotene, and Vitamin E. These antioxidants are found in colored vegetables and fruits. The foods may be orange, yellow, red, blue, and purple.
The best way for your body to benefit from these antioxidants is if you eat the foods raw or slightly steamed.
Boiling or overcooking these veggies only lowers their nutrient content, hence not recommended.
Foods rich in beta-carotene and carotenoids include: Asparagus, broccoli, apricots, carrots, cantaloupe, green peppers, corn, kale, turnips, mangoes, peaches, nectarines, pumpkin, spinach, pink grapefruit, sweet potatoes, watermelons, tomatoes, and tangerines.
Vitamin C rich foods include Broccoli, berries, cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts, honeydew melon, grapefruit, cauliflower, kiwi fruit, kale, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, papaya, colored peppers, oranges, and nectarines.
Foods rich in Vitamin E: Carrots, broccoli, mustard, chard, turnips, nuts, mangoes, red peppers, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, spinach, and apples.
Other foods rich in antioxidants
- Red Grapes
- Alfalfa Sprouts
The list below outlines the different types of antioxidants rich in foods:
- Anthocyanin's: Grapes, eggplant, berries
- Allium sulphur compounds: Garlic, onions, leeks
- Beta-carotene: Apricots, mangoes, pumpkin, spinach, carrots, parsley
- Catechins: Tea, red wine
- Copper: Lean meat, seafood, nuts, milk, legumes
- Cryptoxanthins: pumpkin, red peppers, mangoes
- Flavonoids: Green tea, tea, citrus fruits, red wine, apples, onions
- Indoles: Cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables
- Lignans: Bran, sesame seeds, vegetables, whole grains
- Lutein: Leafy greens and corn
- Lycopene: Pink grapefruit, tomatoes, watermelons
- Manganese: Lean meat, nuts, milk, and seafood
- Polyphenols: Oregano, Thyme
- Vitamin C: Berries, oranges, mangoes, kiwi fruit, spinach, broccoli, peppers
- Selenium: Offal, seafood, whole grains and lean meat
- Zinc: Lean meat, seafood, nuts and milk
- Zoo chemicals: Offal, red meat, fish
Taking Antioxidant Drinks For Health
A study conducted by the Kansas State University revealed that black and green teas have a much higher antioxidant capacity as compared to vegetables they tested. Grape juice presumably has the highest antioxidant count followed by grapefruit, orange, tomato, and apple juice.
It's no surprise that green tea contains more potent antioxidants than any other natural drink.
Green tea contains EGCG, which is one of the unique antioxidants that help slow down the ageing process by fighting free radicals. The best thing about this is that green tea is all natural.
Carrots are potent sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene, compounds found in other orange-colored vegetables and fruits.
These antioxidants play a crucial role in fighting cancer cells as well as slowing down the aging process.
Having a glass of carrot juice every once in a while can help you have a much healthier body.
Considered the perfect snack, apples are ranked number two in foods rich in antioxidant content, just after blueberries.
Apple juice not only supplies your body with antioxidants but also avails other vitamins and micronutrients essential for your body.
Black tea plays an almost similar role as green tea. It is rich in antioxidants that help the body fight against life-threatening conditions such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases among many others.
Consuming black tea triples your body's capacity to fight other infections efficiently as well.
This is one of the best sources of the naturally occurring antioxidant, polyphenols. Nutritionists believe that drinking pomegranate juice increases blood antioxidant levels by up to 35%.
Doctors too vouch for pomegranate juice as it contributes significantly to the preventing heart diseases and other life-threatening conditions. Having a glass of the juice at least once a day, or when you can, is beneficial for your body.
You will also feel energized from drinking the juice as the antioxidants kick out toxins that may be impacting your performance.