Have you ever heard of antioxidants? You may have seen this word on food labels or heard your doctor mention
it, but do you know what they actually do? Antioxidants are natural or made substances that can prevent or slow down some types of damage to cells. Antioxidants are found in many foods, including fruits and vegetables. They are also available as dietary supplements.
From fighting off disease to slowing down the aging process, antioxidants play a crucial role in our overall health and wellbeing. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what antioxidants are, how they work, and why they’re so important for our health.
ANTIOXIDANTS AND FREE RADICALS
Antioxidants are substances that our body needs to prevent damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can be harmful to our cells and tissues because they have an unpaired electron, which makes them unstable.
This unstable molecule tries to steal an electron from other molecules in our body, which can cause damage to our cells and tissues. Antioxidants work by donating an electron to the free radical, which stabilizes it and stops it from causing damage. By neutralizing free radicals, antioxidants help to protect our cells and tissues from damage and promote wellbeing.
In other words, imagine free radicals as the thief that breaks into a house and causes damage, now imagine antioxidants as the security guard that catches the thief and stops them from causing more damage. These thieves can come as chemicals in our foods, exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, sunlight and even some types of exercise. An excessive chronic amount of free radicals in the body causes a condition called oxidative stress, which may damage cells and lead to chronic diseases.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ ON ANTIOXIDANTS?
It was in the 1990’s when scientists realized that free radical activity was also involved in the early stages of some chronic diseases like atherosclerosis caused by artery clogging. By that time studies were run and conclusions were made, ultimately telling us that people with low antioxidant intake were at greater risk for developing these chronic conditions. And you know how the business works. Companies didn’t think twice, you could see all sorts of supplements, superfoods, energy drinks, all labeled as antioxidants. Sales rapidly started to grow and well, you can imagine the rest.
By 1991 scientists from the National Institute on Aging and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created a tool to measure the antioxidant capacity of food called ORAC, and also made a database on the top superfoods that had the highest antioxidant content. However 20 years later they took that database down because other studies were run concluding that antioxidant supplements had little to no effect on our health.
SO, WAS IT ALL FAKE?
After reading this you might feel like somebody has been lying to you your entire life. But that’s not the case, because antioxidants do work. What we know now is that antioxidant supplements do not contain all the other plant chemicals and phytonutrients as if we eat a whole berry or a plate of legumes, and what happens is that when consuming this foods that are rich in antioxidants and mixed with other nutrients then we can see the benefits, rather than taking a supplements on a single isolated substance.
WHERE CAN WE GET ANTIOXIDANTS FROM?
There are specific nutrients found in fruits, vegetables and legumes that are shown to have the best antioxidant activity. There is no specific daily recommended value for antioxidants, but there is for the specific vitamins and minerals where they can be found.
Incorporating these antioxidant rich foods into your diet, such as fruits, vegetables and all the mentioned above, is a simple and effective way to support your health and wellbeing. So next time you reach for a snack, consider choosing an antioxidant rich option and give your body the protection and nourishments it needs to thrive.