You might have been coming across the word "antioxidant" but do not much about it. The term "antioxidant" is also commonly used on the label of many drugs and health supplements which claim one or more medical benefits.
Antioxidants are molecules that help fight against free radicals in the body. Antioxidants are found in the food we eat, especially in fruits and vegetables. Some vitamins, such as Vitamins E and C, also function as effective antioxidants.
Free Radicals vs. Antioxidants
Before you can understand better the role and function of "antioxidants," you must first know about "free radicals" and "oxidative stress."
Free radicals are compounds and by-products of metabolism. Our body produces free radicals every day. Anytime you exercise, and when your body converts food into energy, the body produces free radicals. Free radicals can be harmful or beneficial to our health depending on their quantity in our body. This implies that when free radicals are too much in the body, they cause "oxidative stress:" a process that can trigger cell damage.
On the other hand, balanced quality of free radicals assists the body's immunity to fight infections. Another cause of high free radicals in the body involves our exposure to several lifestyle and environmental factors such as air pollution, radiation, viral infection and even alcohol intake. For instance, free radicals are also present in the skin. Harsh sunlight and pollution such as smog, dust and cigarette smoke cause the presence of high free radicals in the skin. These free radicals affect our skin's collagen levels, resulting in ageing signs such as wrinkling, dark spots, fine lines and saggy skin. This explains why skincare manufactures include powerful antioxidants in their skincare products.
As stated before, high free radicals cause oxidative stress, which leads to the death of living cells in our body. Thus, research has linked oxidative stress to a variety of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
As humans, we have our own natural mechanism to check free radicals in our body. However, our body's defence mechanism may become weak due to many factors.
Sources of Antioxidants You Should Know
Antioxidant molecules help to counteract oxidative stress in the body. They are richly contained the in fruits and vegetables that we eat.
More so, it has been notably observed that plants generally have high antioxidants. The reason is that plants generate a large amount of free radicals when exposed to sunlight all throughout the day. So, they naturally produce a type of antioxidants called "phytochemicals" to fight free radicals and prevent cell damage. Otherwise, without this protection, the plant will begin to wither and die.
We also benefit from these antioxidants called "phytochemicals" when we eat fruits, green vegetables, and whole grains. Most plant-based health supplements may contain a good quantity of antioxidants because they are extracted from phytochemical rich-plants. Some good examples include plant-based supplements containing Quercetin, Astragalus, Turmeric and Kakadu Plum.
Enzymes are another class of antioxidants. Enzymes are produced from the protein and minerals we eat from our daily diets. For example, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring nutrient in the body. CoQ10 is also found in many foods we eat. CoQ10 acts as an antioxidant, which protects cells from damage and plays an integral part in the metabolism.
Lastly, specific vitamins also function as antioxidants. They include Vitamins A, C, E, folic acid, and beta-carotene. Unfortunately, the human body does not produce antioxidant vitamins naturally. We have to rely on supply from our daily intake of food or vitamin supplements.
As a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin A and C help improve body immunity and resistance to infections. Vitamin A also promotes eye health and repairs tissue that may be damaged by oxidative stress.
Some skin care products also contain Vitamin E as an effective antioxidant for the skin. Vitamin E improving skin condition and protect the skin from UV damage.
Eating antioxidant-rich foods help to protect us against diseases. It is essential for us to include a healthy amount of dark-green vegetables and fruits in our diets.
Persons who are deficient in certain nutrients or unable to follow a healthy diet may ensure to take low-dose antioxidant supplements to strengthen their health. This article may be used as a basic guide for selecting and identifying your preferred antioxidants supplements where next you go shopping.