Most people have heard of antioxidants and their benefits and many have already started adding antioxidant-rich food and supplements to their diet, but it’s quite likely that they aren’t entirely sure what exactly antioxidants do and how important they are for our health.
Antioxidants are powerful disease-fighting compounds that offer great health benefits so here are the basics everyone should know.
Free radicals are highly unstable molecules that are a natural by-product of cellular chemical reactions and can also appear as a result of our bodies being exposed to toxins. Free radicals are produced when the food we ingest is converted into energy, when we workout and when we’re exposed to sunlight, radiation, cigarette smoke and pollution.
Free radicals are unstable because they contain unpaired electrons which usually come in pairs so they make chaos by stealing electrons from other molecules for their own needs. In that way, they damage the surrounding cells and start chain reactions much like a domino effect known as oxidative damage and stress.
Effects of oxidative damage
Animals, plants and humans normally produce free radicals all the time and our bodies are equipped with a defence mechanism but if that mechanism is outweighed by the free radicals, serious harm can be caused and even cell death.
Oxidative stress can also damage the DNA which may lead to cancer, it also compromises cell walls which allows substances to enter the cells and it causes the bad cholesterol to stick to blood vessels, causing arteriosclerosis. There might also be a link to Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases.
The role of antioxidants
The main role of antioxidants is to neutralize free radicals and prevent them from damaging the body. They can do this by donating their electrons to the free radicals which increases their stability. They are also able to degrade them so they become harmless.
Regardless of the mechanism they use, antioxidants protect our bodies from damage by interrupting the detrimental effects free radicals and the oxidative damage. In essence, they detoxify the body of all the harmful effects of the free radicals’ activity.
There’s an ongoing research into the damaging effect of oxidative stress and how much it influences the onset of age-related diseases and the role of antioxidants in their prevention. Taking antioxidants may help fight cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases. The compound glutathione produced naturally by our bodies can fight oxidative damage but many others, such as vitamin E and C, have to be taken in by supplements.
One of the most effective supplements is Q10 pills produced by Australia Natural Care that are great for people who lead a fast-paced life that makes it difficult to consume sufficient amounts of fresh, healthy foods. Q10 in particular is a powerful antioxidant that supports the cardiovascular system and inhibits the harmful oxidation of the bad cholesterol. It also aids the production of ATP that is the energy source that fuels all processes in the body.
Whether you take the supplements or not, it’s crucial you consume as much antioxidant-rich food as possible such as resveratrol from grapes, carotenoids from sweet potatoes and polyphenols from berries. It’s the most colourful foods that have the most powerful antioxidant so make an effort to have a plate full of colours – drink green tea, eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, fresh berries, bell peppers, sunflower seeds, nuts, artichokes, pomegranates and dark chocolate.
Antioxidants stop or reduce the damage created by the free radicals and balances them out. They’re also able to reverse some of the existing damage and are key in boosting the immune system. To maintain good health, maintain a balanced diet that incorporates lots of fruits and vegetables that are abundant in antioxidants to keep illness at bay but they alone cannot prevent chronic conditions. Supplements are helpful in such cases but as many products aren’t balanced and everyone reacts differently to antioxidants, it’s crucial you consult a doctor before taking them.