For years now, antioxidants have been a buzz word in the food, nutrition, and health world. Foods advertise having them, magazines and blogs encourage us to eat more of them, and we learn about ways to cook to preserve them.
There is so much attention on antioxidants that, at times, they can seem like a cure-all.
But, what are antioxidants? Why are they good for us? Why are free radicals bad for us?
This article is meant to give you a thorough introduction on these questions, and hopefully give you enough information to clear up some of the misinformation out there.
Antioxidants and Free Radicals: An Introduction
Antioxidants and free radicals are both chemicals produced in the body. They can be increased or decreased by what we eat and the environment we surround ourselves with. Free radicals are the “bad” chemicals that can harm cells. The damage can be so great that it can lead to a series of illnesses, including cancer.
However, free radicals aren’t always damaging, as they can help fight viruses and bacteria, are are also simply the result of normal chemical processes. The problem is when there are higher than normal levels of antioxidants in the body.
Antioxidants block the activity of free radicals, preventing any damage they may do on the body.
If you want to learn this information through a video, or understand a little bit more about what makes free radicals “bad” and antioxidants “good”, check out the video below.
What Raises the Levels of Free Radicals?
As mentioned before, free radicals can be increased by environmental factors and what we eat. This includes:
- cigarrete smoke
- toxins in the air
- eating over-processed food
- not exercising (while excercising in itself produces oxidation, over the long term, it contributes to a reduction in oxidative stress)
- not eating fruits and vegetables
Some of the things that may raise the levels of antioxidants in the body include:
- eating certain fruits and vegetables (green, leafy veggies; berries;carrots; nuts; and many more)
- excercising regularly
- living in an environment with clean air
How Can Antioxidants Benefit You?
There are many ways that antioxidants can benefit your health in the long term, to the point where they may help add years to your life.
The benefits include:
- Preventing clogged arteries
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Reduced vision loss
- Boosting brain function
- May help postpone or prevent Alzheimer’s disease
- Improved lung function
- Protecting skin against sun damage
Is It Possible to Spot Antioxidants on the Nutrition Facts Label?
Antioxidants is the name given to a ver wide category of chemicals that have the power of stabilizing free radicals. However, surely you are already familiar with their specific names. These include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Carotenoids (Vitamin A)
- Many others…
You can check for these components on the nutrition facts label, or by researching them before heading over to the farmers’s market. Pack in your antioxidans to promote maximum health!
Resources and More Information:
Sasha de Beausset is a Nutritional Anthropologist with a B.A. from Tufts University, an M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition from the University of San Carlos, and is currently in the process of becoming a licensed nutritionist.
She has been awarded for her academic writing and research, and she has been blogging on food, health, and nutrition for over four years.
Sasha is passionate about contributing to making quality and research-based information available freely on the web so people can inform themselves and make better decisions for their health.