Antioxidants and free radicals have been buzzwords in the health industry for years. But what exactly are they, and why are they important? In this article, we will dive into the science behind antioxidants and free radicals, and how they affect our health.
What are Free Radicals?
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause damage to our cells. They are formed when our bodies are exposed to environmental factors like pollution, radiation, and cigarette smoke. Additionally, our bodies naturally produce free radicals as we metabolize food.
The Harmful Effects of Free Radicals
Free radicals can cause damage to our DNA, which can lead to mutations and cancer. They can also damage proteins and lipids, which can lead to inflammation and chronic diseases like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralize free radicals. They do this by donating an electron to the free radical, which stabilizes it and prevents it from causing damage to our cells.
The Benefits of Antioxidants
Antioxidants can help prevent chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. They can also improve our immune system and protect our skin from damage caused by UV radiation.
Sources of Antioxidants
Antioxidants can be found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Some of the most potent sources of antioxidants include blueberries, dark chocolate, and green tea.
Supplements vs. Whole Foods
While supplements can be a convenient way to get antioxidants, it is important to consume whole foods as well. Whole foods contain a variety of nutrients and other compounds that work together to provide health benefits.
The Bottom Line
Antioxidants and free radicals play a crucial role in our health. By consuming a diet rich in whole foods and antioxidants, we can help protect our cells from damage and reduce our risk of chronic diseases.
1. Halliwell, B. (2006). Oxidative stress and neurodegeneration: where are we now? Journal of neurochemistry, 97(6), 1634-1658. 2. Frei, B. (1994). Reactive oxygen species and antioxidant vitamins: mechanisms of action. The American journal of medicine, 97(3), S5-S13. 3. Prior, R. L., Gu, L., Wu, X., Jacob, R. A., Sotoudeh, G., Kader, A. A., … & Cook, R. A. (2007). Plasma antioxidant capacity changes following a meal as a measure of the ability of a food to alter in vivo antioxidant status. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 26(2), 170-181.