What are Antioxidants?
—Jill Fandrich, PharmD, CRPh
Antioxidants are compounds that help protect our cells from damage caused by unstable molecules called free radicals. These free radicals are generated as a natural byproduct of cellular metabolism, but they can also be produced by exposure to environmental factors such as pollution, cigarette smoke, and radiation.
Free radicals are highly reactive and can cause oxidative stress in our bodies. This oxidative stress can damage cell membranes, DNA, and other important cellular components, leading to various health problems such as premature aging, chronic inflammation, and an increased risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Antioxidants work by neutralizing these free radicals, thereby preventing or reducing the damage they can cause. They do this by donating electrons to stabilize the free radicals and inhibit their harmful effects. This neutralization process helps maintain our cells' health and overall well-being.
Various types of antioxidants are found naturally in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. Some well-known antioxidants include vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, lycopene, selenium, and flavonoids. Consuming a diet rich in these antioxidant-rich foods can boost our body's defense system against free radicals and promote optimal health.
It's important to note that while antioxidants have several health benefits, consuming them in the form of whole foods is generally more effective than relying solely on antioxidant supplements. Whole foods provide a wide range of nutrients and phytochemicals that work together synergistically to provide optimal health benefits.
So, incorporating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables into your diet is a great way to ensure you are getting a good intake of antioxidants and other essential nutrients.
Antioxidants are like guardians to our health, defending our bodies against the oxidative stress of life's challenges.
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