Recently I explained what a free radical was. If you missed that article the short answer is that free radicals are unstable molecules that are missing an electron and this makes them highly reactive. The free radicals steal electrons from other functional cells in the body and then they become free radicals too. So there becomes a chain reaction of producing more free radicals, which can potentially drive our bodies toward disease.
Understanding free radicals helps us understand the importance of antioxidants
It’s important to understand free radicals in order to explain what antioxidants are and how they can help. Antioxidants have the ability to donate an electron to the unstable free radical molecule so it becomes stable again. So essentially antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals, maintain the health of our functional cells, and prevent disease.
Once a free radical has been stabilised it won’t go on to produce more free radicals so the havoc it can create is ceased. The great thing about antioxidants is that they themselves do not become unstable from donating an electron to free radicals because they remain stable either way. Isn’t that amazing? That antioxidants are designed by nature for our bodies to use in such a positive way.
Antioxidants prevent aging and disease
As we age, the ability for our body to naturally defend free radicals is diminished. It is also disrupted by stress, a bad diet, toxins in our environment, and various other factors. Antioxidants help to provide the protective factor not only in defending free radicals but protecting against the aging process itself, in helping to prevent cognitive dysfunction, and reducing inflammation to help in ward off cancer, arthritis, cataracts, diabetes, and heart disease.
Vitamin E, beta carotene, and vitamin C are 3 of the most powerful antioxidants, all with the ability to donate an electron. Vitamin E and beta carotene antioxidants protect cell memebranes and fat transporters and help stop the chain reaction in cells. Vitamin C helps protect other body tissues such as skin, blood fluids, air pollutants and cigarette smoke.
Antioxidants: Dietary sources or supplements?
Fresh fruits and vegetables provide the best source of dietary antioxidants, along with many other valuable vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Unfortunately many people just don’t eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables. Therein lies the problem because if you don’t get enough antioxidants, your body could be under attack by free radicals.
Consuming foods high in Omega 3 fats also provides antioxidant activity. Foods such as wild salmon, tuna, chia seeds, flaxseed and so forth. Again, many people don’t consume enough of these healthful foods so taking a supplement may be something you’d like to consider.
If you don’t eat a lot of fruit and veggies and eat a whole food healthy diet, then supplementation may be a good way for you to get the necessary antioxidants required. Still I do always recommend that eating the right foods should be your first option, so work on increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. Choose from a wide variety and then you will be getting lots of the various nutrients.
Nutrition & Health Coach