What are Antioxidants?
Do you know what antioxidants are and how they affect your life in a big way? Do you really care to know that your future health and well-being could depend on it? What are the real health benefits of antioxidants? Well, to start with I believe everyone knows that oxygen is the essence of life. But amazingly, it can also turn to be an adversary to the human body when there is just too much it. The oxidation that occurs in the body produces free radicals. This in turn starts chain reactions that damage cells. Just think of a freshly-cut apple turning brown, oil becoming rancid or car body developing rust and corrosion. All of these reactions undergo the process of oxidation.
Free Radicals – The Villains of Stress
Free radicals are very unstable oxygen molecules, as they do not have an even number of electrons. They are chemically active, hovering and foraging the body and look to bond with other molecules so they can take an extra electron to become stable. This may seem like a normal process but it is not. In the body, it can result to damaging reactions. As the highly reactive free radicals attack molecules, the new molecules, now also missing an electron has become another free radicals. When oxidative reactions escalate, this can damage healthy cells and modify chemical structures and DNA. This corrodes the biological systems in the human body, which many researchers believe to be responsible for the aging of both the body and brain.
Free radicals are produced from within our bodies during everyday natural processes like aerobic respiration, metabolism and inflammation. Normally, such oxidative free-radical damage is countered by antioxidants in our bodies if we have sufficient protective defenses. However, improper diet, stress, smoking and alcohol, may reduce the body’s antioxidant capability to fight back these rascals. Also, toxins in the environment such as pollution, chemical exposure and sunlight can advance the formation of free radicals and in time cell damage can occur.
Your Fight Against Free Radicals
The only way to battle free radicals is to have sufficient antioxidants to neutralize and reverse their effects. This is where dietary ingredients play a big role in human health. Substances that reduce oxidative damage, neutralize and counteract the damaging effects of oxidation such as that caused by free radicals are antioxidants that our bodies need. Antioxidants are believed to play a role in thwarting the growth of such chronic diseases as cancer, heart disease, stroke, Rheumatoid arthritis , Alzheimer’s disease, and cataracts.
According to a Nutrition Research Center on aging, high dietary intakes of antioxidant vitamins and phytochemicals are associated with better maintenance of physiologic function and a lower prevalence of many degenerative conditions in older adults.
Antioxidants are naturally occurring phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals and enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions) that disable oxidants (free radicals) that are produced when cells in the body burn oxygen to produce energy. The most well-known antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene which is converted to Vitamin A and selenium. Other nutrients that appear to protect the body from destructive free radicals that are produced during oxidative stress include coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10, or ubiquinone), which is necessary for energy production and some trace elements – copper, manganese, selenium, and zinc.