Antioxidants began to be more understood in the 90’s when scientists realized the effects of free radicals on cancer development, arthrosclerosis (plaque filled arteries) and many other chronic conditions. Antioxidants are powerful substances that are mostly derived from the fresh veggies and fruits we eat. Antioxidants prohibit (and can prevent) the oxidation of other molecules in our bodies. The reason that antioxidants are so important for good health is because if free radicals are left on their own they can create a wide range of chronic diseases and illnesses.
What is a Free Radical? Oxidative stress occurs when an oxygen molecule splits into single atoms with unpaired electrons, which are called free radicals. Our bodies are under constant attack from oxidative stress, and when the oxygen in the body splits into single atoms that have unpaired electrons (electrons like to be in pairs) these atoms, called Free Radicals, search the body to seek out other electrons so they can become a pair. This causes damage to our cells, proteins and DNA. Free Radicals are considered as waste products from various chemical reactions in the cell, that when are built up can harm the cells of our bodies.
Our bodies naturally produce free radicals as well as the antioxidants to counteract their damaging effects. Unfortunately, most of the time free radicals are outnumbered from the naturally occurring antioxidants, which is why it’s important to eat more antioxidants. Antioxidants benefit the body by neutralizing and removing the Free Radicals from the blood stream, as well as the process of donating an electron to the Free Radical.
Once Free Radicals form, they can create a “chain reaction”, where the first free radical pulls an electron from a molecule, destabilizes the molecule, and turns it into a free radical. Then that molecule tanks an electron from another molecule, destabilizes it and turns it into another free radical (Rice University). The domino effect disrupts and damages whole cells, and may lead to broken cell membranes which are what allow what enters and exits the cell, and changes the lipids (organic compounds that are fatty acids or their derivates), which also makes it more likely to become trapped in an artery (Harvard). The damaged cells can mutate and grow tumors, or can also change the DNA code.
Oxidative Stress occurs when there are too many free radicals and cellular damage of proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. Oxidative Stress also plays a role in many of unhealthy conditions such as cardiovascular disease, some cancers, alcoholism, emphysema, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, macular degeneration as well as ulcers and all inflammatory diseases like arthritis and lupus.
Free Radials can also lead to aging as they change the DNA’s instructional code, which causes our new cells to grow incorrectly, which lead to aging. With this stated, some Free Radicals are also needed in our bodies they aid in our ability to turn air and food into chemical energy depends on a chain reaction of free radicals, and are also an important part of our immune systems as they float through the veins and attack foreign invaders. Free radicals are formed as a natural process of our bodies, including eating and breathing. However, when you are exposed to toxic household chemicals and cigarette smoke, car exhaust etc…(you get the picture), one can clearly understand why the ratio of antioxidants VS free radicals are a concern, and why ingesting antioxidants are so important when it comes to our health and wellness.
Different Antioxidants for Different Issues: There are certainly a wide range of natural antioxidants found in nature, and studies suggest that is it is more effective and safer to receive antioxidants through whole (organic in my opinion) foods rather than supplements. Supplements taken in large doses may interact with certain medications, or create other medical issues. If you choose supplements, please check with your doctor first.
Different antioxidants affect different parts of our bodies, so if you have current issues check those potentials out. Powerhouse high-octane foods that contain the most antioxidants are pecans, blueberries, strawberries, artichokes, walnuts, goji berries, raspberries, kale; all kinds of beans – kidney, black, pinto, red beans, and all greens. Antioxidants are plentiful in fruits and veggies, so get creative and enjoy these delicious whole foods, and become more conscious about creating your health and wellness, and happiness. INJOY!