Have you heard of the word ‘antioxidant?’
I’m sure that we’ve all encountered that word sometime ago, but what does it mean, really?
And what about the words ‘free radical?’
Well, these things are present in our everyday lives, but we probably don’t know what they were called.
Before we delve into antioxidants, we need to tackle what free radicals are first.
What is a Free Radical?
A free radical is an atom or group of atoms which are unstable, because their electrons are unpaired (odd number of electrons). Because of this, they try to steal the electron of a nearby molecule in a process called oxidation.
This destabilized molecule turns into a free radical and will therefore look for another molecule to get an electron from, thus creating a chain reaction.
But don’t our bodies produce free radicals during chemical processes like metabolism?
Free radicals are natural byproducts. They help our bodies fight viruses and bacteria too.
However, they still pose a threat when we have excessive amounts of it and we have few antioxidants, which is our bodies’ defense against them. Free radicals can damage our cells, which in turn can cause their deterioration or death. Our fats, DNA, proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates are susceptible to the harm that these free radicals inflict.
So when we have too much free radicals and too much cellular damage, our bodies go under oxidative stress.
Past studies suggested that this kind of stress is linked to the development of certain conditions like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, ulcer, inflammatory diseases, macular degeneration, alcoholism, and Alzheimer’s disease among others. Likewise, free radicals are associated with aging; we may be chronologically 23 years old, but our bodies can be biologically older.
According to an article in livescience.com, because free radicals can harm our DNA’s instructional code, new cells may grow incorrectly.
To prevent the diseases we could get from free radicals and to lessen their damage to our cells, we should equip ourselves with knowledge on other sources of free radicals. External causes include pollution, stress, fried/processed food, exposure to sunlight, and cigarette smoke – to name a few.
What is an Antioxidant?
Now, what can fight the dangerous amounts of free radicals?
Antioxidants are the only ones that can safely react with the free radicals. We have antioxidant enzymes in the body, but if our lifestyle is unhealthy, our nutrition poor, and our exposure to free radicals cannot be avoided or lessened, our own antioxidant mechanism won’t be enough to combat the excess.
If we know that our daily diet isn’t really clean or healthy, we need to load up on food that are rich in nutrients from antioxidants.
Time to go back to our glow food: fruits and vegetables! Come to think of it, antioxidants do promote more healthy, youthful, and glowing skin!
We can get nutrients too from whole grains, green tea, and herbs and spices (hello, cinnamon, thyme, cilantro, parsley, oregano, turmeric, basil, and company!). Some foods that are rich in antioxidants include blueberries, strawberries, oranges, dark chocolate, grapes, broccoli, carrots, green tea, sweet potatoes, and a whole lot more.
Green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach are considered too for this health benefit. We can easily get these from the market or grocery.
Benefits of antioxidants consist of inhibiting free radical damage in our cells and tissues, slower aging process, prevention/lessening of risk of diseases (i.e. cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive problems), more younger-looking skin, support detoxification, and protecting our eyes and our vision, among others.
There are plenty of food sources we can get antioxidants from, so let’s build up our bodies’ defense by incorporating these in our diet.
*References: http://livescience.com/ | http://www.dermalinstitute.com/ | http://webmd.com/ | https://draxe.com/ | https://greatist.com/ | http://www.pcrm.org/