Written by: Mick Simmons, MD – Written on: Oct 2017
Antioxidants are compounds that can be found in the food that we eat. These compounds are mostly found in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables but can be artificially made as dietary supplements. As the name suggests, antioxidants impede oxidation.
Oxidants are free radicals that can trigger harmful effects to our cells. Although oxidants are naturally produced by our body whenever we exercise, there are also factors that expose us more to them. To minimize them and the harmful effects they cause to the body, a person must take antioxidants.
What do Antioxidants Do?
Antioxidants are in charge of guarding our body away from free radicals. Studies have shown that the damage brought about by free radicals can be one of the reasons behind the development of several diseases like cancer, macular degeneration, and such. It is essential for us to include food rich in antioxidants so that we can fight off diseases that can easily attack our body. In general, antioxidants can protect the skin, support the immune system, and optimize health.
However, as the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.” Make sure to take in a healthy amount of antioxidants.
What are Antioxidants Good for?
Antioxidants give the best benefits to the following:
- Heart – Did you know that there is a kind of cholesterol called oxidized cholesterol? This is basically cholesterol that has been exposed to free radicals. Once oxidized cholesterol exists in the artery walls, it will dig its way into the heart until it blocks the arteries and eventually causes a heart attack. One of the many things antioxidants do is protect our heart from harmful substances. In the process of doing this, it prevents heart diseases.
- DNA – Free radicals affect the way DNA operates. Sometimes, they can even lead to the formation of cancerous tumors. Lab studies have shown that antioxidants can control the development of cancerous tumors. They can also help in preventing damage to body cells and can restore deteriorated DNA.
- Diabetes – Researchers have found out that free radicals cause complications related to diabetes. These complications include nerve damage, kidney failure, and blindness. However, there are also studies that prove that antioxidant compounds can alleviate these complications. One research founds that an antioxidant compound called curcumin slows down kidney damage in rats with diabetes.
- Brain – Antioxidants can protect our brain from conditions like Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is characterized as the cause of premature senility. When free radicals create clusters of proteins in the brain, it causes degeneration that eventually leads to Alzheimer’s disease. If you are looking for antioxidants that can help you protect your brain, look for food that are high in Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
- Eyesight – Eating foods rich in lutein will help you eliminate or reduce eyesight problems. Your retina feeds off from lutein to protect them from free radicals that result to blurry eyesight. Research has shown that women under 75 who eat lutein-rich foods are less prone to risks related to macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the number one cause of poor vision among the elderly.
Sources of Antioxidants
Antioxidants are most effective when they do not go through any food processing. It is important to eat antioxidant-rich foods that are naturally-grown like fruits and vegetables. These sources of antioxidants will be your shield from all nasty diseases you can develop through exposure of free radicals.
- Beta-carotene – Beta-carotene is the pigment you find on in dark green, yellow, and orange-colored fruits and vegetables. When consumed, the human body transforms it into vitamin A which is fundamental in keeping our eye health and vision, maintaining our skin healthy, protecting the mucus membranes, and strengthening the immune system. e found.
Selenium – This element has been labeled as a strong cancer-fighting antioxidant. It can be found in fish, eggs, chicken, garlic, grains and red meat. Without it, you can get selenium deficiency which is the source of various health complications.
- Glutathione – This antioxidant can be naturally created by our own body through the fusion of three different acids– cysteine, glycine, and glutamic. Glutathione is vital in helping the body guard its cells against free radicals. It can be found in food like asparagus, avocado, spinach, zucchini, watermelon, and many more.
- Flavonoids – There is an estimated 4,000 different types of flavonoids. All of these are most helpful in keeping the health of the cells and renewing dying tissues. Flavonoids can be found in cranberries, beets, grapes, oranges, lemons, berries, green tea, and many more.
- Polyphenol antioxidants – Polyphenol antioxidants have been discovered to be highly effective in fighting off oxidative stress that occur whenever free radicals damage the cells of the body. Polyphenol cannot be found naturally in the body but they can be found in phytonutrient-rich foods such as blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, apple, cantaloupe, grapes, broccoli, cabbage, celery, and many more.
- Vitamin C – We all know how much of a help Vitamin C is for our immune system. However, this vitamin cannot be produced by the human body. The only way to acquire it is to consume it orally. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, leafy vegetables, potatoes, green bell peppers, strawberries and many more.
- Vitamin E – This vitamin is what’s keeping our skin healthy and glowing. It also protects the skin from diseases like arthritis, cancer, aging, cataracts, and more. Vitamin E can be found in whole grains, nut and seeds, fish-liver oil and many more.
Related: Chaga Recipes
List of Antioxidants
These are the different kinds of antioxidants that are the best in fighting off free radicals and other toxins out there.
- Allium sulphur compounds
- Beta carotene
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
When buying an antioxidant capsule or medicine, it’s best that you look for these specific elements. You can also read our chaga buying guide.
Health Benefits of Antioxidants
By now, you may have already known how powerful antioxidants are in terms of protecting our body from damages brought about by free radicals. Antioxidants give a lot of benefits for the different parts of our body. For example, our eye health can be greatly improved by an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Flavonoids can help us become healthier and more vigorous. Antioxidants can also help protect our skin from UV rays that may cause skin cancer. Our immune system can also be kept strong by different antioxidants such as Astaxanthin and Spirulina.
When you’re looking for natural sources of antioxidants, you may want to check out these foods:
- Goji berries – Goji berries are a good source of fiber and antioxidants. Eating goji berries will help you combat diseases like cancer, lose weight, and digest food better.
- Wild blueberries – Blueberries are one of the few foods that contain the most amount of nutrients in just one cup! It also has the highest antioxidant capacity among all fruits. Its major compound is flavonoids. These can help in improving your body’s defense against diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, and DNA damage.
- Dark chocolate – Flavonoids and polyphenols, which are both antioxidants, are dominant in dark chocolate. Thus, eating will highly enable you to fight off free radicals and protect cells from the damage.
- Artichoke – Artichokes are full of flavonoids and phytonutrients. In fact, it’s considered an antioxidant superfood. A study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture in 2006 shows that an artichoke can serve greate antioxidant benefits than other foods like dark chocolate and goji berries.
- Elderberries – Elderberries have been proven to lessen blood sugar as they accelerate the metabolism, increase glucose concentration, and stimulate the secretion of insulin. They are also proven to help in preventing cancer because it is high in antioxidants called anthocyanins.
- Cranberries – Cranberries possess extremely high amount of antioxidants and a good amount of vitamins and minerals. One of the benefits of eating cranberries is that they can prevent and treat Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
- Cilantro – Cilantro has powerful antioxidant properties, specifically the flavonoid quercetin, that act as a shield to protect the body from the damages set off by free radicals. It is usually used in metal detoxification and combined with green algae, chlorella, and garlic extracts.
Chaga mushroom – Chaga mushroom has been extensively researched, and it has been discovered that it holds a lot of health benefits. It is currently labeled as the autoimmune superfood. It contains massive amounts of polyphenol-inducing melanin with high antioxidant levels. It supports the immune system and protects cells from DNA damage.
The Bottom Line
All researchers, scientists, and doctors have agreed that antioxidants are the secret to a longer and healthier life. They keep you young and protect you from destructive illnesses.
It is advisable to eat 3 to 4 servings of foods containing antioxidants daily. Eating too much it might create an imbalance that will make your body unable to create and produce its own antioxidants. In other words, this might just be the cause of more damage in the process.