Are Antioxidants Really a Thing?
Yes, they are not only a thing, they are vital for health and life. The problem is, they are not easily explained. If we remove some of the science jargon, antioxidants are best explained as substances that reduce the damage to your cells at the molecular level (we are made of cells /molecules), and each cell has a number of electrons attached to it. If a molecule loses an electron when it is
not supposed to it can turn into a free radical. Free radicals are unstable, electrically charged molecules, that can attach and react with other molecules (like DNA) and damage them. This is where antioxidants come in. If a molecule loses an electron and turns into a free radical, the antioxidant molecule steps in and "gives" the free radical an electron, effectively neutralizing it and preventing it from causing harm. Not all free radicals will cause harm. A good example is that we need free radicals to kill bad bacteria and other things that are infecting us. The problem occurs when there is an imbalance of free radicals to antioxidants. Because free radical damage occurs at the cellular level, it is difficult to wrap our heads around it. Symptoms do not manifest like a cold or tooth ache, but more with ailments that develop over time. This makes sense because over time, our cells are getting less and less healthy due to insufficient antioxidants. Some illnesses that are related to free radical damage (oxidative stress) are chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle pain, joint pain or fibromyalgia, memory loss, poor vision, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and being more susceptible to infections.
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Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals, with each of the different types of antioxidants playing a unique role in the body’s ability to heal and repair itself. The human body does produce its own antioxidants to help counteract the effects of free radicals however, in order to maintain the delicate balance between free radicals and antioxidants, the body needs a continued supply from outside sources such as those found in the foods you eat. The best food-based sources of antioxidants come from plant-based foods, such as organic fruits and vegetables. The more vibrant the colour, the more antioxidants (such as berries and greens).
Getting an adequate supply of food-based antioxidants to keep your body’s stores at optimum levels to prevent disease is just not that easy, which is where supplements have begun to emerge and where studies are starting to show promise. For example, beta-carotene (and other carotenoids) are very beneficial to eye and skin health; Lycopene is beneficial for prostate health; Flavonoids are especially beneficial for heart health; and Proanthocyanidins are beneficial for urinary tract health. Astaxanthin and Spirulina have been shown to enhance the immune system, and to protect cell membranes. Other antioxidants include alpha lipoic acidcoenzyme Q10, vitamins A, C, and E, and glutathione. Keep in mind that some of the supplements could interfere with your prescribed meds, so check with your health care provider and follow the directions on the product.
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