By now it’s easy for you to grab an acai smoothie for breakfast and a kale salad for lunch. You know they’re packed with antioxidants, and antioxidants are good for you. You feel good about your food choices, and you should. You’re heeding the advice of experts and minimizing your risk of disease.
But what exactly are antioxidants and how do they help protect healthy cells? If you’re not quite sure, you’re not alone. Many people reach for their sweet potatoes and blueberries without really understanding why these antioxidant-rich foods are so beneficial.
The science may seem complicated, but we’re here to break it down for you.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are vital molecules in your body that do the important job of fighting off free radicals — the compounds that can harm your body if levels get too high. If left unchecked, free radicals can cause many illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Luckily, the body has a natural system for defending against free radicals with the help of antioxidants. And though your body generates antioxidants on its own, you can also boost your antioxidant levels by eating certain foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients.
Where Do Free Radicals Come From?
Free radicals come from many different sources, including the foods we eat and the air we breathe. Fried foods, pesticides, and air pollution are some of the most common sources of free radicals. People who smoke or drink alcohol usually have higher levels of free radicals in the body.
Types of Antioxidants
Antioxidants come in many forms. Some of the most common antioxidants include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and lycopene, which can be obtained by eating a healthy diet.
- Vitamin A can be found in dairy products like milk and butter, or in eggs and liver.
- Vitamin C is present in most fruits and vegetables, especially oranges, berries, broccoli, bell peppers, and tomatoes.
- Vitamin E is found in some nuts and seeds, like almonds, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
- Beta-carotene is contained in fruits like peaches, papayas and mangoes, and vegetables like peas, broccoli, and carrots.
- Lycopene is in pink or red fruits and vegetables, such as grapefruit, watermelon, and tomatoes.
How Do Antioxidants Work?
Though there are many types of antioxidants, they all share one thing in common, which is their ability to neutralize harmful free radicals. So how does it work?
Free radicals are unstable molecules that contain unpaired electrons. Most electrons come in pairs, and antioxidants neutralize the free radical by adding the extra electron needed to make that pair. They can also break down the free radical to make it harmless in the body.
Redox signaling molecules are another important part of how antioxidants function. These essential molecules help our bodies repair and fight off free radicals by detecting cell damage, repairing injured cells, and replacing damaged cells. Essentially, redox signaling allows antioxidants to do their job.
But as we get older, our bodies start losing the ability to fight off free radicals as easily. Cells don’t communicate with each other as easily, and our bodies start taking longer to heal. Without redox signaling, antioxidants aren’t able to protect the body from illness and disease as effectively.
Fortunately, new technology makes it possible to insert redox signaling molecules into the body as we age. This repairs and replaces aging cells, allowing antioxidants to battle against free radicals as they should. With the help of redox signaling technology, the body can heal more quickly and avoid cancer and other diseases.
Protect Your Cells Today
Though free radicals are associated with many diseases and cancer, your body is equipped to fight off the harmful molecules with the help of antioxidants and redox signaling. You can support your body’s natural functions by eating a diet rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and other important nutrients. So fill up that salad bowl, and here’s to your health!