Patient Awareness

What Are Antioxidants And Why Do We Need Them?

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Before we understand what antioxidants are and the role they play in our overall health and wellbeing, let us first understand what free radicals are.

Free radicals are the unstable molecules that are formed as a result of the various chemical reactions that occur in our body – like food consumed getting converted into energy, exposure to sunlight, pollution, radiation, etc.

These are unstable because they contain unpaired electrons and in order to become stable, they try to steal these electrons from other molecules. While doing so, they cause extensive damage to the cells of the body and also trigger harmful chain reactions, which are termed oxidative stress or oxidative damage.

To make matters worse, these radicals create a ripping effect that is once a free radical is formed, it starts creating many more free radicals in the process.

What Causes Oxidative Stress And Free Radical Formation?

Many processes and things can cause free radicals to form: 

  • Regular cellular processes such as the activity of the mitochondria 
  • Extreme exercise as well as inflammation, injury and tissue damage 
  • Certain unhealthy foods like processed products, artificial sweeteners, sugary foods and beverages, food additives like colouring 
  • Radiation from the sun, pollution, smoking 
  • Exposure to chemicals (such as pesticides) as well as certain medications (such as cancer treatment)

These may increase free radicals in the body, as well as enzymes that produce free radicals. The good news is that foods high in antioxidants can help combat all of this, so let’s learn more:

Role of Antioxidants

Antioxidants are our body’s protectors and help to neutralize these free radicals and stop them from causing damage to our bodies. Coming in different shapes and sizes, they donate electrons to these free radicals, thereby making them stable. In some cases, they also play a crucial role in degrading these radicals and render them harmless.

By doing so, they also help to protect the body from dangerous ailments like cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.

Best Sources of Antioxidants

Studies have proved that many plant-based foods act as rich sources of antioxidants. Often it is observed that the most colourful foods have the most antioxidants.

Some common antioxidants include:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Beta-carotene
  • Vitamin A
  • Selenium

Thus, some rich sources include:

  • Vitamin C: Brussels sprouts, kale, berries such as Strawberries, Oranges, Guava, etc.
  • Vitamin E: Spinach, Hazelnuts, Corn, Sunflower seeds, Almonds, Peanuts, etc.
  • Beta-carotene: Carrots, Broccoli, Sweet potatoes, Peaches, Apricots, etc.
  • Vitamin A: Sweet red peppers, Tuna fish, Mango
  • Selenium: Salmon, Chicken Breast, Eggs, Chia seeds, Mushrooms, etc.

Along with foods, certain herbs also act as rich sources of antioxidants. Some prominent ones in this list include:

  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Cocoa
  • Thyme and
  • Ginger

While the formation of free radicals is a normal phenomenon, it is, in fact, the oxidative stress that causes more damage than good.

Oxidative stress can have the following effects:

  • Affect cell walls
  • Cause LDL cholesterol stick to blood vessels
  • Damage the DNA, to name a few

Some benefits of antioxidants include:

  • Glowing, youthful skin
  • Low risk of cancer
  • Reduced occurrence of vision loss
  • Longer life span
  • Support towards detoxification
  • Reduced and slower signs of ageing

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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