What are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are natural substances that help slow down or prevent the oxidation process, damage to our cells that is caused by free radicals.
Free radicals are actually waste products produced by our cells as our bodies process food and in reaction to environmental factors. If our bodies cannot effectively process and remove these free radicals, oxidative stress occurs.
Free radicals are rogue molecules that are incomplete so have to steal electrons from other molecules from our bodies cells in an attempt to complete themselves. When they steal these other molecules they damage our cells. When those cells divide, they reproduce the damage in new cells. This damage can spread to adjacent cells and may be responsible for cell mutations that cause unwanted conditions in the body.
Increased production of free radicals can be caused by such things as pollutants, smoking, X-rays, ultraviolet light and industrial chemicals.
Antioxidants can give up electrons to complete free radicals without becoming unstable themselves, this is why antioxidants are known as "free-radical scavengers".
Antioxidants are said to help boost overall health by neutralizing free radicals in the body.
Benefits of Antioxidants
Antioxidants have many health benefits including the elimination of free radicals which may be responsible for cellular damage.
Here are just some of the many antioxidants benefits:
Enhanced Immune System
The role of antioxidants, in the function of the human immune system has been recognized for many years.
Studies have found that supplementation with antioxidants can greatly improve our immune system functions.
Research shows that antioxidants can support all the body's systems and may retard signs of aging. People who consume diets rich in antioxidants have younger looking skin, stronger bones and more flexible joints than those who do not.
Clean Up Crew
In addition to destroying or inhibiting the growth of harmful organisms, antioxidants cleanse toxins from the body and help keep its systems balanced. Like bottom feeders in the ocean, they feed on substances that could pollute the human body. The antioxidant molecules attach to fat molecules and toxins like heavy metals and help the body eliminate them from the blood stream and vital organs.
The best way to ensure good health is to practice healthy eating habits as well as regular exercise.
There is ample proof that people who eat diets high in antioxidant foods look younger and live longer than people with less balanced diets.
Researchers have noted that populations in some coastal areas had a longer life span than populations in industrialized regions. It became clear that affluence was not the key to good nutrition and good health. In fact, affluent populations had health problems that were almost unknown in these relatively isolated coastal populations.
Common Dietary Factors
Healthy populations had several common factors in their diet.
The most notable was high consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and low consumption of meats and animal fats. Whole grains were used and refined flours and sugars were rarely eaten. The primary sources of protein were seafood, legumes and eggs, and dairy products like butter and cream were seldom included with meals.
Fruits and Vegetables
The best source of the antioxidants and many other micronutrients are fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Canning and freezing can destroy some of these necessary nutrients as can exposure to heat or sunlight.
The healthiest ways to cook fruits or vegetables is to sauté them quickly or to steam them lightly. Some vegetable oils, notably extra virgin olive oil, contain antioxidants called polyphenols which may have a synergistic effect which promotes the action of other antioxidants.
Fish and Whole Grains
Since all of the coastal diets studied contained higher than average amounts of fish and seafood, fish was one of the first foods to be studied.
In addition to the antioxidants selenium and zinc, fish are a source of Omega 3 fatty acids which are amino acids vital to healthy cell development. Diets that promoted good health and longevity also used a mixture of whole grains instead of refined white flour. Cereal grains, nuts and seeds are packed with antioxidants and are the staples of healthy eating.
Coffee, Tea and Red Wine
Tea has served as a panacea for illness and stress for centuries. While it was known that tea contains tannin, it was only recently that tea was found to be a rich source of antioxidants.
Coffee is also high in antioxidants, but both coffee and tea provide the best health benefits when taken without milk or sugar.
Red wine is a source of resveratrol, which is present in the skins and seeds of grapes. Resveratrol has very high antioxidant effects. It gives the skin of grapes their color and dark skinned grapes are the highest in resveratrol.
Colorful Eating Habits
Antioxidants, like resveratrol, are responsible for the characteristic colors of many fruits and vegetables. Different colored fruits and vegetables contain different types of antioxidants.
Since studies suggest that a variety of antioxidants are needed to achieve maximum benefits, a colorful variety of foods is a good way to ensure all the vital nutrients are present.
Clinical studies suggest that diets high in plants and low in red meats and animal fats may promote good health and slow some of the aging processes.
Best antioxidant supplements
In addition to a diet rich in antioxidant foods, there are some herbal supplements that can help provide a concentrated source of high quality antioxidants.
Here is a list of antioxidants supplements:
The turmeric plant is a member of the ginger family that grows in Southeast Asian countries. The root of turmeric contains a golden yellow substance called curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric and is a powerful antioxidant.
Herbal Roots has a turmeric curcumin supplement that you check out here.
Black elderberries come from small, shrub-like trees that grow in Europe.
Elderberries have been found to contain the highest levels of flavonoids and antioxidants than cranberries, blueberries, blackberries or goji berries. One of the most powerful antioxidants.
Check out our black elderberry supplement.
Milk thistle is a flowering herb that originated in Mediterranean countries. It produces a milky-white liquid when the plant's leaves are crushed.
Silymarin which is the active ingredient in milk thistle, has high antioxidant activity that helps reduce free radical production.
Studies show that milk thistle has good free radical scavenging activity. (9)
Mushrooms are a fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, that typically grow on the ground or on a food source such as tree trunks, etc.
Mushrooms have been used in traditional Eastern medicine now for thousands of years.
A recent study demonstrated that certain mushrooms have high amounts of glutathione and ergothioneine and are an excellent source of these important and powerful antioxidants.
The health benefits of antioxidants include the elimination of free radicals, enhancing immune function, detoxification, etc.
A well balanced diet is the best way to get antioxidant benefits, but there also some herbal supplements can help boost your antioxidant levels.