Today we are always hearing talk about antioxidants and how we should eat this or drink that becaues it is full of antioxidants that can save us. But what exactly is an antioxidant? Don’t think you can’t know what an antioxidant is just because you hate science. Eat Chic will fill you in with this quick and dirty explanation.
When oxygen reacts with certain compounds it produces free radicals via a process called oxidation. Oxygen can react with compounds that are naturally present in the human body; but it can also react with environmental factors such as ultraviolet rays from the sun, air pollution, and tobacco smoke. When oxygen reacts with any of these, it creates free radicals.
Chemically speaking, a free radical is an unstable, highly reactive molecule. The presence of one free radical creates a whole chain reaction that produces more damaging free radicals. So where do antioxidants fit in? Well antioxidants are substances that can neutralize these free radicals and stop this chain reaction.
Still with me?
Why do we need antioxidants to stop the free radical chain reaction; are free radicals dangerous? Yes. Free radicals cause damage to your body’s proteins and cells, thus impairing their function. Damaged cells with impaired function lead to the development of disease within the body and speeds up the progression of aging. Such diseases can range anywhere from cataracts and arthritis to diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.
So how do I get antioxidants to protect me from disease and aging? Many vitamins have antioxidant capabilities including Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and Beta Carotene (the compound that gives yellow and orange fruits and vegetables their color). Studies have shown that people who eat diets high in fruits and vegetables with antioxidants have a lower risk for cancer and heart disease.
What foods are high in antioxidants?
- Berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.)
- Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, etc.)
- Brussel sprouts
- Pinto beans
Try including these foods into your daily diet and be sure to always select a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables! Eating nutritious foods is only the first step to a long and healthy life; to fully protect your body from disease and aging you should also exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and quit smoking.