Most people you talk to will tell you antioxidants are good for you and will probably give you a good antioxidant smoothie recipe or two off the top of their head. They’ll know which foods are rich in antioxidants, but not many of them will know exactly what antioxidants are or how they benefit your body and your wellbeing. In case you want to know what antioxidants actually do and how they do it, here are some of the answers for you.
Free radicals – a threat on a cellular level
Before dealing with antioxidants, you should know what free radicals are. Aside from various viruses and infection your body is threatened by most of the time, you should also be wary of free radicals. These unstable molecules are created by our own bodies. Usually, they are byproducts of certain processes in your body, such as breaking down food and turning it into energy, but they can also appear when you work out, or when you’re exposed to harmful things like radiation, pollution, direct sunlight and cigarette smoke.
Since electrons in your body normally come in pairs, and the ones in free radicals are single, they will look for the electrons they’re missing in the molecules of your body’s healthy cells, corrupting them and consequently creating more free radicals. They can lead to many dangerous problems, such as DNA damage or cancer, which makes them very dangerous. So, how can antioxidants help with these free radicals?
Antioxidants – restoring balance in your body
Just like our bodies produce free radicals, they also produce antioxidants, which can help protect your healthy cells from the harm caused by the free radicals. Basically, they tend to stop or limit the effect of free radicals on your body, meaning that your body uses them to maintain balance in your organism and improve your immune function.
The problem usually arises when the number of free radicals is much higher than the number of antioxidants your body creates. In such cases, it’s essential that you provide your body with external sources of antioxidants. This can be achieved through a well-balanced diet, but also through quality supplements. And since there is a wide variety of antioxidants found in nature, you should learn which ones benefit which part of your body and precisely where you can get them from.
Which antioxidants help with what?
Although antioxidants aren’t really a treatment for serious diseases, they can be very helpful in protecting your body and preventing all sorts of health issues. For instance, if you want an antioxidant which will encourage good cardiovascular and immune function and a healthy heart, you should turn to the powerful coenzyme Q10 in the form of capsules. It can stop the oxidation of LDL-cholesterol, which can stick to the inside of your arteries and enhance the risk of heart disease. This is why Q10 is especially beneficial to the elderly, whose natural production of this valuable coenzyme drops with time.
As far as your skin is concerned, it can be damaged by exposure to UV light, since it leads to free radicals attacking your cellular lipids, DNA and proteins. This can contribute to premature skin aging, different forms of skin cancer and sunburn. The best antioxidant combination to help you in these cases is astaxanthin, beta-carotene and vitamin E. Astaxanthin can be found in sea food such as algae, trout, salmon or shrimp. Beta-carotene is most plentiful in brightly-colored fresh fruit and vegetables like peaches, mangos and apricots, or carrots, broccoli and squash, while vitamin E can be found in almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, but also in leafy greens and sunflower or soybean oils.
When it comes to your immune system, your strongest allies in keeping it strong and healthy should be astaxanthin and spirulina. These two may boost your immunity and protect the cellular DNA as well as the membranes of your cells from mutation. For instance, although beta-carotene is helpful as well, astaxanthin is ten times stronger than that, as well as hundreds of times stronger than vitamin E.
On the other hand, spirulina is loaded with different antioxidants, but also various other substances which can benefit your immune system. These blue-green algae can be dried, minced and used as an addition to your smoothies, salads and soups, or it can be taken as a supplement. Aside from helping you boost your immune system, it also has a positive effect on your metabolism and gut health, while helping with managing such issues as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and even allergies.
By introducing fresh berries, leafy greens, bell peppers, artichokes, pomegranates and other foods rich in antioxidants to your diet, you’re doing your body a great favor and helping it stay safe from harmful free radicals.