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Understanding Antioxidants and How They Work in Your Body

What you need to know about this commonly consumed substance.
Lindsey Patterson Dec 06, 2019
There is ample talk about antioxidants and the roles they can play. They can help reduce your chances of several serious chronic health conditions, including some cancers, and slow the effects of aging. Keep reading to understand more about what antioxidants are, how they work within your body, and how to make sure you get enough of them.

What are Antioxidants?

In a nutshell, they are naturally-occurring molecules that combat free radicals and the damage they cause. They can also be manufactured. There are many categories of antioxidants, including tannins, lignans, flavonoids, and phenols. Vitamins C and E, plus the minerals selenium, copper, and zinc are also considered antioxidants.
Some antioxidants, like vitamins E and C, are essential for basic life functions. Others are not necessary for sustaining life but can help you maintain your health and possibly avoid some diseases.

How Do They Work?

Antioxidants can help your body stop and even reverse oxidative damage. They do this by controlling the levels of free radicals within your body. Antioxidants scavenge excess free radicals before they can cause damage to cells and nerves or alter DNA patterns.
Free radicals are produced by your body as it breaks down food into energy and during exercise. They are necessary for certain functions like immune responses to infection, which is part of why your body produces them in the first place.
However, when their levels get too high, they can cause cellular damage, leading to visible effects of aging and possibly contributing to several serious chronic health conditions. This is known as oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is basically a state of imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals. It can quickly occur thanks to the many environmental contributors to free radical accumulation. Air pollution, cigarette smoke, and excessive consumption of polyunsaturated fats are all avoidable contributors to the condition.
Prolonged periods of oxidative stress can lead to genetic and cellular damage. This appears to contribute to conditions like chronic inflammation, heart disease, and neurological disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Diseases.
Antioxidants scavenge free radicals within your body. Research has shown that, through interaction with the highly unstable molecules, antioxidants are able to stabilize the free radicals. This neutralizes at least some of their threat to cellular health.

Where Can You Find Them?

because antioxidants naturally occur in plants and animals, almost all whole foods provide them at some level. However, they are more highly concentrated in some foods versus others. For example, antioxidants are commonly found in most fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, and oils.
Drinks like coffee and tea, especially green teas, contain a good amount of antioxidants known as polyphenols. If you are in the mood for a treat, dark chocolate is a good choice for its high doses of free-radical crushing flavonoids and polyphenols.
If you aren't consistently eating foods that are known for their antioxidant qualities, you might want to consider adding a supplement to your routine. They make getting enough antioxidants simple, with options VitaPulse offering easy dosing for the popular and well-researched Coenzyme Q10.

How Much is Enough?

Despite the plentiful research into the positive effects of antioxidants, there is no established amount that is considered ideal. It is possible to get adequate amounts of antioxidants from a well-balanced and healthy diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, plant-based oils, and lean meats. Adding coffee or green tea can also help you get adequate levels.
It is possible to get too much of a good thing. Some antioxidants can be dangerous at high levels and they may interact with certain medications. For these reasons, it is important that you make sure you talk to your health care provider about your diet and any supplements you are taking.