Antioxidants and free radicals

So getting right to it, antioxidants basically mean anti-oxygen. Although we do need oxygen to survive, oxygen can cause a process called oxidation within our bodies. This is a normal process but it’s also a damaging process.

Why does it occur? 

Oxidative stress is brought on by molecules called free radicals. These can be produced by processes within the body (known endogenous) and also by sources outside the body (known as exogenous).

Endogenous free radicals form as a result from respiration, metabolism, and inflammation. Exogenous free radicals form from environmental factors such as pollution, sunlight, strenuous exerrcise, X-rays, smoking, and alcohol.

What are free radicals? 

When our bodys cells use oxygen, they produce free radicals as a by product. Free radicals are basically unstable molecules. Stable molecules have an equal number of electrons. Free radicals, however have unpaired electrons making them unstable. Because of the odd number of electrons, they go through the body, wreaking havoc As they go, trying to find an electron to steal so they will no longer have unpaired electrons. The havoc they wreak on the body includes damage to cells, proteins, and DNA (the same oxidative process also causes oils to become rancid, peeled apples to brown, and iron to rust). If a person does not make wise and healthy food choices,this damage can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts, and contribute to premature aging.

So what can we do to prevent this? 

This is where antioxidants come into play. They are substances that can counteract the damaging effects of oxidation. Antioxidants are stable. They have in their possession an extra electron that they willingly donate to free radicals so the free-radicals will become stable moLecules. The cool thing is that once the antioxidants donate the electron, they remain stable. Funny how that works out, huh?

So where do I find these awesome antioxidants? 

Basically you find them in food. Below is a list of various types and sources and antioxidants:

Most Commonly Known Antioxidants

  • Vitamin A and Carotenoids
    Carrots, squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kale, collards, cantaloupe, peaches and apricots (bright-colored fruits and vegetables!)
  • Vitamin C
    Citrus fruits like oranges and lime etc, green peppers, broccoli, green leafy vegetablesstrawberries and tomatoes
  • Vitamin E
    Nuts & seeds, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, vegetable oil and liver oil
  • Selenium
    Fish & shellfish, red meat, grains, eggs, chicken and garlic
  • Manganese
    Strawberries, romaine lettuce, grapes, kale, chard, whole wheat, tofu, raspberries, chard, spinach, garlic, eggplant, brown rice, clove, cinnamon, black pepper

Other common antioxifants 

Some common phytochemicals

  • Flavonoids / polyphenols
  • Lycopene
    • Tomato and tomato products
    • pink grapefruit
    • watermelon
  • Lutein
    • dark green vegetables such as kale, broccoli, kiwi, brussels sprout and spinach
  • Lignan

Vitamin-like Antioxidants

  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Glutathione

Antioxidant enzymes made by the body

  • superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  • catalase
  • Glutathione Peroxidase

Basically eating a healthy (and large variety) of foods will give you a good influx of antioxidants.

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21 thoughts on “Antioxidants and free radicals

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