Antioxidants first grab the people's attention in the 90s, when researchers found how oxidative damage by free radicals leads to many health problems and how antioxidants could save us. Powered by research findings and high people awareness towards health, the antioxidant category rapidly developed – proof that it is as equally vital for us as vitamins and minerals.
Our today’s modern lifestyle takes a toll on our body’s antioxidant defence system. Pollution, pesticides, medicines, antibiotics, stress, alcohol, UV rays, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, etc. — all these factors contribute to more production of free radicals. If left uncontrolled, these unstable molecules can damage our cells and tissues, leading to many health diseases and aging.
Antioxidants are our first line of defence against these harmful molecules. Acting as natural scavengers, they stabilize free-radicals and help to keep their oxidative damage to a minimum.
There are more than a hundred antioxidants. The most common ones are vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, Lycopene, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, and manganese. Others are coenzyme Q10, flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols, lutein and many more. Each of them serves a unique role and benefit differently; therefore, is not interchangeable with another.
There is an antioxidant defence network where each one has a specific role but they all work well together. For example, vitamin C recycles vitamin E. Once a molecule of vitamin E neutralizes a free-radical, it becomes in an inactive form. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) converts that Vitamin E molecules back to its active antioxidant form, allowing it to fight more free radicals. Therefore, if you take a lot of vitamin E but miss the vitamin C intake, you won’t see much health benefits of antioxidants.
This synergistic effect of antioxidants is the main reason all dietitians, nutritionists and other health promoters advise people to eat a varied diet including the wide range of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Many observational studies have also suggested that people who consume a greater amount of antioxidant-rich foods by eating different kinds of antioxidant-rich foods have a lower risk of certain diseases than people who don’t. For Instance, a study published in the American Journal of Medicine in October 2012 conducted on more than 32,000 Swedish women for 10 years concluded that those whose diets contained the most antioxidants had a 20% lower risk of a heart attack compared with women who consumed the least.
Here is the list of most common antioxidants with their specific role and some common food sources to include in daily diet:
A healthy and well-balanced diet that includes verities of antioxidants rich whole foods such as fruits, berries, green vegetables, seeds, and nuts, etc. is the best and most effective way to get the antioxidants your body needs. If you insist on taking a supplement, seek supplements that contain antioxidants and nutrients derived from whole-foods rather than synthetic sourced.