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Understanding The Need For Antioxidants in Our Daily Diet

The trillions of cells in our body are constantly confronting significant threats, ranging from a lack of nourishment to viral infections. Another perpetual hazard that our bodies deal with are chemicals known as free radicals. As an unavoidable consequence of converting food into energy, the body produces these chemicals. They are capable of causing cell and genetic material damage at extremely high concentrations. Free radicals are also produced as a result of physical activity or exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and too much sunshine.

Free radicals can be found in a variety of forms, sizes, and chemical combinations, and an excess of these in the body over time creates oxidative stress, which can damage cells and lead to chronic illnesses.

This is where antioxidants come into the picture. Antioxidants are molecules that protect your cells from free radicals and reduce the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and other disorders. They are present in many forms and can be obtained via various antioxidant foods. In this article, we’ll venture into everything antioxidants do for us on a daily basis.

Understanding antioxidants

To understand what an antioxidant is, let’s first recall some scientific concepts from school. We learned that protons, electrons, and neutrons make up an atom, and molecules are made up of at least two atoms. A molecule must have the proper amount of electrons to stay stable; otherwise, it will degrade into a "free radical".

Free radicals are essential ‘pro-oxidants’ created as a result of both internal and external exposures. And although free radicals are a normal aspect of human metabolism, they can cause problems when the balance of free radicals and antioxidants is disrupted. This problem is generally referred to as "oxidative stress" in scientific terms.

Antioxidants either provide free radicals with the extra electron required to form the pair, or they disassemble the free radical molecule to make it harmless, thereby neutralizing them. Since this is a continual process and antioxidants are depleted during the neutralization of free radicals, a diet high in antioxidants is necessary to ensure stable functioning. To combat the negative effects, a variety of antioxidants are required.

Studies recommend a balanced meal rich in antioxidant foods, frequent exercise, along with supplementation if the goal is to strengthen the body's antioxidant defense.

What are the types of antioxidants?

Understanding whether antioxidants are water-soluble, fat-soluble, or both is the most appropriate method to categorize them. Those that are water-soluble engage in combat with the blood plasma's free radicals. Meanwhile, free radicals that are present in the cell membrane are fought by the fat-soluble ones. Some examples of antioxidants from external sources include:

  • Vitamins A, C, and E
  • Lycopene
  • Beta-carotene
  • Lutein
  • Zeaxanthin
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Flavonoids
  • Catechins
  • Polyphenols
  • Phytoestrogens

Each antioxidant has a distinct purpose and cannot be used in place of another. This is why it's crucial to eat a diverse diet along with consuming antioxidant supplements that can supply a variety of antioxidants through their nutrients.

What foods contain the most antioxidants?

Some of the common plant-based foods that are known to contain the most antioxidants or can be considered antioxidant foods are:

  • Blueberries
  • Pecan nuts
  • Strawberries
  • Green tea
  • Matcha tea
  • Dark chocolate
  • Beetroot
  • Beans
  • Spinach
  • Elderberry

Studies have proven that a daily intake of these foods makes for an antioxidant-rich diet that can help fight free radicals and lower the chance of developing several chronic diseases. Since most of these foods are also rich in vitamin C, considering a vitamin C supplement can also help your body produce antioxidants. Adding nutrient-dense skincare tablets to your daily beauty regimen can also increase cell turnover and give you glowing skin if that’s one of your health goals.

Benefits of antioxidants

1. Antioxidants & Skin

Antioxidants maintain the health of your eyes, skin, hair, and brain function. Our natural collagen and elasticity decrease because of exposure to UV rays and pollution, which harm our skin tissues. These harmful effects can be easily countered by the inclusion of antioxidants in our diet. They also aid in preventing skin aging. Their positive effects on the skin can also be reaped by including skincare tablets in your regime. Look for skincare tablets that are a combination of collagen and glutathione supplements, along with the best hyaluronic acid—all rolled into one!

2. Antioxidants & Gut Health

From skin to immunity to mental health, gut health has a direct impact on your overall wellness. This is why maintaining a balance of the gut microbiome is vital. Research states that antioxidants can reduce intestinal oxidative stress levels by promoting good gut bacteria while protecting the cells lining your gut. This not only reduces the chances of stomach issues like bloating, acidity, etc. but also reduces the risk of developing any autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions.

3. Antioxidants & Heart Health

For organs like the heart, the same anti-inflammatory action through antioxidant foods can have favorable effects. Antioxidants can even help lower cholesterol levels, stabilize blood pressure, and lower the risk of atherosclerosis, which is a condition where fats and cholesterol build up in and on artery walls, causing blockage of blood flow.

4. Antioxidants & Immunity

As stated earlier, free radicals are unstable molecules that wreak havoc in your body. This can lead to oxidative stress, which can damage membranes, DNA, and enzymes. While many areas of the body are vulnerable to free radical damage, the immune system is more sensitive. Here's where antioxidants, especially vitamin C, come to the rescue. They help eliminate free radicals from the bloodstream and prevent that state of oxidative stress.

Additional health advantages of antioxidants include protection against cognitive decline, a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and a lower risk of eye illness.

The need for antioxidant supplements

Consuming antioxidants in greater amounts than necessary can have a negative effect on our health. Therefore, it is advisable to consume supporting supplements that provide the necessary nutrients for our bodies to create antioxidants on their own. For example, to get the nutrients from matcha green tea, consuming a matcha tea supplement can help your body produce antioxidants. Similarly, a daily greens tablet can help your body absorb the nutrients from your daily green foods, supplying the necessary antioxidants. However, before purchasing a daily greens tablet, check the ingredients for the various vitamins and minerals it contains. Its ingredient list can go a long way toward helping you determine how it can help your body produce antioxidants.

Wrapping up

Chronic disorders like heart disease, cognitive decline, and eyesight loss are all influenced by too many free radicals. To combat these effects, the best course of action can be to consume your recommended daily intake of antioxidants from wholesome plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and go for supplements that provide your body with the essential nutrients that can act as antioxidants, thereby reducing oxidative stress.

References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841576/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9214016/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8533511/

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