What Are Antioxidants And Why You Need Them
Have you ever wondered what causes aging? Hippocrates (a Greek physician considered the Father of Medicine) speculated that each person had a set amount of innate “heat” or “vital force” which is used up over the course of a lifetime. Today, we see this explanation as overly simplistic, but the reasons behind aging are still largely a mystery.
Since the 1950’s one of the predominant theories has been the Free Radical Theory of Aging. The theory states that unstable molecules called free radicals break down healthy cells, leading to damage that accumulates over time: in other words, aging.
Unfortunately, many factors of modern living can cause massive increases in a person’s free radical levels. What can be done to combat this and defend against cellular damage? The answer is found inside our own bodies.
What Are Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules which can neutralize free radicals and render them harmless. Free radicals are like chairs that are missing a leg, so they go around stealing, destabilizing the cells around them. Antioxidants are like chairs with an extra leg, so they can lend to free radicals without destabilizing themselves.
This makes it sound like free radicals are all bad, but that’s not true. Our immune system uses free radicals to attack threats. The truth is that free radicals and antioxidants exist in a balance, and so long as that balance is maintained, things are good.
However, factors unique to modern life can lead to increased amounts of free radicals in a person’s system, breaking the balance. This imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants is called Oxidative Stress, and it is a problem which should be dealt with.
What Causes Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress plays a major part in the development of chronic and degenerative ailments such as cancer, arthritis, aging, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases.
Oxidative stress can have negative effects on skin health, eyesight, and cognitive capacity as well.
Oxidative stress is often caused by factors such as:
- Exposure to air pollution
- Overexposure to UV rays
- Drinking Alcohol
- Eating fried/processed food
Yikes! If you’re like most people, then you’re likely surrounded by these things every day! So what can you do to combat the risks posed by oxidative stress? Well, you can start by upping your antioxidant intake to restore balance with free radicals in your body.
Where Can I Get My Antioxidants?
Antioxidants are abundant in natural sources. Foods such as fruits, berries, and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. In fact, antioxidants from these foods such as these have been shown to be more effective at fighting oxidative stress than antioxidants from supplements.
However, many people find it difficult to work antioxidant rich foods into their regular diet. For these people, supplementing with antioxidants can be helpful. If you’re someone who is frequently exposed to any of the factors which cause oxidative stress, you may want to consider the following list of antioxidants.
- Vitamin E
Vitamin E is one of the most popular antioxidants currently available. Because of its strength at fighting free radicals, it is often included as an ingredient in topical skin care products.
- Vitamin C
Vitamin C is the most famous antioxidant, and one of the easiest to get from natural sources. Tasty citrus fruits and peppers are loaded with vitamin C!
There are more than 6,000 types of flavonoids. They are present in most fruits and vegetables. One of the most popular is resveratrol which is the antioxidant thought to give red wine its health benefits.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is known as the “universal antioxidant” because of its ability to dissolve in both water and fat. Other antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E dissolve in only one or the other which means that some free radicals are off limits for them. Not so for ALA which can neutralize free radicals anywhere in the body.
Antioxidants are molecules which neutralize free radicals. Free radicals are thought to be a major factor in many of the effects of aging such as poor eyesight, wrinkles, and cognitive decline.
While antioxidants aren’t a literal fountain of youth, they can help fix the free radical imbalance (oxidative stress) which can occur as a result of living in a modern world filled with pollution and processed foods.
Antioxidants are best when obtained from food, but many people have found supplements helpful in their wellness journey. If you’re looking for a good antioxidant supplement, consider those listed above, as they are among the most popular and well-researched available.