The Science behind Antioxidants
Antioxidants are plant chemicals, vitamins and other nutrients that help clean up something called a free radical. In chemistry lingo, a free radical means a molecule in your body is missing an electron. This is not a balanced state, so the molecule searches out other molecules to grab that missing electron and when it does, it creates another free radical – another molecule missing an electron. So what does this mean? When you have molecules stealing electrons from other molecules, it leads to conditions like clogged arteries, accelerated aging, and damaged tissues – in other words, oxidation of your body’s systems.
Why do free radicals occur? Actually, free radicals happen inside of you with natural body functions, like when your immune system fights off a cold virus. That process of killing the virus creates free radicals. Normally, a healthy body has no problem cleaning up the free radical mess and taking care that other molecues are balanced. However, when you consistently eat a poor diet, don’t get enough sleep or exercise, experience continual stress or come into contact with contaminants like pesticides and other toxic chemicals, the free radicals overwhelm your body’s ability to contain them and that’s when the damage starts occurring.
Enter antioxidants. These little powerhouses have the ability to scavenge for and destroy free radicals, breaking the chain reaction of instability and reducing inflammation and damage to your body.
Where to Get Antioxidants (Naturally)
While you can supply certain antioxidants with vitamin supplements, they only can do so much. Antioxidants work in conjunction with other bioactive elements like amino acids to do their job, so obtaining as many antioxidants from fresh, natural food is your best bet to controlling the free radical race inside of you.
What kinds of foods have antioxidants? The best ones come from fruits and vegetables – and the more colorful, the better for you it is. Antioxidants can be found in the pigment (the color) of those foods. Strawberries, oranges, lemons, broccoli, blueberries, eggplant, and blackberries are just some of the foods that are great sources of antioxidants. Aim to eat five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day to give your body and your weight goal a fighting chance!