What are antioxidants, and how do they work?
BEAUTY | HEALTH | BALANCE
04/08/2021 1:58pm 5 minute read
Antioxidants play a vital role in your overall health and wellbeing.
Your body’s cells are under constant attack from chemicals and other harmful invaders resulting from modern, hectic lifestyles, poor diets and guilty pleasures like smoking, drinking, and over-indulging in fast food or sweet treats.
Antioxidants help your body fight back. They are your cells’ first line of defence against harmful compounds called free radicals – the unstable substances that damage your cells and can lead to a host of severe long-term health problems. Your body produces free radicals when it processes food or responds to its environment.
If they’re not removed, they cause damage to your healthy cells, causing them to age prematurely or die altogether.
So, to help give yourself a fighting chance and combat the damage caused by free radicals, here’s our guide to antioxidants and the best ways to get them into your diet.
WHAT ARE FREE RADICALS?Free radicals are naturally occurring, unstable molecules that react with other substances in your cells, causing damage through a process called oxidative stress.
While they do have some health benefits, if your body accumulates too many, they can cause serious harm.
They are linked to premature ageing and a host of long-term health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
They are produced naturally in the body. However, certain lifestyle factors such as smoking, air pollution, infection, and excess alcohol, sugar, fat and processed food consumption can accelerate their production.
Antioxidants help keep free radicals in check and prevent the damage they do to your cells.
HOW DO ANTIOXIDANTS WORK?Antioxidants play a crucial role in combating free radicals. They neutralise the unstable molecules before they get a chance to oxidise in your cells and cause damage.
Your body needs to maintain the right balance between free radicals and antioxidants to function correctly. However, when this balance is disrupted, it can lead to a state known as oxidative stress, which breaks down healthy cells over time.
The body loses its ability to combat the effects of oxidative stress as it ages. This results in more free radicals and more damage to cells.
Antioxidants help slow the process and prevent further damage from occurring. They play a vital role in fighting degeneration and ageing at a cellular level and within each body system. Maintaining a healthy diet, which includes various coloured fruit and vegetables, will ensure you get a good mix of antioxidants from your food.
FOODS RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTSMany natural foods contain antioxidants, so eating a varied diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is essential. Like vitamins, antioxidants come in two forms – water-soluble and fat-soluble. Water-soluble antioxidants work to combat oxidative stress in the fluid found inside and outside cells, while fat-soluble antioxidants help prevent damage to cell membranes.
Vitamin C and Vitamin E are both rich in antioxidants, while natural plant-based antioxidants called flavonoids also have many beneficial health effects. If you are looking to get more antioxidants into your diet, some of the foods you should include are:
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