You have undoubtedly heard that there are health benefits to be had in eating foods that have high amounts of antioxidants, but you may not be certain how antioxidants work to benefit the body.
Antioxidants neutralize oxidation that causes the breakdown of cells, the breakdown of DNA, and the breakdown of proteins within the body. All of these breakdowns are basically caused by free radicals. The antioxidants help to neutralize the free radicals and stop them from causing damage.
What exactly is a Free Radical?
In order to understand the benefits of the antioxidants you have to understand what a free radical is. A free radical is an atom, a molecule, or an ion, that has an unpaired electron. Because they have an unpaired electron they are unstable and they are extremely reactive. They search to find electrons to stabilize themselves. They actually take these stabilizing electrons from other cells and that causes the other cell to become a free radical. Antioxidants stop this chain reaction by giving the free radicals their own electrons and replacing any electrons lost during oxidation.
The Effects of Oxidation
Oxidation is very damaging, and antioxidants work to break the chain of free radicals from forming and thus prevent oxidation. Think of oxidation happening in your body like it happens to:
- Apples and pears when they are peeled. When you remove their peeling from them the fruit starts to discolor and become brown. The discoloration is caused by oxidation. In order to stop your fruit from turning brown as quickly you can dip it in lemon juice. The lemon juice is an antioxidant and it slows down the oxidation and allows your fruit to remain good for a longer period of time.
- Olive oil will turn rancid on you in a very short period of time if the number of antioxidants it contains is lowered or if you store it incorrectly. Oxidation is the reason the oil goes bad or turns rancid.
- Everyone knows that if you leave a piece of metal exposed to the elements for any length of time the metal will rust. This rust forms because of the process of oxidation and the only way to stop this from happening is for chemically produced antioxidants to be applied to the metal.
Inside the human body the free radicals are increasing oxidation and they are causing all manners of illnesses to be able to take control of the body. A diet that is rich in antioxidants can help your systems to stay healthy by giving the free radicals what they need and stopping their ability to start a chain reaction of creation.
Where to get Antioxidants
You get these powerful helpers from many of the foods you already eat. If you want to increase your antioxidants then consume more:
- Blackberries, blueberries, and cherries
- Artichokes, red cabbage, and Brussels sprouts
- Purple grapes. Kiwi. and Kale
- Potatoes, pinto beans, and spinach
- Strawberries. Hazelnuts and lentils
- Corn, oats, and Pecans
- Walnuts, sunflower seeds and plums