We’ve all heard about the benefits of antioxidants for a long time. I’d like to break it down for you into as simple a concept as possible. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Basically, antioxidants are phytochemicals (a fancy word for plant-based substances found in certain foods) that protect your body’s cells from deterioration. How they do that is they scavenge “free radicals”. So, we can’t discuss antioxidants without mentioning free radicals.
Understanding Free Radicals
Free radicals are unstable fragments of molecules, which are always looking for what they are missing so they can complete themselves. They look for healthy molecules, and upon finding them, take them and destroy them, which starts a chain reaction in the body, producing more free radicals. The body naturally produces free radicals in the course of normal metabolism, so the answer is to keep other producers of free radicals reduced as much as possible and your intake of antioxidants high enough so that there is balance in the body. The most common external factors that produce free radicals are:
- infections from viruses
- bacteria or parasites
- trauma to the body
- smoking (including second hand smoke)
- excessive intake of alcohol and/or drugs (recreational, OTC and prescription)
- exposure to toxic chemicals
- excessive UV rays
- a lack of antioxidant-rich foods in the diet
Getting Enough Antioxidants
So, how do you get enough antioxidants and where do you get them? As boring as this sounds, the best way to get the antioxidants you need is with a good well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits… that’s where the majority of antioxidants reside.
If you decide you need a little extra help, there are plenty of antioxidant supplements to choose from. A comprehensive formula will do the most for you. Antioxidants work synergistically. Meaning that they depend on one another to complete their function. You can get plenty of antioxidants by eating foods like:
- berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)
- red grapes
- brewer’s yeast
The list goes on and on! But, you get it… they’re all plant foods. If you have a wide variety of these foods in your diet and eat them 2-3 times during the day, every day, you’re getting all the antioxidants you need.
One thing worth mentioning is green tea. You could call green tea a “health food drink” because of all the benefits it contains. Not only is it loaded with antioxidants, it has other phytonutrients in it that have been shown to protect the heart, to increase elimination of harmful blood lipids which helps to lower LDL cholesterol and a variety of other factors. So if you start adding fruits and vegetables to your diet and replace your soda with green tea… you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, longer life.