Nutrition

The Benefits Of Antioxidants | Why You Should Be Taking Them!

Antioxidants are often at the centre of discussions over good health advice. They crop up in every other healthy supplement and ‘good for you’ dietary suggestions. If antioxidants are so good for you, you ought to know exactly what it is they’re doing for your body, how they’re apparently preventing diseases and keeping you in tip-top form, right?

The truth is that many people follow blindly where supplements are concerned. Perhaps you yourself have heard how a certain supplement has benefited a friend and figured you’d see if it did the same for you? Well, no more! Antioxidants will now be one more thing that you will know everything about.

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So, first of all, what are antioxidants?

Antioxidants prohibit and sometimes prevent the oxidation of molecules in your body. They remove potentially health-risky oxidizing agents. They do this, and in doing so provide you with a plethora of benefits, such as healthy skin, by cleaning up all the waste from your cells before they can cause any damage. These waste products are called ‘free radicals’.

Antioxidants and free radicals. Sounds like a rubbish band name doesn’t it, but it is actually a sentence that comes up a lot when you research anything to do with antioxidants. It comes down to molecules. In order for a molecule to be stable, it must contain the right amount of electrons. If a molecule loses an electron, it can turn into a free radical.

Why are free radicals so bad?

They’re unstable, electrically charged molecules in cells, which can react with other molecules (including your DNA) and damage them. Antioxidants save the day, and your health, by providing the free radical an electron. By doing so, it neutralizes the threat.

Your body has its natural defences for free radicals, but antioxidants give it the extra help that it needs by binding to the free radicals and reducing any potential harm to your molecules or DNA. If the free radicals, the pro-oxidants, outnumber the antioxidants, this imbalance leads to something called oxidative stress, which sounds bad before you even know the ins and outs of it, doesn’t it? When your body is suffering from oxidative stress, molecules in your body may be seriously damaged to the extent that it can kill those cells.

Before we get into how you can send reinforcements to aid in this battle, what are some of the ways that you have been unknowingly adding to the issue? Sadly there are certain elements that you can not control, such as air pollution or too much or too little oxygen. Many other factors, however, are in your control. This includes smoking cigarettes and drinking booze.

High blood sugar levels and consuming too many polyunsaturated fatty acids can add to your troubles. Further to this, excessive sunbathing and infections can result in oxidative stress, too. But it’s not just the bad things in life that can promote excessive free radicals, a prolonged intense exercise that causes tissue damage and taking too much iron, magnesium, zinc or copper.

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Where can you get your antioxidants?

Your body makes its own antioxidants, such as glutathione. You can find them in most animal and plant-based food sources. Different antioxidants will benefit different parts of your body, too. Beta-carotene benefits your eyes; lycopene is beneficial for men’s prostate health; flavonoids are good for a healthy heart, and proanthocyanidins benefit a healthy urinary tract.

Astaxanthin and Spirulina have been proven to enhance your immune system, and to protect cell membranes and cellular DNA from mutation. Astaxanthin is the single most powerful quencher of singlet oxygen and is up to ten times stronger than other carotenoids (including beta-carotene), and up to 500 times stronger than alpha-tocopherol (Vitamin E), while Spirulina has a variety of antioxidants and other substances that are beneficial in boosting immunity.

Supplementing your antioxidant means that you know for a fact that your body is getting precisely what it needs. Here are our top choices:

Alpha Lipoic Acid is a powerful antioxidant that you can consume in single capsule form with meals.

Vitamin C with bioflavonoids and rosehip is a sure and simple, and tested way to combat oxidative stress by ensuring that you get your vitamin C with these handy water-soluble gems.

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye has an MSc in Sport Physiology and Nutrition, and puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding. She enjoys a pun, and in her spare time loves dog walking and eating out.


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