What are Antioxidants?

Even as a child, I was always told to eat my fruits and veggies because they were healthy and had a lot of antioxidants that would keep me from getting a cold. Okay, Grandma.. I took your advice and I’ve been ingesting antioxidants ever since but I’m older now, more inquisitive and in my ongoing quest for personal knowledge, I need to know, “what exactly are antioxidants are how do they help you?”

A Simple Explanation of Antioxidants

Here’s your car on antioxidants:

Car on Antioxidants

And here’s your car without antioxidants:

Rusty Car

These are your car’s antioxidants:

rustoleum

Easy enough, right? The comparison here is actually closer to the truth than some may realize as the process of oxidation is happening in both the automobile and inside our bodies.

What is Oxidization?

Let’s explore what happens during oxidization.

Oxidization
A reaction in which the atoms in an element lose electrons and the valence of the element is correspondingly increased.

A bit less technical, please…

Oxidization is a result of chemical changes caused by oxygen hitting it.  It happens to just about anything and everything but keeping it from happening inside our bodies is paramount to maintaining a youthful appearance and healthy insides.

One of the more common example of oxidization is the battery:

oxidized battery

That’s a great example of what happens when air and chemicals mix.

oxidized appleBut let’s bring it closer to home and look at a source of oxidization in the food we eat.  Here’s the oft seen apple with the brown insides.  This is what happens when free radicals meet up with oxygen.  It’s damaging and the same forces that turn a delicious red apple to an unsavory brown hue are at work inside us.

If you’ve never looked into oxidization before, you should be having your “aha!” moment right now and already planning for antioxidants to be a regular part of your daily diet. I wouldn’t wish this “browning” process on my enemy and you can already see why a lack of antioxidants can eventually lead to cancer.

So What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules.

Unstable how?

Electrons normally come in pairs. Every atom in our body has electrons and in a perfect body, they would all have pairs. A “free radical” is simply an unpaired electron. They’re “Electrons Gone Wild!”

Sorry.. I couldn’t resist.

These single electrons start colliding with molecules and as a result, they create more free radicals.. like a little team of ‘Hell’s Angels’ riding around inside you, coercing others to join them and looking to tear stuff up. Free radicals create a chain reaction of cell damage and destruction.

When free radicals meet with oxygen, oxidization occurs and your insides start “rusting”. From a scientific standpoint, the loss of electrons is called oxidation but it’s actually the process that follows this that explains why oxidization occurs.

Antioxidants to the Rescue!

How do Antioxidants work?

Antioxidants are molecules that terminate the chain reactions created by the free radicals. They do so by actually donating a new electron! So not only do they stop the process, they get the free radicals out of their gang and paired up with a new partner, forever contributing to your good health again!

antioxidant

Antioxidant neutralizing a free radical

 

Antioxidants rock!

Where Can I Get Antioxidants?

As alluded to in the opening paragraph above, fruits and veggies are a superb source of antioxidants. But they’re not the only way to get antioxidants. Coffee and tea are a couple of the best sources out there. Here’s a great Men’s Health article that list some other great foods for antioxidants.

I had no idea how wise Grandma was when she scolded me about getting enough antioxidants.  Clearly, they deserve a great amount of attention as part of our permanent nutrition plan.  Let’s be sure to start including antioxidants in our diet at every opportunity!

To your health!…

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