Antioxidants 101

The latest buzz around the health industry today is antioxidants. Research has shown that antioxidants provide a wide range of benefits when it comes to the sustainability of your health. These helpful compounds help with cholesterol and blood pressure stabilization. They aid in the break up of plaque in the blood vessels ultimately supporting the body’s circulatory system and enhancing blood flow. They are a great source for enhanced energy levels and they improve nutrient uptake at the cellular level which leads to many health benefits including healthy aging.

What are antioxidants and how do they work?
We know that antioxidants are good for us. But what are antioxidants and why are they so good for us? To truly understand the answer to this question, we must first understand how antioxidants work.

As we all know, we need oxygen to live. But oxygen has one major downside in comparison to the many benefits it gives us. Oxygen initiates a process in our body called “oxidation”. Under normal circumstances, our cells are made up of molecules that have a full set of electrons, which are responsible for keeping them stable. Think of these molecules as three legs on a three-legged stool. The stool is stable with all three legs, but as soon as one of those legs is missing, the stool falls and loses its functionality. When oxygen comes in contact with these molecules, they lose an electron (or they get “oxidized”), which converts them to an unstable type of molecule known as a free radical.

Because of their instability, free radicals are always scavenging the body looking for other molecules to attach to and steal their electrons for their own stability. During this scavenger hunt, free radicals will attack proteins, fats, and even DNA to look for these electrons. Once they find those electrons and steal them, the molecules they attack get their structure changed, which ultimately affects their function. Eventually, those structures cannot perform their function as efficiently as they would have before they were attacked by roaming free radicals.

The answer to keeping these free radicals from attacking our body are antioxidants. Antioxidants immobilize free radicals by donating one of their electrons to replace the ones lost during the oxidation process. The body produces antioxidants naturally, but with the ever-changing environment we have reached a point where our body cannot sustain enough antioxidant production naturally to help with the growing free radical intake. Supplementing with antioxidants will aid in efficient free radical neutralization.

Foods ranking high in Antioxidants include: cranberries, blueberries, blackberries, beans, artichokes, russet potatoes, pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts. There are many other foods that contain antioxidants as well, especially fruits and vegetables.

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