What is an Antioxidant?

Everywhere you look anymore you see the word antioxidant. It is even on cereal boxes in my grocery store. It is supposedly good for me, but what exactly is it?

An oxidant is a free radical (sounds pretty wild). A free radical or oxidant is produced when cells in the body burn oxygen to produce energy. We cannot avoid free radicals. They are caused internally by normal aerobic respiration, metabolism and inflammation. Environmental factors also contribute to free radicals such as pollution, sunlight, x-rays, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Free radicals are unstable because they have one or more unpaired electrons (think back to biology and studying cell structures). This electron inequality causes the free radicals to attack other cells grabbing or donating the good cells electrons thereby damaging good cells. Cellular damage is a common pathway for cancer, aging, heart disease and stroke.

So far we know and that an oxidant or free radical is the bad guy. Consequently, an antioxidant must be the good guy. And that is exactly so. Antioxidants combine with free radicals and prevent them from attaching to and damaging good cells in your body. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals.

Antioxidants can be found any many foods mainly vegetables and fruits. You are looking for foods that contain Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and beta carotene. Below is a list of natural foods that contain lots of antioxidants.
Vitamin E: walnuts, peanuts, almonds, olives avocados, fish oils, whole grains, apricots
Vitamin C: citrus fruits, oranges, grapefruit, green peppers, cabbage, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, kiwi, strawberries, potatoes
Vitamin A: liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, egg yolks, mozzarella cheese
Beta carotene: liver, egg yolks, milk, butter, spinach, carrots, squash, broccoli, yams, tomato, cantaloupe, peaches, pumpkin, mango

Antioxidants in supplements may be too much for your body and could end up being toxic. So stick with adding some of the natural foods from the antioxidant list.

Scientists are continuing to study free radicals and antioxidants. Study results are inconclusive about all the potential benefits of antioxidants. But some studies do show that there are lower rates of cancer in people whose diets are rich in fruits and veggies. So add some of the foods above and let”s give those crazy free radicals a run for their money.


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