The human body is pretty damn amazing and has many means of defending itself from disease and ill health. One of the most important of these is antioxidants. Understanding what antioxidants are and how they operate is an important aspect of understanding how the body stays healthy. The term ‘antioxidant’ refers to a set of natural compounds marked by their ability to fight against free radicals, molecules that contribute to disease. Antioxidants are important because of the massive damage that free radicals can cause. Free radicals are formed as a result of oxidation, a chemical process that occurs when a molecule interacts with oxygen. While oxidation isn’t harmful itself, it can, in the case of certain molecules, trigger the creation of free radicals. The unstable molecules known as free radicals then react with other molecules, transforming them into free radicals as well. This process causes damage to the surrounding cell. Adverse effects to cellular function will occur. If the chain of damaging reactions continues, even cell death is a possibility. Weakened or dead cells can, in turn, contribute to the occurrence of many different kinds of diseases. While oxidation is a natural process constantly occurring in the body, certain factors can increase the rate of oxidation, in turn allowing for the creation of more free radicals. Among these factors are alcohol consumption, smoking, stress, and age (which is part of the reason why disease becomes more common as a person grows older). Luckily, there exists a class of compounds that can freely interact with free radicals, disrupting the chain of molecule-to-free-radical conversion: antioxidants. Because of this, capacity antioxidants are the body’s natural defenders against the formation of free radicals. Though antioxidants naturally occur in the body, food is a vital source for additional quantities of these beneficial compounds. Consuming more of foods that are high in antioxidants is a great way to be healthier. In general, nuts, fresh fruits, and vegetables are the best sources. In particular, you will find the following a great source of valuable antioxidants:
- Many different varieties of beans
- Fish – especially salmon
The free radical-suppressing qualities of antioxidants are valuable to the body in a wide variety of ways. Consumption of foods high in antioxidants has been associated with a reduction in risk for many dangerous diseases and cancers. Broadly, these valuable effects may act to extend lifespan and enhance your quality of life. It is important to note that getting your daily dose of antioxidants through healthy eating is a much better approach than taking antioxidant supplements. Researchers have found that the positive effects associated with antioxidant-rich foods do not appear to extend to supplements. Clearly, eating a diet high in antioxidants is one of the best things a person can do for their health. Antioxidants play an absolutely crucial role in defending the body from the harmful effects of dangerous free radicals. The risk posed by free radicals is such that it is hard to overstate the importance of antioxidants to health.